It is safe to say that Quentin Tarantino is easily one of my favorite directors. I remember the great anticipation I felt to see "Jackie Brown" in the theaters. "Reservoir Dogs" and "Pulp Fiction" were films I had first witnessed on LaserDisc. "Jackie Brown" would be the first QT film I would be able to digest in a theater. Needless to say, I was very excited and had incredibly high expectations for the film. In four short words, I was not disappointed. In my humble opinion, "Jackie Brown" is just as entertaining as the two earlier Tarantino films. It may not have the sheer violence and power of "Reservoir Dogs" or the humor and wit of "Pulp Fiction," but the film is Tarantino's most mature piece of work and the deepest storyline of the three. Each film has its own merits and as I write this review, I find the same level of anticipation for Tarantino's upcoming "Kill Bill."
In typical Tarantino form, "Jackie Brown" is a deep, non-linear story that unwraps through a series of smaller stories that weave together and eventually come full circle in the closing moments of the film. The dialogue is just as convincing and entertaining as "Pulp Fiction" and "Reservoir Dogs" and the characters are every bit as entertaining. One difference that sets "Jackie Brown" apart from the two previous films was that the story was adapted from a novel, in this case Elmore Leonard's Rum Punch. Additionally, "Jackie Brown" was intended from the start to be a starring piece for Pam Grier, an actress always adored by Tarantino. With Grier in mind and Leonard's critically acclaimed novel in hand, Tarantino created an adapted screenplay that was every bit his story, yet still remained faithful to the story it evolved from.
Pam Grier masterfully takes the role written for her and runs with it. The actress is a goddess of exploitation films, but this is perhaps the best role she has ever had the opportunity to undertake. Tarantino is noted for having actors eager to work with him and he manages to get some of the best performances from them. Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson owe much of their current success to the auteur. Sadly, Grier did not find the renaissance that Travolta did, but she is still very active in Hollywood and many of her earlier films are certainly much better for her involvement and I cannot help but think that "Jackie Brown" is a better film because of her inclusion. Her performance is really worth seeing and I feel she should have received more acclaim than she did for her turn as the title character. Of course, Jackson is his usual bad self, Robert De Niro, Bridget Fonda, Robert Forster, Chris Tucker and Michael Keaton all put forth solid performances that are part of a Tarantino experience.
The films focus is on Jackie Brown, an airline stewardess who makes only $16,000 a year. She supplements her income by running drugs and cash between Mexico and the United States for Ordell Robbie (Sam the Man Jackson). Ordell is a gunrunner and drug dealer who will sell anything from marijuana to an AK-47 to those willing to meet his price. Ordell is under the scrutiny of a federal agent (Michael Keaton) and does what he must to eliminate any lose ends, including Beaumont (Chris Tucker) and very likely Jackie Brown. Luckily or unluckily for Jackie, she is picked up by the feds when she tries to smuggle $500,000 for Ordell and they employ her help in bringing Ordell to justice.
Ordell finds himself being aided by his friend Louis Gara (Robert De Niro), girlfriend Melanie Ralston (Bridget Fonda) and a bail bondsman Max Cherry (Robert Forster). Tarantino adds his usual plot twists with a few turns in the goals and relationships of the characters. Louis finds Melanie quite stunning in a string bikini and turns his interests into doping and romancing Ordell's girlfriend. Jackie is hoping to hand Ordell over to the Feds and keep the $500,000 the Feds are trusting her with as a device to capture Ordell. Max Cherry finds himself falling in love with Jackie and realizes the trouble she is in. He takes it upon himself to save her from the situation she is in and get her away from the murderous Ordell.
The plot unravels, but not without some interesting twists. It never manages to overwhelm or bore in its complexity. As with any Tarantino film, the dialogue acts as a tool to deliver exposition, but also as a form of entertainment. The characters do not always discuss things pertinent to the story or plot, and sometimes what they say is completely irrelevant to the happenings on screen, but always worth a listen. "Jackie Brown" is a mature and intricate tale that keeps the viewer guessing on what is going to happen next. Grier is perfect as Jackie Brown and never slips into the type of role typical of "Coffy" or "Foxy Brown." She also manages to keep her shirt on for the entire film. The acting and dialogue of "Jackie Brown" drive home the story and whether or not their words or actions coincide with what is going on, they move the plot along and deliver this complicated and long tale in as entertaining a manner as possible.
Quentin Tarantino is a man influenced by the exploitation films of the Seventies. There is no other director in Hollywood who can capture the look and feel of those pictures with the uncanny knack displayed by Tarantino. "Jackie Brown" is no exception. Everything about the film pays homage to Jack Hill and others. The visual presentation of Tarantino's films certainly adds credibility to his movies, but is another weighing factor in the ease in which a Tarantino film sustains multiple viewings and new visual discoveries are found with each repeated screening. "Reservoir Dogs" was minimalistic, but effective. "Pulp Fiction" was visually absorbing and created and incredibly detailed world for its characters to populate. "Jackie Brown" shows the filmmakers maturity and is easily the most visually effective of the three films.
Of the three Tarantino films recently given the special edition treatments, Jackie Brown is the only film making its debut on the format, unless you consider the previous pan and scan DIVX release valid. I actually do own a copy of the DIVX title, but have never been able to play it. For $1.00, it seemed like a nice souvenir of the demise of the pay per view format. "Jackie Brown" not only finds it debuting on the DVD format, but also benefits from the cleanest transfer of the three. The picture quality is absolutely incredible. The 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer is incredibly detailed and the source materials used are pristine. Not a scratch or fleck of dirt can be found. Colors are nicely saturated and no chroma noise is visible. Shadow detail is superb.
Though Tarantino creates highly detailed pictures in the visual sense, it is his dialogue that has earned him an incredible amount of praise. His musical selections chosen to accompany his story are another strength that has certainly been noted by a plethora of critics. The words and music of a Quentin Tarantino picture is what first captured my interest in his creations and catapulted the director to the top of my favorite list. "Jackie Brown" follows the typical mold of a Tarantino picture and relies on the witty dialogue to carry the story. Aside from a gunshot or two, this film is all about the spoken word and a funky soundtrack.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks rival each other in their ability to deliver a wonderful sounding soundtrack. The all-important dialogue is crystal clear in its presentation and there is not much variance in the quality of the dialogue between the two soundtracks. The musical selections chosen by Tarantino sound incredible whether or not you have the ability to play the DTS track. In addition to creating a visually deep world, Tarantino and his sound editors add many discrete touches to the sound of the picture for an emmersive experience. Both soundtracks convey the depth and atmospheric detail through all five main channels. The subwoofer channel adds a bit of boom to the musical selections. Is there a difference between the two multi-channel surround mixes? Yes, the DTS track noses out the Dolby track when it comes to delivering the subtle bits of audible information contained in the background, but they are overall very similar.
"Jackie Brown" excels in its story, and the DVD's transfer. It looks and sounds great. When it comes to value-added content, it too flexes its muscle and delivers the goods. In typical Quentin Tarantino flavor, there is no commentary track. Tarantino fans will have to resort to his Rolling Thunder release of Jack Hill's "Switchblade Sisters" to experience the director's enthusiasm on a DVD commentary. Tarantino does provide an introductory to the film and explain why it took so long to deliver "Jackie Brown" from DIVX hell and put the film on our beloved and worthy format. In place of a commentary, "Jackie Brown" takes a page from New Line's Infinifilm series and utilizes a Fact Track to offer fans of the film trivia and information about the movie and its characters. This track is quite informative and entertaining, but unlike a commentary, it must be read. Aside from the commentary and Fact Track, the first disc does contain Soundtrack Chapters which allows direct access to the songs prominently featured in the film.
The first DVD also contains a few DVD-ROM features that can be accessed only via a DVD-ROM drive. A DVD-ROM Features menu is present for DVD-Video players and does list the features, but you are out of luck if you lack a Personal Computer equipped to handle the task. The Slash The Cash Trivia Game is an entertaining little trivia game for those with a solid knowledge of Tarantino and his film. An Enhanced Playback Track offers up similar information to the Fact Track that is accessible from the DVD-Video menu, but includes additional information exclusive to the DVD-ROM. A Screeplay Viewer is always welcome for this reviewer and the screenplay also allows for direct access to corresponding scenes in the film. Filmographies and Reviews and Articles mirrors selections found on the second disc of the DVD-Video content.
The second DVD is where things really take off in the Extras department. The disc features the standard promotional documentaries, as well as a few informative segments; the always well-received deleted scenes and a few standard issues features are also included. The first documentary found on the second disc is Jackie Brown: How It Went Down. This is the typical promotional documentary that features interviews and segments from the film that serves more as a long advertisement than offer any solid value and runs for a long forty-five minutes. However, A Look Back At Jackie Brown makes up for the shortcomings of the first feature. This hour long interview is essentially a sit down with Quentin Tarantino and he discusses all avenues of "Jackie Brown." Tarantino is not as animated as most have come to expect, but this is a very informative hour of face time with the director.
Next up are a few materials cut or trimmed from the main picture. The Chicks With Guns Video is the long form of the commercial shown in the film featuring scantily clad women and AK-47s. Tarantino offers some background on the video in a quick introduction. Gun fanatics and red-blooded males will probably find themselves watching this video more than once. Some Deleted and Alternate Scenes feature footage omitted, unfinished or longer takes of scenes included in the film. Six scenes and an introduction by Tarantino are included here and the ability to "Play All" is welcome as always. The introduction, deleted scenes and alternate takes occupy nearly a half-hour of time.
After the longer documentaries and extra footage, Siskel & Ebert "At The Movies" – Jackie Brown Review is included. Gene Siskel is a critic that is deeply missed and I always enjoyed what he had to say, even if I completely disagreed. The inclusion of Siskel & Ebert's review of the film is a very nice inclusion and I was happy to see the pair gave "Jackie Brown" two thumbs up. Jackie Brown On MTV is a fifteen minute supplement that would probably have served this DVD collection better by disappearing into oblivion. The fifteen-minute segment consists of a Jackie Brown Promotional Contest and MTV Live Jackie Brown. Tarantino is funny, but the contest is absolutely absurd and the Carson Daily should have been beaten to a pulp for being one of the most unintelligent interviewers I have ever witnessed.
A rather large and impressive collection of Still Galleries that features a couple hundred production stills, theatrical posters, sketches and other items adds to the impressive supplements of the DVD. Numerous Theatrical Trailers and TV Spots are included as well as a collection of Reviews and Articles, Filmographies, Robert Forster Trailers, Pam Grier Trailers, and Pam Grier Radio Spots. Some of this material is repeated on the first disc's DVD-ROM footage, but is contained here for all to enjoy.
I waited in great anticipation for "Jackie Brown" to hit theaters. I also waited quite some time for the film to arrive on DVD. For the sake of owning the title, I did purchase the DIVX title for $1.00 at Circuit City. However, after five years I am finally able to watch "Jackie Brown" on DVD. It was one of those titles that I knew was coming, but I did not expect it to take this long or I would have purchased it on LaserDisc. Fortunately, the wait was certainly worth it and Buena Vista has delivered a killer DVD that does Quentin Tarantino's third film complete justice and should satisfy the legions of fans the filmmaker has amassed ever since "Reservoir Dogs" and "Pulp Fiction" graced the screen over a decade ago. "Jackie Brown" is every bit as good a film as the previous two offerings and the DVD is just as impressive as the latest special editions of those two films.