Jackie Brown Review

The Film

For the most part of his directorial career, Quentin Tarantino has been happy enough with homage and genre tourism. He has been the cool kid for the cool kids to flock to as they search for the passing bandwagon of the next trend. To my mind, his encyclopedic knowledge of edgy and forgotten films has been exploited as much through the silver screen as it probably was in his life as a videostore clerk. He has swapped the counter of an eighties Blockbuster for the role of global librarian to the in-crowd.imageIt is then rather fitting, that the one time he decided to abandon the cool kids and the tricks they wanted him to play, was en route to the best work in his career. Don't get me wrong, Jackie Brown has its moments of parody and benefits from the director's fine musical taste, but it is a film about middle aged people and middle aged romance rather than an excuse for showy cultural point scoring. From its opening long takes and static shots of its female lead to shambling bit parts from the like of Keaton and De Niro, there's an acceptance of the real world here that has never bothered the director much before or since.

Adapted from Elmore Leonard's Rum Punch, Tarantino's desire to show off in dialogue is largely absent and the few flourishes in style are supportive of the film's seedy and disappointing world. With QT keen to capture the mood rather than impose his own upon the cast, lines flow from Robert Forster's ageing bail bondsman with a touching integrity and Grier offers a stoic remarkable example of a woman empowered. For all of the clever soundtrack and the genre nods, Jackie Brown succeeds as a grown up film for grown ups.imageThe story deals with Grier's airline hostess caught by Feds with coke and dodgy dosh and pressured to rat on thorough scumbag Ordell Robbie(Jackson). Knowing the last person in her situation was dispatched with haste by Robbie, Grier befriends Forster and sets up a ruse that could leave her on top after all, dead or in prison. Elegantly the caper plays out and experience overcomes the law and the gangster.

Smart well contained bit parts fill the scenes around Forster, Grier and Jackson, and the ensemble feel of Pulp Fiction is recalled by the playing between cast members that never overwhelms the core of the leading characters. Some have criticised De Niro for sleepwalking in the film as a doped up ex-con, yet this kind of unshowy acting allows the subtlety of Forster and Grier to shine and this warm, very human flirtation remains the film's principal joy.imageJackie Brown was also criticised for the heavy use of the N-word by Jackson's character by people like Spike Lee, and whatever the relative merits of the two film-makers and the rights and wrongs of a white director exploiting the racial language, it would be an unaware viewer who missed the point of a film that celebrated an older black woman's strength because of that. For its marked humanity and a basic decency, Tarantino's most serious film is by far his best which eschews gimmicks and easy laughs for a little bit of hard earned truth.

Technical Specs

Strong colouring and plenty of close attention to the character's faces mean that this transfer of Jackie Brown needs to manage detail and clour balance well. This transfer does seem to meet that challenge well with some of the stronger colours allowed to be bold but never over bright, and the level of fine details in the lighter sequences easily appreciated. The near dark sequences have strong black levels, although detail is not exceptional in these scenes. Edges have not been over enhanced and generally the fine work of Guillermo Navarro is well represented here in this AVC/MPEG 4 encoded transfer with a frame rate of 23.98 per second.imageThe joy of listening to the film and the excellent soundtrack in full lossless glory is worth the purchase of this blu-ray on its own. The music is reproduced beautifully with a fine warmth in this master audio mix. The surround elements are mostly atmospheric as action is minimal within the film but what there is in terms of use of the channels and the subwoofer is well handled and satisfying.

Extras

Five critics wag their chins in rampant approval of the film in Critics Corner, with the rather marvellous Tim Lucas making up one of the gang. It's not terribly enlightening but if you do want to listen to five people tell you what to think - it's perfect! Worse is the trivia track which follows the film with inane facts available for you at any point throughout.

The rest of the extras are far from novel with QT talking for nearly an hour in his usual one-sided interview mode, a backslapping making of documentary featuring cast, crew and Elmore Leonard and some impressively dumb interviewing courtesy of MTV. Trailers, stills and a review from Siskel and Ebert complete a far from novel haul of special features.

Summary

To my mind, Jackie Brown remains the best work QT has made. A decent transfer and good lossless sound make up for a lack of new extras on this blu-ray.

Film
9 out of 10
Video
7 out of 10
Audio
8 out of 10
Extras
5 out of 10
Overall

7

out of 10

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