Review by Jack Foley
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Disc One: Quentin Tarantino DVD intro; Soundtrack
chapter selection; Subtitle trivia track. Disc Two: 'How It Went Down' original
documentary; A look back at Jackie Brown - interview with Quentin Tarantino;
Chick with Guns video; Deleted and alternate scenes with Tarantino introduction;
Siskel & Ebert review Jackie Brown; Jackie Brown on MTV (promotional contest);
Theatrical trailers; TV spots; Still galleries; Reviews; Articles; Filmographies;
Robert Forster trailers; Pam Grier radio spots; Pam Grier trailers. DVD ROM
Bonus: Stash The Cash trivia game; Enhanced playback track; Screenplay viewer.
HAVING, quite literally, blown critics away with his first two movies, Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, Quentin Tarantino fired his first blank with this toothless, if faithful, adaptation of Elmore Leonard's Rum Punch.
Concentrating on airline stewardess Jackie Brown (Pam Grier), as she is coerced by the Feds to turn snitch on Samuel L Jackson's gun trader (Ordell) only to make a play herself for the gangster's money, the movie is a self-indulgent meander through self-referential cinema excess, despite boasting some outstanding performances from its talented cast.
Once again, the director displays a talent for being able to revive the career fortunes of several of his lead players (most notably Seventies icon Grier, and Robert Forster as a sympathetic bail bondsman), but the quality of its performances is not enough to save the proceedings from getting lost amid its misjudged first hour.
It's as though Tarantino, sick of the many in-jokes being made by other directors at his visual style, has decided to hit back by doing them to death - so that the trademark walk which opened Reservoir Dogs is replicated here in so many different ways that proceedings become nausea-inducing.
In fact, nothing much happens at all during the first half of the movie - before Grier makes her play and we see events unfold from the different perspectives of the characters involved.
Some have praised Jackie Brown for being Tarantino's most mature movie to date, while others have described it as the director's biggest disappointment. Yet while there is plenty to admire, I have to confess to falling into the latter category. Tarantino is at his best when running wild behind the lens and it is telling that his weakest work is derived from a different source other than his own, when he has to show a little restraint in order to honour its material.
As such, audiences are spared the violent excesses of his previous two films, or the type of scene that is difficult to watch, but gone to is much of the charisma of Dogs and Fiction. At least the dialogue has been retained, though.
In the lead role, Grier is terrific as the struggling Jackie Brown, making one last stab at doing something positive with her life in the face of insurmountable odds, while her supporting players are equally good value - be it Samuel L Jackson's sleezy gun dealer, Forster's world-weary bondsman, Michael Keaton's ambitious Fed, Bridget Fonda's stoned California babe, or Chris Tucker's typically motor-mouthed turn as one of Ordell's contacts.
Only Robert De Niro disappoints, turning in a slightly lazy performance as an ex-con who seems to be having difficulty staying awake!
The second half of the movie, to be fair, is also quite exciting - but then anything that helps to enliven the first hour is a bonus and it is a relief that Jackie Brown doesn't continue in the same vein throughout. Accomplished though it may be, one can only hope that Tarantino gets back to basics with Kill Bill, his self-penned next movie which sounds, on the surface, like a return to form!