How does one follow up a film widely considered one of the greatest ever made? If you're Peter Jackson, you create a remake that was wholly unnecessary and flat stupid. If you're George Lucas, you never get to make a movie outside of your iconic series ever again. And if you're Frank Darabont, you wait a few years and go back to the same well that brought you such acclaim, then you try something else, and if that doesn't work you go back to that same well yet again.
After 'Pulp Fiction,' however, Quentin Tarantino was screwed. Anything short of genre-defining, pop-culture loaded cinematic perfection would be considered a let down, anything too far removed from his previous work would disappoint his newfound fan base, while anything too close to 'Fiction' and he'd be labeled a one trick pony. That's the lose-lose situation 'Jackie Brown' was placed in, and amazingly, it won, somewhat.
Female Flight attendant Jackie Brown (Pam Grier) just got busted carrying a big load of cash into the country, cash that was meant for the short tempered illicit arms dealer Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson). Robbie is the last person anyone wants to cross, as he has a habit of ending his business relationships in a less than survivable manner. ATF agent Ray Nicolette (Michael Keaton) is pressing Jackie to help bust Robbie or go to jail, while veteran bail bondsman Max Cherry (Robert Forster) is after Jackie for another reason. In order to survive her complicated predicament, Jackie must double-cross anyone in her path, and not slip up once, or she'll lose her freedom, or her life.
I'll admit it, upon first seeing the film, I just "didn't get it." It wasn't a matter of loving 'Pulp Fiction' and loathing "Jackie Brown,' as I didn't grow to appreciate the former for years. Rather, the slow, brutally methodical pace, so full of twists and turns that turn into full loops required my full attention, and it's safe to say that in my younger years, that was something I didn't often give a movie. Something about shiny objects just kept me from focusing. The film grew on me, and I've come to appreciate it much more with age.
Tarantino again rolls out with an all star cast, though his chosen actors are far from A-listers. Grier's career was resurrected by her portrayal of the titular role, while Forster found great fan acclaim (he's due for some more big parts again!). Keaton was a bit past his glory days (though he gives a strong performance as a character he played in another Elmore Leonard adaptation:'Out of Sight.'), while Bridget Fonda's star never shone as brightly before or after this performance. Ok, you caught me, her star never existed, but you get the point. Jackson may be the owner of the greatest career in this film, his second with Tarantino, while Chris Tucker finally got the fate a few moviegoers (myself included) had wished for him in 'The Fifth Element.' Rounding out the cast, Robert De Niro provided a solid, though forgettable supporting performance that reminds me of my uncle for some god unknown reason, perhaps his goofy demeanor under a scruffy appearance.
Based on the book "Rum Punch" by Elmore Leonard, 'Jackie Brown' begins a Tarantino theme that he has not broken since crafting this tale, as each of his films after 'Pulp Fiction' are virtual homages to a genre as a whole, much like a theme week on a game show. The intended target of this homage is clearly the Blaxploitation genre, which was popular in the '70's (often headlined by Grier), and quickly faded to obscurity, leaving only fingerprints on popular culture.
Other than his work on 'Death Proof', Tarantino brings possibly his most linear tale in terms of continuity with 'Brown.' Only one sequence of the film is out of order, as the film doubles back to show a sequence from multiple perspectives, a trick that really works quite well in fleshing out the intricacies of the scam.
As fun, thorough, and ingenious as 'Jackie Brown' is, it has a few downfalls, including an excessive amount of character introduction in the first act that slows the film to an absolute crawl. While the attention to the characters pays off dearly in the end, making viewers care for the outcomes of each individual, it creates a snail pace unlike any other Tarantino film, and that is exactly what 'Jackie Brown' is: unlike any other Tarantino film. In a good way.
The Disc: Vital Stats
Lionsgate is releasing 'Jackie Brown' on Blu-ray via Miramax on a Region A locked BD50 disc. There are no packaging frills, the usual pre-menu mumbo jumbo, and traditional Lionsgate menu navigation.
Going into this review, I had very low expectations for 'Jackie Brown,' due to my distaste for both import versions I've seen, as well as the fact that this title is one of the many Miramax properties dumped onto Blu-ray without a remaster, sometimes from questionable source elements. Well...thankfully, I was wrong to be worried. That isn't to say that the disc couldn't be better, and there are some very obvious areas leaving room for improvement, but fans should be quite satisfied with how this Tarantino film looks in high-def on Blu-ray.
The best news, to me, is the fact that the dirt issues that were abundant in the Polish import are not a concern here. Yes, there's a tiny dirt blip here and there, and a few little scratches, but for the most part, the picture looks really, really clean. In fact, the film doesn't show much age at all, aside from the random soft shots that really are the definition of random, popping up sporadically to remind people of how great the sharp shots look!
This disc boasts powerful colors, detail levels that can be astonishing at times (then frustrating the next...), absolutely gorgeous, accurate skin tones, and much improved black levels that aren't inconsistent in any way, with no crush issues.
The lossless track given to the Lionsgate distributed American release of 'Jackie Brown' is a step up from the import.
This track isn't the muddy, blending mess found on the import. In fact, it's a very well separated, very clearly discernible mix that features superb dialogue clarity and very good separation. The soundtrack fills the room nicely, and rears do get some very, very light ambience and effect, but otherwise, this is still a front heavy affair. Bass levels are better pronounced, with some actual soul coming through the music, for a change. While I did have some issue with the presentation of a few of Forster's lines, which were occasionally hollow sounding, I didn't have any real concerns with the rest of this track.
A very nice presentation of the film, even if it really does lack in power for the more intense scenes.
'Jackie Brown' is the most understated of Quentin Tarantino's films. It's also is one of only two films in his canon that gets better every time I watch it (with 'Inglourious Basterds' being the other). This disc is solid, and for the asking price, is borderline phenomenal. For ten bucks, you bet your sweet behind that I'm giving this one an easy recommendation! Just think of it this way: buy 'Jackie Brown' on Blu-ray, or splurge on unsatisfying fast food two times in a week. The choice should be obvious.