Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Jackie Brown (1997)

Director: Quentin Tarantino
Writers:  Quentin Tarantino, Elmore Leonard (Novel)
Cast:       Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster, Robert De Niro, Michael Keaton

Jackie Brown is a crime-drama film adapted for screen by Tarantino from Elmore Leonard's 1992 novel 'Rum Punch'. The story is about a flight attendant, Jackie Brown (Pam Grier), who becomes a key figure in a plot between the Police and an arms dealer (Samuel L. Jackson). 

The rights for the novel was acquired by Tarantino and his writing partner, Roger Avary, after completing Pulp Fiction. They changed the ethnicity of the protagonist from white to black and the treatment they went with for the film was like a homage to Blaxploitation films from the 70s in which Pam Grier herself starred. They didn't inform Elmore of all the changes till a week was left for start of the shoot and the author was extremely happy with the screenplay calling it one of the best he had ever read. This is the only film in which Tarantino has worked with someone else's material and it works well for the film since he kind of went full retard on the self-indulgence quotient in his films that came after this, starting with Kill Bill. I enjoy all his films but in terms of perfection, his first three films are a class apart compared to rest of the films that came after Jackie Brown. 

Like in most of the Tarantino films, it is a comeback of sorts for its lead actors- Pam Grier and Robert Forster. One could possibly say the same for Michael Keaton as well. Maybe the fact that it is adapted from a literary work helps in having lead characters with real depth which cannot be said for the typical Tarantino characters. Film is quite linear with the only major trick that Tarantino used was during the pivotal shopping mall scene where it is shown thrice from the point of view of three different characters one after the other. Plot is kind of complicated but the expositions are done in an expert fashion and they trust the audience to figure out how the plan evolved over the course of unexpected events. This reliance on plot is also a novelty in Tarantino films and one could say that it makes it less re-watchable compared to other films of his since mystery is lost after the first watch. That might be true but the dialog is typical Tarantino and holds up very well on re-watch. I saw it for the first time some seven years back and have rewatched it again once before this. Some people were disappointed with the film, as can be seen from the mixed critical reception, and all the hype after his first two films might have contributed to that. I also didn't like it very much first time round but have come round to appreciate it as one of Tarantino's very best work.

Overall it is a great watch with a terrific soundtrack which is not at all a surprise in Tarantino films. Tarantino tropes like foot fetishness, boot-cam shot etc comes pretty early in the film itself. Robert De Niro's against the type role is a joy to watch. Robert Forster is just magnificent in his understated way and the love story at the center of it the most tender that Tarantino will ever manage to do. As far as my rankings of Tarantino films, 2-4 subject to changes depending on the mood, here it goes:

1) Pulp Fiction
2) Jackie Brown
3) Inglourious Basterds
4) Reservoir Dogs
5) True Romance
6) Kill Bill Vol: 1
7) Kill Bill Vol: 2
8) Deathproof
9) Django Unchained

Rating: 5/5