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IN SHORT: More fun than a Henry James novel. And just as long.
Even though his output as a creator is relatively small, there are two things you are guaranteed to find in a Quentin Tarantino movie: great dialog and a great soundtrack. You get both here. But, as it is written, too much of a good thing . . .
Since Jackie Brown marks actress Pam Grier's return to star status, it is fitting that the soundtrack is filled with pop and soul hits of the 1970s, when Grier was top dog in the genre of film called blaxploitation. Tarantino put John Travolta back on top with Pulp Fiction, he aims to do the same with Grier. Her performance is fine but it is overshadowed by Tarantino's adaptation of Elmore Leonard's novel "Rum Punch" which, if anything, gives us way too much to chomp on.
You could almost subtitle the flick "a couple of movie stars sitting around talking." (Excepting stars Bridget Fonda and Robert DeNiro who, basically, sit around and get stoned).
The story told in Jackie Brown is much simpler than the one told in Pulp Fiction. Tarantino may have been looking to do a character oriented piece here, writing reams of dialog for his actors and thus allowing the audience to get to know these characters on a most primal level. Two and a half hours primal, that is.
The story isn't strong enough to support 150 minutes of talk, plus the assorted gunshots we expect in a Tarantino flick. Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson) runs guns. Stewardess Jackie Brown (Grier) runs his money back and forth to a bank in Mexico. Ordell has been ratted out by another runner (cameo by Chris Tucker) and the Feds (led by Michael Keaton) are leaning on Jackie to set him up. In the middle is Max Cherry (Robert Forster) who writes bailbonds for Ordell's henchpeople. Jackie's task then, is to appear to cooperate with both sides, get half a million buck of Ordell's money into the country and make it disappear. Ordell thinks he's getting his money, but Jackie wants out of a sixteen thousand dollar a year job and, with Max's help, has other plans.
Jackson's Ordell is smooth and vulgar. He's smarter than you'd think and murderously unforgiving when anything comes between his money and his pocket. And he loves to hear himself talk. Ordell hasn't seen Louis since they shared a jail cell twenty years back. Ordell yadda yaddas while the pair watch a hysterical video within the movie called "Chicks Who Love Guns." This allows Ordell to show off his knowledge of his product and boast about how well he's doing. The guys in the audience get to watch some fine babes in bikinis fire off their weapons and speak in double entendres.
Ordell ain't done talking yet -- remember this is a character driven piece. Lots of talk. In short order, Ordell meets and hires Max Cherry. Lots of talk about bail bonds. Melanie and Louis get high. Jackie gets approached and busted by the Feds. Lots of talk. Max meets Jackie, and his heart goes thumpa thumpa. More talk. Ordell goes to meet Jackie. More talk. The Feds negotiate a deal with Jackie. Melanie and Louis get high. Jackie schemes with Ordell. Melanie and Louis get high, have sex and get high again.
The first half hour is extremely funny. The second is very funny. The third sets the scheme in motion, and you still have an hour to go. I can tell you all this without giving anything away, because the fun is in the dialog. Too much of a good thing is just too much.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Jackie Brown, he would have paid . . .
Jackie Brown is way too much talk for way too little story.
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