[Screen It]


(1997) (Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson) (R)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Heavy Mild Heavy Mild Heavy
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Smoking Tense Family
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Drama: A middle-aged flight attendant sets a plan into motion that may make her rich by double crossing her gun dealer boss and the government agents trying to catch him.
Jackie Brown (PAM GRIER) is a forty-four-year-old flight attendant who runs money for gun dealer Ordell Robbie (SAMUEL L. JACKSON). Stopped by A.T.F. agents Ray Nicolet (MICHAEL KEATON) and Mark Dargus (MICHAEL BOWEN), Jackie is given the option to turn in Ordell or spend time in prison. Choosing the latter, bail bondsman Max Cherry (ROBERT FORSTER) gets her out. He's been hired by Ordell who wants to know what she told the Feds.

It seems Ordell has half a million dollars in Cabo San Lucas, and Jackie's been bringing it back bit by bit. The A.T.F. agents want to nail Ordell, and he wants his money, so Jackie hatches a plan that may get all of them off her back and make her rich in the process. With Max's help, and using Ordell's friends, Louis (ROBERT DE NIRO), a paroled bank robber, and Melanie (BRIDGET FONDA), a pot smoking surfer girl, Jackie sets into motion her plan that's fraught with danger, but may just be her ticket to a better life.

Preteens probably won't, but teens who are fans of anyone in the cast probably will. Likewise, teens who are enamored with director Tarantino's previous work ("Reservoir Dogs," "Pulp Fiction") will probably want to see this one as well.
For strong language, some violence, drug use and sexuality.
Other than MICHAEL KEATON AND MICHAEL BOWEN, many parents probably wouldn't consider the rest of the characters to be good role models. SAMUEL L. JACKSON and ROBERT DE NIRO are killers and criminals, and BRIDGET FONDA is a heavy drug user. ROBERT FORESTER isn't as bad, but he's somewhat of a shady bail bondsman, while PAM GRIER is a heavy smoking, profanity spewing woman who's also involved in Ordell's criminal behavior.


OUR TAKE: 7 out of 10
What happens when you mix the works of two artists known for creating interesting, well-developed characters? Well, if the two happen to be novelist Elmore Leonard and writer/director Quentin Tarantino, you can certainly expect an interesting time at the cinema, and that holds true for "Jackie Brown." Based on Leonard's 1993 crime novel, "Rum Punch," Tarantino has changed the title, the name Jackie Burke to Jackie Brown, and made her an African American woman. Nonetheless, he's kept the many interesting personas and the twisting plot where the characters attempt to double cross those who are trying to do the same back to them.

Much like Barry Sonnenfeld's adaption of Leonard's novel, "Get Shorty" and most of Tarantino's body of work, the emphasis is on a strong story that's inhabited by interestingly diverse characters and the dialogue they speak. Unlike any of those movies, however, this one takes a while to get rolling. While the characters are very interesting, the plot is very slow to develop, and it's only because of the characters and the performers that inhabit them that it initially holds our interest.

Most of that can be attributed to Samuel L. Jackson, who teams up with Tarantino for the second time after his Oscar nominated performance in "Pulp Fiction." We've always believed Jackson to be one of the greatest living actors in the business, and this film adds yet another feather to his distinguished career. Some will obviously look for comparisons between his character Jules in "Pulp," and Ordell in this one, since both are profanity spewing, involved-in-crime killers. On the surface they're similar, but Jackson provides enough subtle nuances to each character that they come off as completely different individuals despite their similarities. It doesn't hurt that Tarantino has given Jackson the best lines in the film, and it's the character's charisma that makes you want to watch him despite his less than scrupulous behavior.

Tarantino also makes a casting coupe by putting Pam Grier in the title role. Known for her early career performances in the 1970's "blaxploitation" films, such as "Black Mama, White Mama" and "Scream, Blacula, Scream!" and later in "Foxy Brown," she's yet another comeback kid in the Tarantino camp (last time it was John Travolta). Grier had made something of a return to fame in "Original Gangstas," the 1996 parody of those 1970's films, and Tarantino -- who has a knack for "retro" things & performers -- had made it clear he was one of her big admirers. Once again playing the tough, single lady, she's clearly one of this film's highlights. In this movie she may have found a role that might just resurrect her career and get her out of the "B" movies in which she's recently appeared.

Equally successful is Robert Forster whose bail bondsman character, Max Cherry, changes his ways once he meets Jackie. Having played various supporting character roles for nearly three decades, he delivers a sympathetic, yet seedy character. Less successful and extremely disappointing is Tarantino's use of the great Robert De Niro. Reduced to playing a dimwitted caricature of the more subdued characters he every so often plays, this has to be one of the worst uses of this award winning talent. Except for one violent, somewhat pivotal scene, Tarantino could have left out his character altogether.

Faring a little better, but still not great, is Bridget Fonda as an annoying, drugged up surfer girl. Her character serves its purpose during the course of the story (to be an annoyance to Ordell and Louis), but Fonda isn't given much leeway in portraying her. Michael Keaton is likeable as always, but doesn't play a character that's much different from many he's played in the past. Still, and as always, his quirky performance is fun to watch.

While it sounds like the movie's a mixed bag, it fortunately gets much better as the plot progresses. For that's when the double cross elements begin to appear and most of the fun begins. It's also the time when Tarantino gets back in step with what made "Pulp Fiction" so interesting and that's his use of nonlinear storytelling. Audiences and critics loved his last film for suddenly going backwards in time and arriving at a point midway through where we had just been.

While he doesn't make as big a jump here, several smaller jumps are nearly as effective, and we get to witness a pivotal scene several times from different character's perspectives that reveals more information every time we see it. Combined with the accelerated and newly entertaining plot, that cinematic device helps lift the film from it's rather mediocre beginning. Finishing with a fun flourish, the effect one leaves with is that the overall film is better than its individual parts.

Still, it's not as good as "Pulp Fiction" or "Get Shorty," both of which were more clever and had great performances from nearly all of the cast. While this is in no ways a bad film, one only wishes that it didn't wait until the second half to really take off, and that some of the major talent involved wasn't vastly misused and/or underused. It's almost as if Quentin decided to tone everything down a notch, so as not to compete with his earlier, hyped up features. Yet the strong characterizations of the leads, Tarantino's attention to smart, witty dialogue, and the stepped up last half of the film make the feature worthwhile. We give "Jackie Brown" a 7 out of 10.

Extreme profanity, drug use, violence, and criminal behavior top the lists of objectionable material. With more than 200 "f' and "s" words combined, the profanity is nearly nonstop, while the characters played by Fonda and De Niro smoke pot quite often. Several people are shot and killed, but surprisingly the bloodletting is quite mild. There is one brief sex scene with movement and sounds, but no nudity. Nearly everyone in the story is involved in criminal behavior in one way or the other, and some viewers may somewhat see the movie glorifying that behavior. Since many teens will probably want to see this film, we suggest that you read through the material first to determine whether it's appropriate for them.

  • Melanie and Louis smoke pot from a pipe in several different scenes. When Ordell tells Melanie, "That sh*t's going to rob you of your ambition," she responds, "What if my ambition is to get high and watch TV?" Ordell later comments that he gets high at night after his work day is done.
  • Another character (played by Chris Tucker) mentions that he's high.
  • We often see Ordell drinking screwdrivers.
  • Jackie and Max have drinks in a bar.
  • Jackie drinks wine in a bar and Ordell has a screwdriver. Later, both have screwdrivers.
  • Ordell and Louis have drinks in a bar.
  • Ray has a beer with dinner while Jackie has wine.
  • Ordell shoots a person and blood splatters onto the inside of a windshield.
  • A person who's been shot dead is just a little bloody.
  • Obviously the criminals in this story (Ordell, Louis, Jackie, etc...) have both as they've not only broken the law, but plot how to get the money into the country (and then how to steal it from the others).
  • Likewise, both Ordell and Louis kill people during the movie.
  • Ordell goes to visit Jackie after he's bailed her out of jail. Since he shot the last person he bailed out, the scene is somewhat tense.
  • The final confrontation between Jackie and Ordell is just a little tense.
  • Handguns: Used to threaten or kill people. See "Violence" for details.
  • Shotgun: Carried by a minor character in the trunk of a car.
  • Machine guns: Seen in a TV program where bikini clad women fire a wide assortment of them.
  • Phrases: "Nigger" (said by black people toward black people), "Bitch" (both toward women and used as an adjective), "Monkey ass," "Ho" (whore), "Pissed off," "Piss," "Kiss my ass," and "Bad ass."
  • None.
  • There's just a tiny bit of tension-filled music in one or two scenes.
  • None.
  • At least 131 "f" words (47 using "mother," 4 used sexually), 69 "s" words, 2 slang terms for male genitals (the "d" and "p" words), 1 slang term each for female genitals and breasts (the "p" and "t" words respectively), 52 asses, 12 damns, 8 hells, and 25 uses of "G-damn," 2 of "Jesus," and 1 use of "Jesus Christ" as exclamations.
  • We see bikini clad women firing machine guns in a TV program.
  • Melanie asks Louis, "Do you want to f*ck?" Moments later we see them having sex with him behind her. There's movement and sounds, but no nudity (as the scene is shot from the waist up and they still have on their shirts).
  • Jackie smokes quite often throughout the film, while Ordell smokes a little less and Melanie smokes once.
  • Other minor characters occasionally smoke.
  • None.
  • The drug use and smoking done by the characters.
  • The moments when the violence is used to elicit some laughter.
  • Ordell shoots and kills a man (seen from a distance with no blood).
  • Jackie holds a gun on Ordell after she finds that he came armed and ready to kill her.
  • On a TV show, a man smacks a woman several times. Later, two men punch another man.
  • Louis shoots and kills a person (only he's seen, no blood)
  • Ordell shoots and kills a person (with blood splattering onto a windshield).
  • A man is shot dead.

  • Reviewed December 11, 1997

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