Jackie Brown is a 1997 American crime film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino and starring Pam Grier in the title role, along with Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster, Bridget Fonda, Michael Keaton, and Robert De Niro in supporting roles. An adaptation of Elmore Leonard's 1992 novel Rum Punch, 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. As Tarantino's third directorial effort following Reservoir Dogs (1992) and Pulp Fiction (1994), it is the only feature-length film that Tarantino has adapted from a previous work.
|Directed by||Quentin Tarantino|
|Screenplay by||Quentin Tarantino|
|Based on||Rum Punch|
by Elmore Leonard
|Produced by||Lawrence Bender|
|Edited by||Sally Menke|
|Distributed by||Miramax Films|
|Box office||$74.7 million|
As neither Grier nor Forster, both veteran actors, had performed a leading role in many years, this film revitalized their careers, earning Forster a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and Golden Globe Award nominations for Jackson and Grier. Released on December 25, 1997, the film itself received generally positive reviews from critics and grossed $74 million worldwide.
Jackie Brown, a flight attendant, smuggles money from Mexico into the United States for Ordell Robbie, a gun runner in Los Angeles. When his courier, Beaumont Livingston, is arrested, Robbie bails him out with bail bondsman Max Cherry, then executes Livingston later that evening, fearing that Livingston would turn informant.
Acting on information Livingston gave them, ATF agent Ray Nicolette and LAPD detective Mark Dargus intercept Brown with Robbie's cash and a bag of cocaine, which she is unaware was intended for Melanie Ralston. She is sent to jail, which alerts Robbie. Having been paid by Robbie, Cherry bails out Brown. Robbie arrives at Brown's apartment shortly thereafter to kill her, and after she pulls a gun on him, it is revealed she stole it from Cherry's glovebox. She negotiates a deal with Robbie whereby she pretends to help the authorities while smuggling in $550,000 of his money.
Robbie brings in Louis Gara, a criminal associate and former cellmate, just released from prison. Meanwhile, Melanie Ralston, Robbie's surfer-girl, attempts to convince Gara to betray Robbie and take the money for themselves. Gara informs Robbie about this but Robbie replies that he is not concerned about her.
Unaware of the plan to smuggle in $550,000, Nicolette and Dargus devise a sting to catch Robbie during a transfer of $50,000. Unbeknownst to all, Brown plans to keep the $500,000 for herself. She recruits Cherry, offering him a cut. During a test run, Brown smuggles in $10,000, with Nicolette and Dargus aware, to swap with Sheronda at a shopping mall. After Brown leaves, Cherry observes an unknown woman swap bags with Sheronda. He informs Brown and she confronts Robbie, who states he used Simone Hawkins to secure his money as backup.
On the day of the transfer, Robbie discovers Simone has left town with the $10,000 and reluctantly recruits Melanie to perform the swap, with Gara taking her to the mall. Brown enters a dressing room in a department store to try on a suit. She has told Robbie she will swap bags there with Melanie, under the nose of Nicolette, who thinks the exchange will occur in the food court. Instead, the bag she gives Melanie contains only $40,000, and she leaves the rest in the dressing room for Cherry. Brown takes $10,000 she separated before entering the mall and places it on top of the bag she gives Ralston as a bonus. Brown then runs frantically to the food court and yells out to Nicolette, claiming Melanie burst into the dressing room and stole the money.
In the parking lot, Melanie taunts Gara about forgetting where they parked. He loses his temper and shoots her, confessing this to Robbie upon meeting him. Robbie becomes livid when discovering most of the money is missing and realizes Brown is the culprit. Robbie kills Gara and leaves with the money. Robbie turns his anger towards Cherry, whom he now knows helped Brown. Robbie tells Cherry to tell Brown that Robbie will kill them if he doesn't get his money back, and if Brown goes to the cops he will name her as an accessory. Cherry goes to Robbie's house and tells him that Brown, frightened, is waiting in Cherry's office with the money for him. Robbie holds Cherry at gunpoint as they enter his office. Brown yells out to Nicolette that Robbie has a gun. Nicolette jumps out (with Dargus, and Winston as backup) and kills Robbie.
The charges against Brown are dropped. She plans a trip to Madrid. Cherry declines Brown's invitation to join her, they kiss goodbye, and she leaves as he watches her drive 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 ATF Agent Ray Nicolette
- Robert De Niro as Louis Gara
- Michael Bowen as LAPD Detective Mark Dargus
- Chris Tucker as Beaumont Livingston
- LisaGay Hamilton as Sheronda
- Tommy "Tiny" Lister Jr. as Winston
- Hattie Winston as Simone Hawkins
- Sid Haig as Judge
- Aimee Graham as Amy
- Gillian Iliana Waters as Mossberg 500 Tammy Jo
- Denise Crosby as Public Defender (uncredited)
- Quentin Tarantino as Voice On Answering Machine (uncredited)
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, saying 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 said 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 including four songs from Roy Ayers's original score for Coffy.
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. Tarantino considered Paul Newman, Gene Hackman and John Saxon for the role of Max Cherry, before casting Robert Forster.
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 whom 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 84 reviews, and an average rating of 7.5/10. The site's consensus is: "Although somewhat lackadaisical in pace, Jackie Brown proves to be an effective star-vehicle for Pam Grier while offering the usual Tarantino wit and charm." 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. Samuel L. Jackson, who appears frequently in Tarantino's films, named his character of Ordell Robbie as one of his favorite roles.
The film grossed $39.7 million in the United States and Canada and $35.1 million in other territories for a total gross of $74.7 million, against a budget of $12 million. In its opening weekend, the film grossed $9.3 million, finishing 5th at the box office.
Jackie Brown has attracted criticism for its heavy utterance of the racial slur "nigger". The word is used 38 times throughout the film, which was the most in any Tarantino movie at the time of release until Django Unchained (2012) and The Hateful Eight (2015). 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 extensive inclusion of the word with the film's producers, 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."
Tarantino's choice to use the word was 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||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.
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's "Tennessee Stud", Bloodstone's "Natural High", and Foxy Brown's "(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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