Some pacing issues aside, Tarantino’s only screen adaptation mostly works because of our faith in his characters and where he takes them to.
Dir. Quentin Tarantino
1997 | USA | Crime/Drama/Thriller | 154 mins | 1.37:1 | English
M18 (passed clean) for strong language, some violence, drug use and sexuality
Cast: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster, Bridget Fonda, Michael Keaton, Robert De Niro
Plot: A middle-aged stewardess joins forces with a burnt-out bail bondsman to double-cross a criminal arms dealer.
Awards: Won Silver Bear – Best Actor & Nom. for Golden Bear (Berlin); Nom. for Best Supporting Actor (Oscars)
Source: Miramax International
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style: Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream
Tarantino’s only screen adaptation is given, well, the Tarantino treatment in his third feature film, which is based on Elmore Leonard’s 1992 novel, ‘Rum Punch’, whose title probably sounds more like a QT film than Jackie Brown.
But there is more to Tarantino’s film than just a name change, including a change in story location (South Florida to Los Angeles) as well as the race of the lead protagonist (white to mixed).
As played by Pam Grier, the film focuses on her character, a flight stewardess who smuggles in drug money for Ordell (Samuel L. Jackson in a devilish Silver Berlin Bear-winning performance).
With a strong supporting cast that includes the likes of Robert De Niro, Robert Forster and Michael Keaton, Jackie Brown mostly works because of the likable and sometimes hilarious performances, but more crucially, we commit to the long haul because of our faith in Tarantino’s characters and where he takes them to.
“My ass may be dumb, but I ain’t no dumbass.”
With a runtime that is exactly the same as his much more revolutionary and tighter Pulp Fiction (1994), one might accuse Tarantino of lumbering his way out of a complex crime film that perhaps would have worked more effectively as a two-hour film.
A tale of greed, betrayal and tragic misunderstanding, Jackie Brown does crank up the tension through dialogue and setup in the way that only Tarantino can. Plus, Grier’s character surely has to be talked about in any rumours on the prospect of Kill Bill Vol. 3.