27 September 2009

... Three "Shut your raggedy-ass up, and sit the fuck down!"

Some people may consider Quentin Tarantino's best film to be Pulp Fiction (which is definitely a classic), others may think that Kill Bill was his finest work (and it is absolutely an amazing film), and Quentin Tarantino himself has said that he wants Inglourious Basterds to be his masterpiece, but I honestly believe that Jackie Brown is his pièce de résistance. Like all Tarantino films, Jackie Brown works as an ensemble, with all actors working effortlessly to create memorable characters. The film stars Pam Grier as Jackie Brown, a Los Angeles-based stewardess, Samuel L. Jackson as Ordell Robbie, a gun dealer, Bridget Fonda as Melanie, one of Ordell's many girlfriends, Robert De Niro as Louis, a lifelong criminal recently released from prison, and Robert Forster as Max Cherry, a bail bondsman. Jackie Brown is a crime thriller based off a novel by Elmore Leonard (responsible for the source material for films like Out of Sight and Get Shorty), and throughout the film the audience is constantly trying to figure out just who is playing the con in this smart and intense film.

Jackie Brown opens with one of my favourite title sequences: Jackie Brown running through the Los Angeles airport to make it to the gate in time to board her flight. We really get to see how disheveled and distraught her character is, all without the use of dialogue. Jackie has been working for Ordell, smuggling money into the country for Mexico to support his gun trade business. At the beginning of the film she is taken into custody by an ATF agent (played by Michael Keaton) and an LAPD detective (Michael Bowen). Jackie knows that the two men are after Ordell, and orchestrates a plan with the two detectives. She also convinces an irate Ordell not to kill her and assures him that she is on his side. Together they hatch a plan for Jackie to bring Ordell's money into the country and Jackie has the ATF believing she is leading them to Ordell, and Ordell believes that she is helping him sneak the money past the agents. Robert Forster, who Ordell hires to get Jackie out of jail, plays Jackie's accomplice in her attempt to gain her freedom from jail and from Ordell. Louis and Melanie play pivotal roles in the film, but to highlight their significance would require me to ruin too many of the film's secrets.

At more than two and a half hours, Jackie Brown is an intense film, and it is the quintessential Quentin Tarantino film. It has fantastic dialogue that is well-paced and humorous, it has fully developed characters, and it is, of course, violent. Each actor brings such commitment and passion to the role that we become emotionally invested in the outcome. Pam Grier is fantastic in the title role, but it is Robert Forster's performance that is most unexpected. There is such a quiet intensity in his creation of Max Cherry that it should come as no surprise that he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. I chose this image of Bridget Fonda because she is perhaps my favourite character in the film. In a role that could easily be forgotten or even overacted by another actor, Bridget Fonda's Melanie is the character that controls the outcome of all the characters at the end.

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