Jackie Brown had always been the elusive Quentin Tarantino movie for me, the one that always lurked in the background, begging my attention as I chose to re-watch Pulp Fiction or Kill Bill for the thousandth time. But now that Jackie Brown is finally on Netflix, I must say that it is one of Mr. Tarantino’s finest.
Tarantino’s movies have always been coated in nostalgia with a certain flair of cool. But Jackie Brown is when he reached the level of no longer having to impersonate the films he truly adores and actually make something unique and special. I particularly enjoy how the movie makes reference to every other neighborhood surrounding LA, Hawthorne, Compton, El Monte, with only Hollywood being the most notable landmark, and even then it’s just a shitty strip hotel-esque apartment.
But Tarantino reached difficult territory here, since Jackie Brown feels very much like a black film and, well, Tarantino ain’t black. Still, he captures that soul and that unmistakable cool effortlessly, when characters are sitting at a neon-lit hot-spot or just hanging out over shakes at the mall food court. It’s a confidence that can only come from a filmmaker who feels that he’s proven he deserves to be in Hollywood, that he no longer has to play festival games and make auteurs to appeal to the studio and critical masses. It isn’t necessarily Tarantino’s best film, but it is the first where he didn’t have to worry about being best. And that makes it special.
Jackie Brown follows Pam Grier as the title character, a down-on-her-luck flight attendant who becomes involved in a money/drug scheme, with Samuel L. Jackson, Robert de Niro, Michael Keaton and other cohorts blocking her path. It’s a strong ensemble work but Grier shines brightest, strutting around with cool and confidence just as much as Tarantino with this picture. While we associate Tarantino with Samuel L. Jackson and Uma Thurman, one can imagine a universe where he got a few more films out of Pam Grier, and we’d all be better for it. Still, Jackie Brown, while giving us a hearty desire for seconds, is a worthy-enough entree on its own.