Jackie Brown (1997) (R)

Before seeing "Jackie Brown" I would have said that Quentin Tarantino had made only two truly great movies: "Pulp Fiction" and "Inglourious Basterds". Sure I was a fan of his other work, but to call movies like "Django Unchained", "Reservoir Dogs",  and the "Kill Bill" movies "masterpieces" seemed like exaggeration. He is one of the best directors and one of my favorites...but only bottled lightning twice.
Then I saw "Jackie Brown" and I have changed my mind... the list of Tarantino's greatest movies in my mind grew to three.
"Jackie Brown" is a glorious and gleeful version of the dull movie "Vantage Point". Granted "Jackie Brown" came first, but the point remains the same. Tarantino, basing his movie off of the novel Rum Punch by Elmore Leonard, tells a story that contains many characters, many plot lines, and numerous places to mess up...but he doesn't.
The movie opens as Jackie Brown (the delightful Pam Grier) is walking down a hallway in an airport. She has an air of confidence, stepping in time to the music that will frequently pop up throughout the course of the movie.
Then we cut away to Ordell Robbie (Tarantino favorite Samuel L. Jackson) sitting on a couch watching gun commercials, explaining his line of work to fellow crook Louis Gara (Robert De Niro). Ordell is a gun smuggler and he thinks that he's mighty good at his work; his lady friend Melanie (Bridget Fonda) thinks otherwise. She is a carefree, pot-smoking seductress who only wants to have a good time and get her way. Ordell is used to being the boss, so the two don't get along swimmingly. Their relationship is complicated and undefinable...certainly not a romance or even close to being one.
Ordell sticks up for his people, or he likes to make them believe so. He has a whole team of minions that carry guns back and forth and bring his dough back from Mexico from him...one of these people is Beaumont Livingston (Chris Tucker). Beaumont finds himself in jail and in need of bail, which Ordell "happily" supplies.
With $10,000 in cash, Ordell walks into a bonds office and hires bail bondsman Max Cherry (Robert Forster). Once Beaumont is out of jail, Ordell pays him a visit and the result of this visit is the fuel that makes the rest of the movie burn brightly.
Jackie is stopped at the airport and her bag is searched, a bag that contains a lot of money and some cocaine. Now she's in prison and Ordell finds himself having to bail her out, he finds himself returning to Max for his help.
But how do all these people know each other? Ah, that's half the fun of the movie.
"Jackie Brown" is shot with a merciless vigilance that only Tarantino can achieve. It encompasses his favorites things: strong characters, violence, extreme swearing, and Samuel L. Jackson's ranting.
The whole movie depends on a performance by Pam Grier, who turns in the highlight of her career. It's a fantastic performance from an actress who I wished could have been bigger than she was.
The character's lives intertwine and it all becomes a glorious mess, it's fairly reminiscent of some of the movies that the Coen brothers have made...though even they have a limit with what they will and will not write—I'm not sure that Tarantino has a limit.
Two police officers become involved in a sting, trying to pin the money and guns on Ordell. Jackie, being a very shrewd creature, sees an opportunity and she jumps on it.
"Jackie Brown" plays out like a straightforward crime movie, yet it's anything but that. There's paranoia, backstabbing, love, and (of course) an excessive use of "the n-word".
The movie feels like "Ocean's Eleven" meets "Fargo" meets "Reservoir Dogs"; but the result is a completely original, funny, thrilling work that places Tarantino at the top of a list of many prestigious film makers.
I loved this movie.
It's not just the Tarantino's trademark style and script that I loved...I loved the plot, the characters, how it was shot, how it was edited, the music that was used, and the whole world the movie creates.
I think that watching "Jackie Brown" was the most fun I've had all year.

Score: 4 out of 4 stars

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