50/50 Review #1: Jackie Brown.

Welcome to the first post of the 50/50 Project. I've been wanting to see this one for a while, as it's the only full-length Tarantino I hadn't seen. Though from what I had heard, it was one of his lesser efforts (or at least the one nobody seems to talk about). Jackie Brown (Pam Grier) is a flight attendant who brings money back from Mexico for an arms dealer named Ordell (Samuel L. Jackson). Ordell is meanwhile entertaining Louis (Robert De Niro), a guy who has recently gotten out of jail, by letting him hang around and chat up Melanie (Bridget Fonda). But after Ordell takes care of a situation with Beaumont (Chris Tucker), he hires a bail bondsman, Max Cherry (Robert Forster) to get Jackie out of jail when she gets mixed up in the situation. But a couple FTA agents, including Ray (Michael Keaton), want her to bust Ordell, bringing up a complicated heist-like situation.

I can understand why nobody tends to talk about this one out of the Tarantino filmography. The man is known for a certain style, but it seems only half of style was there. The film was almost all dialogue, as his films always are, but the dialogue this time around wasn't super interesting. Tarantino also tends to have a kind of kinetic style, a certain energy to his films, and this was also lacking here. At least half the movie felt dry and stagnant. I guess it just didn't have the usual pizzazz one would expect from Tarantino.

The part of the movie that did feel stylish and did finally catch my interest was the last 45 minutes (roughly). Basically when the money exchange sequence happens up through the end of the movie. The whole sequence plays with narrative style in a way I really enjoy, not to mention it's just a fun and suspenseful sequence.

Despite the flaws elsewhere, the acting was really good all around. Everyone seemed to be having fun, but the most fun to watch was Robert De Niro. It wasn't a very De Niro-type role, and he was pretty funny just doing pretty much nothing for the majority of the movie. By the third act, he's more De Niro-ish, but it's all good. On the whole, everybody does the best they can with what they were given.

In the end, I agree this was a weaker effort from Tarantino, but it's still a decent film. It's just that in the front 2/3s of the film, there were a lot of scenes that really dragged and could have been trimmed down. There were some key visuals that definitely made it Tarantino (some worked, others were slightly awkward), but something just didn't mesh well. Though, again, the last third of the film was entertaining enough to really hike up my feelings on the rest of it, so at least it ends on a high note, making the rest of the film worth sitting through.

I Am McLovin!


  1. This is the only Tarantino movie I haven't seen...like you, I'd just kinda forgotten about it since no-one really talks about it. I don't even think it was in my Tarantino project I did for school when I was 12 (oops).

    Anyway, I'll get around to watching it someday, but I know it will be one of his weaker efforts!

  2. Glad to hear you were finally able to check this out. I know that I'm in the minority, but it's my favorite Tarantino film. I like the way it varies from his typical style. It has a cool, relaxed pace during the first half that really lets you get to know the characters and creates a nice atmosphere. I see what you're saying about the scenes feeling too long at times. It definitely takes its time and isn't as concerned with the plot in the early scenes. Like you mention, the acting is also great, especially Forster and Grier, and De Niro is a lot of fun.

  3. This film was the one that immediately followed up PULP FICTION, a hard act to follow, which I think played a big part in the lack of love for it. JACKIE BROWN is certainly the most subdued of Taantino's films, but one I somehow appreciate more and more over time.

  4. I'm with Dan and Nolahn, as you likely know, though Dan goes a bit too far with it being a favorite. Of course, as far as I can tell, so long as the film has a shitload of words, Dan will love it. :P

    Seriously, though, you suck for not liking this more. :D Just because it's not loud and in-your-face doesn't mean it's not awesome. Really, I'm glad you saw it and liked the 3rd act, but do revisit it in a few years; I find that the slow burn to it all builds the tension appropriately, and I dig the characters and music enough that I'm fine just chilling with them for awhile. And the Max/Jackie relationship is one of the sweetest I've seen on film.

  5. Stevee: Who knows, you might really like it!

    Dan: It does have a steady atmosphere. I'll give it that!

    Nolahn: I guess I'll check it out again in the future. I've heard from others, too, that it's one that grows on you after time.

    Dylan: I agree with the relationship being a good, sweet one. But I actually didn't like that music. I guess I'm just not a funk/mo-town kinda guy.

  6. RE: the music - neither am I, but, like Max's character, it really grows on me. "Across 110th street..."

  7. Dylan, my tastes are pretty obvious, I guess. I will say that it helps to back that talking up with some style and wit, and Jackie Brown has both.

    Nick, I'm a bit surprised that you didn't like the music. I'm not saying that I drive around town each day listening to "Didn't I Blow Your Mind", but I think it really fits the style of the movie and helps it out a lot.

  8. Oh, there's no doubt the music fits the movie. It's perfect for it. But I just didn't care for it.

  9. This is a real grower. Watch it at least two more times. I remember Tarantino saying in an interview he wants his films to be seen as an old friend, you want to see again and again. Very true about all of his films but this one in particular. Very warm and characters with some real depth.


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