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Jackie Brown

Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction were hard acts to follow, and Tarantino’s fans and detractors alike have been speculating about the long delay in the appearance of Jackie Brown . The good news is that the new film has been well worth the wait. An imaginative and largely faithful adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s novel Rum Punch, Jackie Brown sees Tarantino continuing in the crime genre, but it also marks an important departure. There is no attempt to top the audaciousness of the earlier films in terms of gunplay or visual fireworks. Instead, Jackie Brown takes a much more sober and mature look at a group of small-time criminals and their accomplices. Transposing Leonard’s novel from Miami to Los Angeles, and changing the lead character from white to black, the director has bravely cast Pam Grier, the star of seventies’ blaxploitation flicks such as Coffy, in the title role. Greer is wonderful as the middle-aged, down-on-her-luck air hostess who gets busted for smuggling money on behalf of arms dealer Ordel (Samuel L. Jackson). Befriended by bail bondsman Max (Robert Forster), Jackie concocts an elaborate scheme to fool both the cops and the lethal Ordel.

With ‘Across 110th Street’ blaring on the soundtrack, the movie opens with close-up shots of a radiant Grier. It’s a loving tribute to seventies’ black culture, but Jackie Brown is no fulsome piece of nostalgia. We are soon introduced to the smart-talking Ordel (Jackson is on top form here), who ruthlessly dispatches one of his operatives. As in his earlier films, Tarantino creates a world ruled by treachery, risk and daring. What is new is the way in which he handles the unlikely relationship which develops between Jackie and the resolutely solid, middle-class Max. The scene in which Max first lays eyes on Jackie is one of the film’s highlights, and their subsequent quasi-romance is both touching and funny. Another highlight is an extended, 20-minute sequence set in a vast shopping mall, where Jackie and Max’s complicated scheme is staged three times from different points of view in a set piece that’s reminiscent of Tarantino’s experimentation with shifting perspectives in Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction.

U.S.A., 1997.
Colour.
Dolby digital stereo.
155 mins.

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