Jackie Brown is a 1997 American crime thriller film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino and starring Pam Grier in the title role. The film is an adaptation of Elmore Leonard's 1992 novel Rum Punch. It is the only film that Tarantino has adapted from a previous work. The film pays homage to 1970s blaxploitation films, particularly the films Coffy (1973) and Foxy Brown (1974), both of which also starred Grier in the title roles.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Quentin Tarantino|
|Produced by||Lawrence Bender|
|Screenplay by||Quentin Tarantino|
|Based on||Rum Punch|
by Elmore Leonard
|Music by||James Newton Howard|
|Edited by||Sally Menke|
|Distributed by||Miramax Films|
|Box office||$74.7 million|
The film's supporting cast includes Robert Forster, Robert De Niro, Samuel L. Jackson, Bridget Fonda, and Michael Keaton. It was Tarantino's third film following Reservoir Dogs (1992) and Pulp Fiction (1994).
Grier and Forster were both veteran actors but neither had performed a leading role in many years; this film revitalized both of their careers. The film garnered Forster a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and Golden Globe Award nominations for Jackson and Grier.
In 1995, Jackie Brown, a middle-aged flight attendant for a small Mexican airline, makes ends meet smuggling money from Mexico into the United States for Ordell Robbie, a black-market gun runner living in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. Ordell is under close watch by the ATF, forcing him to use couriers. When he learns that another of his couriers, Beaumont Livingston, has been arrested, he assumes Livingston will become an informant in order to avoid jail time. Ordell arranges for bail with bondsman Max Cherry, then coaxes Livingston into a car trunk and murders him.
Acting on information Livingston had already shared, ATF agent Ray Nicolette and LAPD detective Mark Dargus intercept Jackie as she returns to the United States with Ordell's cash and some cocaine that Brown was unaware was stashed in her bag. Initially refusing to cut a deal, she is sent to jail which alerts Ordell that she might also be a threat to inform. Having received payment from Ordell, Max picks up Jackie from the jail and begins to develop an attraction to her. Ordell arrives at Jackie's house intending to murder her but she surprises him by pulling a gun surreptitiously taken from the glove compartment of Max's car. Jackie negotiates a deal with Ordell to pretend to help the authorities while smuggling in $550,000 of Ordell's money, enough to allow him to retire.
To carry out this plan, Ordell is counting on Melanie Ralston, an unambitious, pot-smoking surfer girl with whom he lives, and Louis Gara, a friend and former cellmate. Unaware of Jackie and Ordell's plan to smuggle in $550,000, Nicolette and Dargus devise a sting to catch Ordell during a transfer of $50,000. Unbeknownst to all, Jackie plans to double-cross everyone and keep $500,000 for herself. She recruits Max to assist with her plan and offers him a cut.
In the Del Amo Fashion Center on the day of the transfer, Jackie enters a dressing room to try on a new suit. She has told Ordell that she will swap bags there with Melanie, supposedly passing off the $550,000 under the nose of Nicolette, who has been told that the exchange is to take place in the food court. Instead, the bag she gives Melanie contains only $50,000 and she leaves the rest behind in the dressing room for Max to pick up. Jackie then feigns despair as she calls Nicolette and Dargus out from hiding, claiming Melanie took all the money and ran.
In the parking lot, Melanie snobbishly mocks Louis until he loses his temper and shoots her to death. Louis confesses this to Ordell. Ordell is livid when he discovers that most of the money is gone, and he realizes that Jackie is to blame. When Louis mentions that during the hand-off he saw Max Cherry in the store's dress department and thought nothing of it, Ordell kills Louis and leaves with the bag. Ordell turns his anger toward Max, who informs him that Jackie is frightened for her life and is waiting in Max's office to hand over the money. A menacing Ordell holds Max at gunpoint as they enter the darkened office. When Jackie yells that Ordell has a gun, Nicolette jumps from a hiding place and kills him.
With the ATF dropping charges for her cooperation, Jackie takes the remainder of Ordell's money and his car. She decides to leave the country and travel to Madrid, Spain. She invites Max to go along with her, but he declines. Jackie shares a meaningful moment with Max, kisses him goodbye, and leaves as Max takes a phone call. Moments later, Max cuts the call short and contemplates his decision to stay behind as Jackie drives away.
- Pam Grier as Jackie Brown
- Samuel L. Jackson as Ordell Robbie
- Robert Forster as Max Cherry
- Bridget Fonda as Melanie Ralston
- Michael Keaton as Ray Nicolette
- Robert De Niro as Louis Gara
- Michael Bowen as Mark Dargus
- LisaGay Hamilton as Sheronda
- Tommy "Tiny" Lister Jr. as Winston
- Hattie Winston as Simone
- Sid Haig as Judge
- Aimee Graham as Amy
- Chris Tucker as Beaumont Livingston
After completing Pulp Fiction, Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avary acquired the film rights to Elmore Leonard's novels Rum Punch, Freaky Deaky, and Killshot. Tarantino initially planned to film either Freaky Deaky or Killshot and have another director make Rum Punch, but changed his mind after re-reading Rum Punch, stating that he "fell in love" with the novel all over again. Killshot was later adapted into a film, produced by Jackie Brown producer Lawrence Bender. While adapting Rum Punch into a screenplay, Tarantino changed the ethnicity of the main character from white to black, as well as renaming her from Burke to Brown, titling the screenplay Jackie Brown. Tarantino hesitated to discuss the changes with Leonard, finally speaking with Leonard as the film was about to start shooting. Leonard loved the screenplay, considering it not only the best of the twenty-six screen adaptations of his novels and short stories, but also stating that it was possibly the best screenplay he had ever read.
Tarantino's screenplay otherwise closely followed Leonard's novel, incorporating elements of Tarantino's trademark humor and pacing. The screenplay was also influenced by blaxploitation films, but Tarantino stated that Jackie Brown is not a blaxploitation film.
Jackie Brown alludes to Grier's career in many ways. The film's poster resembles those of Grier's films Coffy and Foxy Brown and includes quotes from both films. The typeface for the film's opening titles was also used for those of Foxy Brown; some of the background music is lifted from these films.
The film's opening sequence is similar to that of The Graduate, in which Dustin Hoffman passes wearily through Los Angeles International Airport past white tiles to a somber "The Sound of Silence" by Simon and Garfunkel. In Jackie Brown, Grier glides by blue tiles in the same spot on a moving sidewalk in the same direction to a soaring soul music song, "Across 110th Street" by Bobby Womack, which is from the film of the same name that was a part of the blaxploitation genre, just like Foxy Brown and Coffy.
Tarantino wanted Pam Grier to play the title character. She previously read for the Pulp Fiction character Jody, but Tarantino did not believe audiences would find it plausible for Eric Stoltz to yell at her. Grier did not expect Tarantino to contact her after the success of Pulp Fiction. When she showed up to read for Jackie Brown, Tarantino had posters of her films in his office. She asked if he had put them up because she was coming to read for his film, and he responded that he was actually planning to take them down before her audition, to avoid making it look like he wanted to impress her. Several years after the release of the movie, Sylvester Stallone claimed that he turned down the role of Louis Gara.
Out of SightEdit
While Jackie Brown was in production, Universal Pictures was preparing to begin production on Out of Sight, directed by Steven Soderbergh in an adaptation of the Leonard novel of the same name that also featured the character of Ray Nicolette, and waited to see who Tarantino would cast as Nicolette for Jackie Brown. Michael Keaton was hesitant to take the part of Ray Nicolette, even though Tarantino wanted him for it. Keaton subsequently agreed to play Nicolette again in Out of Sight, uncredited, appearing in one brief scene. Although the legal rights to the character were held by Miramax and Tarantino, as Jackie Brown had been produced first, Tarantino insisted that the studio not charge Universal for using the character in Out of Sight, allowing the character's appearance without Miramax receiving financial compensation.
Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives it an approval rating of 87% based on 82 reviews, and an average rating of 7.46/10. The site's consensus is: "Tarantino's third film, fashioned as a comeback vehicle for star Pam Grier, offers typical wit and charm—and is typically overstuffed." Metacritic gives the film a 64 out of 100 based on 23 critic reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale.
Roger Ebert rated the film four out of four stars, writing that "Tarantino leaves the hardest questions for last, hides his moves, conceals his strategies in plain view, and gives his characters dialogue that is alive, authentic and spontaneous." He also ranked the film as one of his favorites of 1997. Movie critic Mark Kermode for BBC Radio Five Live lists Jackie Brown as his favorite film by Quentin Tarantino. Film co-star and frequent collaborator of Quentin Tarantino, Samuel L. Jackson named his character of Ordell Robbie as one of his favorite roles.
The film grossed $9.2 million in its opening weekend, finishing 5th at the box office.
Jackie Brown has attracted criticism for its heavy utterance of the racial slur "nigger". The word is used thirty-eight times throughout the film, which is the second most in any Tarantino movie, after Django Unchained (2012). During an interview with Manohla Dargis, Tarantino is quoted as saying "the minute any word has that much power, as far as I'm concerned, everyone on the planet should scream it. No word deserves that much power." This usage elicited comments from director Spike Lee. "the problem with Jackie Brown, Lee said, "I will say it again and again. I have a definite problem with Quentin Tarantino’s excessive use of the n-word." Lee later commented, "I'm not against the word, and I use it, but not excessively. And some people speak that way. But, Quentin is infatuated with that word. What does he want to be made – an honorary black man? And he uses it in all his pictures: Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs... I want Quentin to know that all African-Americans do not think that word is trendy or slick." Lee even went as far as to address his concerns around the excessive inclusion of the word with Harvey Weinstein and Lawrence Bender. Film critic Pascoe Soyurz also found issue with the repetition of the word. Soyurz says, "I wouldn't necessarily align myself with Spike Lee, but I do have some reservations about a film of this kind coming out at this time. It seems to me there's a kind of culture-vulture feel to it. I'm concerned about the whole 'blaxploitation' thing. Hollywood is a dream factory but it was Hollywood that created some of the most negative images of black people, which had major effects on the way we were perceived around the world." He concludes by stating that Tarantino's use of the word "devalues the word and the word has a lot of significance."
However, Tarantino's choice to use the word has been defended by actor Samuel Jackson who plays the role of Ordell Robbie. "Did they have another name to call the (black) people they were talking about at the time?" Jackson asks. He goes on to say, "If you’re going to deal with the language of the time, you deal with the language of the time. And that was the language of the time. I grew up in the South. I heard 'nigger' all my life. I’m not disturbed by it."
Grier and Jackson were nominated for Golden Globe Awards (Grier for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy and Jackson for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy). Forster was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. The film was also nominated for the prestigious Grand Prix of the Belgian Syndicate of Cinema Critics. In 2008, the film was selected by Empire magazine as one of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time, ranking in at #215.
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipients and nominees||Result|
|Academy Awards||March 23, 1998||Best Supporting Actor||Robert Forster||Nominated|
|Awards Circuit Community Awards||3rd ACCAs||Best Adapted Screenplay||Quentin Tarantino||Nominated|
|Best Actress||Pam Grier||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actor||Robert Forster||Nominated|
|Best Film Editing||Sally Menke||Nominated|
|Honorable Mentions (The Next Ten Best Picture Contenders)||Nominated|
|Berlin International Film Festival||February 11 to 22, 1998||Golden Berlin Bear||Quentin Tarantino||Nominated|
|Silver Bear for Best Actor||Samuel L. Jackson||Won|
|Chicago Film Critics Association||March 1, 1998||Best Actress||Pam Grier||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actor||Robert Forster||Nominated|
|Golden Globe Award||January 18, 1998||Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy||Samuel L. Jackson||Nominated|
|Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy||Pam Grier||Nominated|
|Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards||32nd KCFCC Awards||Best Supporting Actor||Robert Forster||Won|
|Saturn Awards||24th Saturn Awards||Best Actress||Pam Grier||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actor||Robert Forster||Nominated|
|Screen Actors Guild Award||March 8, 1998||Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role||Pam Grier||Nominated|
The soundtrack album for Jackie Brown, entitled Jackie Brown: Music from the Miramax Motion Picture, was released on December 9, 1997. The film's score was composed by James Newton Howard.
Songs by a variety of artists are heard throughout the film, including The Delfonics "La-La Means I Love You" and "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)", Bill Withers "Who Is He", The Grass Roots "Midnight Confessions", Johnny Cash "Tennessee Stud", Bloodstone "Natural High", and Foxy Brown "(Holy Matrimony) Married to the Firm". There are several songs included that were featured in Blaxploitation films as well, including Bobby Womack's "Across 110th Street", from the film of the same name, and Pam Grier's "Long Time Woman", from her 1971 film The Big Doll House. The original soundtrack also features separate tracks with dialogue from the film. Instead of using a new film score, Tarantino incorporated Roy Ayers' funk score from the film Coffy.
The Special Edition DVD, released by Buena Vista in 2002, includes an introduction from Tarantino, an hour-long retrospective interview, a subtitle trivia track and soundtrack chapter selection, a half-hour making-of documentary ("How It Went Down"), the entire "Chicks Who Love Guns" video as seen in the film, many deleted and alternate scenes, including an alternate opening title sequence, Siskel and Ebert's review, Jackie Brown appearances on MTV, TV spots and theatrical trailers, written reviews and articles and filmographies, and over an hour of trailers for Pam Grier and Robert Forster films dating from the 1960s onwards. The box also includes a mini-poster of the film, similar to the one above, and on the back of that, two other mini-posters—one of Grier, the other of Forster, both similar to the album cover.
Although the Special Edition DVD's back cover states that the film is presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, it was actually shot with a 1.85:1 ratio, the only Tarantino-directed film to date shot in such a format with the exception of his segment in the film Four Rooms, "The Man from Hollywood".
On October 4, 2011, Miramax released Jackie Brown on Blu-ray Disc along with Pulp Fiction. The film is presented in 1080p HD in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack. The disc was the result of a new licensing deal with Miramax and Lionsgate.
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