While often remaining in familiar territory for Tarantino—a crime drama filled with sexism, racism and plenty of violence—it’s interesting to see him work primarily with a female lead character. Jackie is smart and confident, often taking matters into her own hands to solve her troubles. While having strong female characters isn’t out of Tarantino’s realm, it’s refreshing seeing not just a woman, but a black woman, be completely in control. Pam Grier puts so much life into this character: she’s got an incredible toughness to her, while still coming off as charming. In one of my favorite scenes of the whole film, she yells at Ordell after he deviated from the plan they set to get the money. Watching her berate a violent man with a temper—who also tried to kill her earlier in the film—is awesome. She completely takes control and reasserts her position as the leader of the plan.
The only other thing to really stand out in the film is the supporting characters. Max Cherry (Robert Forster) is a bail bondsman with a crush on Jackie who decides to try and help her to pull off the scam. He’s a great contrast to Jackie: he’s quiet, willing to help and more than capable. It’s no surprise that he was nominated for an academy award for his role. Over on Ordell’s side is Louis (Robert De Niro), his former friend who just got out of jail and works for Ordell again. He’s also quiet, but it’s more that he seems to have no ambition and just drift through life. Lastly, Federal Agent Ray Nicolette (Michael Keaton) is highly motivated to catch Ordell and prove himself a capable agent. He’s intense, but despite his best efforts, he can’t seem to manipulate or scare Jackie into cooperating.
The acting, writing and filming of Jackie Brown are all exactly up to Tarantino’s high standards. I think the reason that it goes unnoticed is that there’s nothing particularly memorable about the film. While well executed, it feels like it’s just a combination of Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs. I don’t think it should be overlooked for that reason, but I understand why the film doesn’t stand out among the rest of his work.
Length: 154 minutes