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Jackie Brown Blu-ray Review

Jackie Brown (1997) movie poster Jackie Brown

Theatrical Release: December 25, 1997 / Running Time: 154 Minutes / Rating: R / Songs List

Director: Quentin Tarantino / Writers: Elmore Leonard (book Rum Punch), Quentin Tarantino (screenplay)

Cast: Pam Grier (Jackie Brown), Samuel L. Jackson (Ordell Robbie), Robert Forster (Max Cherry), Bridget Fonda (Melanie Ralston), Michael Keaton (Ray Nicolette), Robert De Niro (Louis Gara), Michael Bowen (Mark Dargus), Chris Tucker (Beaumont Livingston), Lisa Gay Hamilton (Sheronda), Tommy "Tiny" Lister, Jr. (Winston), Hattie Winston (Simone), Sid Haig (Judge), Aimee Graham (Amy, Billingsley Sales Girl)

Buy Jackie Brown from Amazon.com: Blu-ray 2-Disc Collector's Edition DVD Instant Video

In Pulp Fiction, Quentin Tarantino made one of the most iconic films of all time. Commercially successful, critically adored, winner of an original screenplay Academy Award, and more influential than any other indie ever, it was enough to secure Tarantino a place in film's history books and announce him as the writer/director to watch of his generation.

Following up that 1994 movie, his second feature as director, was no easy task. Tarantino contributed one of the better sequences of the derided 1995 anthology dud Four Rooms.
Two years later, he gave us Jackie Brown, a film both acclaimed and plenty profitable. But in impact and recognition, it was no Pulp Fiction. After that, Tarantino disappeared for six years. He returned with Kill Bill, a stylish, bloody two-film drama that re-established him as a cinema icon worthy of devotion.

Had Tarantino stumbled or worked frequently enough for that to be inevitable, he might have lost his relevance and credibility. Instead, he remains as revered today as ever, with 2009's Inglourious Basterds earning him box office success, industry attention, and widespread praise to expand his relatively young, primarily male fanbase. At the moment, six Tarantino films appear on the Internet Movie Database's Top 250 list. The only features he alone directed that miss the cut are Death Proof and Jackie Brown.

IMDb voters be darned, I think Jackie Brown is one of Tarantino's best films. At the very least it has the sturdiest foundation, which makes sense since it is the only feature Tarantino didn't write from scratch. Jackie is based on Rum Punch, a 1992 novel by renowned crime fiction author Elmore Leonard. Tarantino has never been shy about paying homage to things he likes. On this one, he celebrates the 1970s, choosing two actors who rose to prominence in that decade for Travoltian career revival: blaxploitation queen Pam Grier and the workmanlike Robert Forster.

Cabo Air stewardess Jackie Brown (Pam Grier) is stopped by law officers in an LAX parking lot. Ex-con Louis Gara (Robert De Niro) questions friend/partner in crime Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson) at a bar.

Grier holds the title role, playing a Los Angeles-based stewardess who gets stopped one day by a couple of law enforcement officers and caught with an envelope of big bills and a small bag of cocaine. Jackie Brown has enough of a police record to potentially face jail time over these relatively minor offenses. But ATF agent Ray Nicolette (Michael Keaton) and LAPD detective Mark Dargus (Michael Bowen) aren't interested in prosecuting her. They are after the destination of that money, arms trafficker Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson). Wanting nothing more than to be allowed to return to her $16,000 a year job, Jackie considers working with the authorities to deliver their man.

Meanwhile, she is also in talks with Ordell, who ordinarily doesn't hesitate to rid the world of anyone who could possibly turn him in. They try to surmise a plan in both of their interests, by which neither would be punished. Ordell's buddy Louis (Robert De Niro), just released from serving four years in prison for a bank robbery, and Ordell's stoner beach bunny galpal Melanie (Bridget Fonda) assume roles in the scam. In addition, Ordell and Jackie's seasoned bail bondsman Max Cherry (Forster) gets involved, though his and Jackie's plan seems to differ from what her acquaintances on both sides of the law expect.

The plot comes down to a money exchange at the Del Amo Fashion Center, in which Jackie is to hand over half a million dollars smuggled in from Mexico to an associate of Ordell's, who Nicolette and Dargus are then supposed to nab. We witness the transaction three times in a row from three different perspectives, our understanding of it growing clearer with each new point-of-view.

Bail bondsman Max Cherry (Robert Forster) watches the aftermath of a test money transfer at the Del Amo mall. Beach bunny Melanie Ralston (Bridget Fonda) is almost always seen reclining in a bikini top and short jean shorts.

Although his only Oscar win is for writing, I think Tarantino is considerably more proficient as a director and Jackie Brown demonstrates that perfectly. So much of the power of Pulp Fiction and Tarantino's debut Reservoir Dogs lies in structure. Told in a traditional linear fashion, neither crime drama would be as distinctive and widely dissected. Likewise, Jackie Brown's climactic triple-take is its most arresting stretch. But whereas the landmark other two movies are comprised largely of unforgettable dialogue exchanges and dynamic turns, Jackie Brown adds an emphasis on plot and characters to those features.
Not that Reservoir and Pulp can't be attributed with plot and characters as memorable as virtually anything from late 20th century cinema. But their stories don't resonate for me in quite the same way that Jackie's layered, complex, and overlapping tale does.

Of course, that alluring design is more the work of Elmore Leonard than of Tarantino. The director makes the story his own, changing the name and race of the heroine (white Jackie Burke in the text) and adding details more conducive to the 1970s love letter he weaves. But the basic entanglements are there in the novel, adapted faithfully and skillfully by the director. Tarantino's earliest movies have a narcissistic quality to them; their dialogue is put on parade, demanding that you notice the deliberate and eccentric prose. And in each of his first three directorial outings, Tarantino casts himself in sizable roles. Jackie Brown is less vain and more mature. Tarantino displays a keen sensibility for how the material ought to be staged, which is with something other than his wit and cultural turn-ons front and center. The long takes, loaded dialogue, and sharp compositions all significantly elevate the proceedings, but they only go so far; the plot and characters do the lion's share of the work and render the film as satisfying as it is.

Despite the 1970s connections, Jackie Brown does not feel dated in any way. The fashions are contemporary and, though it's somewhat leisurely, the pacing aligns with today's tastes. The soundtrack, however, is almost all throwback. Instead of an original score, Tarantino licenses somewhat forgotten R&B music from the '70s. The title theme from 1972 blaxpoitation flick Across 110th Street opens and closes the movie, the former paying incongruous homage to The Graduate. Grier's song "Long Time Woman" from 1971 women in prison film The Big Doll House is briefly heard. Randy Crawford's 1979 hit "Street Life" invigorates a scene. Meanwhile, the Delfonics' 1970 single "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)" maintains a recurring presence, being the song Jackie plays on vinyl for Max Cherry, who then buys the cassette (okay, maybe a little bit dated) and listens to it again and again.

As far as Tarantino's homages to various forms go, the fixation with black music and movies of the '70s is one of the most agreeable, especially since we rarely see directors give juicy lead roles to actors past their prime whose stars have faded. The casting of Grier and Forster is so fitting and serves the film well, as they mesh comfortably with De Niro and Jackson, comparably aged performers then (and to some degree, even now) at the heights of stardom. Forster earned a Best Supporting Actor nomination at the Academy Awards, the film's only representation there. He lost to Good Will Hunting's Robin Williams. Jackson and Grier both earned lead actor nominations at the Golden Globes for some unknown reason in the Comedy/Musical category, letting each lose to the stars of As Good as It Gets.

Though DVD was around when Jackie Brown opened in theaters Christmas Day 1997, distributor Disney was still favoring the pay-per-play DIVX format back then. That worked to the film's advantage because it ended up making its DVD debut in August 2002 (smack in the middle of Disney's few years of comprehensive DVD editions) as a robust 2-disc Collector's Edition alongside one for Pulp Fiction. Disney has sold both the library and banner of Miramax Films, which puts the video rights to both Jackie and Pulp in the hands of Lionsgate. They reissued both movies as 2-disc DVDs last April. Earlier this month, both films made their US Blu-ray debuts in single discs retaining nearly all of the many DVD bonus features.

Jackie Brown Blu-ray cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

1.85:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: October 4, 2011
Suggested Retail Price: $19.99
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Still available as 2-Disc Collector's Edition DVD ($14.98 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video
Previously released to DVD by Disney as 2-Disc Collector's Edition (2002)

VIDEO and AUDIO

Jackie Brown appears in its original 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio on Blu-ray. This stunning presentation makes the movie look brand new. There is not an imperfection or concern to be had here. The filmic appearance is maintained but with sharpness and detail well beyond what standard definition could offer. This is my first taste of a catalog Lionsgate/Miramax Blu-ray and I'm thrilled by what I saw. For a catalog title, even one not terribly old, to look so terrific is a pleasant surprise. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio also warrants raves, with its crisp sound and fine distribution of the retro song selections. Though the Disney DVD seemed exemplary in 2002, Lionsgate's Blu-ray blows it away, especially in picture quality.

It must be noted that the Miramax Films logo at the start and end of the film has been updated with the studio's modern skyline graphic.

Elvis Mitchell (right) and other film critics break down "Jackie Brown" in front of a semi-circle of Quentin Tarantino movie posters. Pam Grier sports curls in one of the release-time interviews used in "Breaking Down 'Jackie Brown.'"

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

The back of the case boasts "over 3 hours of bonus features" and the disc easily lives up to that promise without even an audio commentary to factor into that count. Unless otherwise noted, all of them are presented in standard definition. Some are letterboxed, most are 1.33:1.

The extras begin with the new 2011 retrospective "Breaking Down Jackie Brown" (43:49, HD).
Elvis Mitchell hosts an intelligent 5-critic discussion that considers the movie's achievements, styles, and departure from Tarantino's other works. You don't realize until watching this fantastic piece how people not involved in a movie's creation are able to shed light on it in more profound ways. More films should receive this treatment.

The documentary "Jackie Brown: How It Went Down" (38:54), which is presented with chapter stops and topical titles, hails from the time of production. That renders it promotional but it is plenty substantial too, giving us welcome looks at filming, set and press interviews with cast and crew, pertinent clips from Tarantino's previous movies and shoots, and even B-roll footage of a deleted scene. There's a lot of good information, much of it on the cast and characters

Screenwriter/director Quentin Tarantino gives a lively interview in front of a poster for Pam Grier's "Coffy." In "Chicks Who Love Guns", this muscular patriot puts on a gun show in more ways than one. Pam Grier surfs along the conveyor belt to the sound of Dick Dale's "Misirlou" in this "alternate opening" that closes the deleted scenes section.

"A Look Back at Jackie Brown" (54:42) is an interview with Quentin Tarantino from 2002. He talks about casting Robert Forster from off Hollywood's list, Samuel L. Jackson's brief moments of humility (with his impression), Chris Tucker's participation, his intentions and expectations for the film, having Michael Keaton reprise his character in Steven Soderbergh's Elmore Leonard adaptation Out of Sight, and the public's reactions to the movie. The long, largely unedited format gives us clear access to Tarantino's mind, which is full of interesting, candid thoughts that emerge alongside hundreds of utterances of "alright" and "you know."

Tarantino introduces the next item, the complete "Chicks Who Love Guns" video (4:52) that Ordell shows Louis as his guide to weaponry. In it, models in bikinis describe and demonstrate the qualities of their favorite weapons. This is the kind of thing that bonus features were made for.

A Deleted and Alternate Scenes section (15:29) consists of six scenes, which Tarantino discusses and sets up in one 3-minute group intro. There's nothing too monumental here, but they're still fun to see, especially the "alternate opening" of Grier surfing along the airport conveyor belt to Dick Dale's "Misirlou" (of Pulp Fiction fame).

Siskel and Ebert give "Jackie Brown" two thumbs up in their televised review. Carson Daly talks with Bridget Fonda, Pam Grier, and Quentin Tarantino on an MTV Live set festively decorated for Christmas 1997. "Jackie Brown"'s Christmas Day release inspired the tagline and this TV spot critic's quote placed over a grooving Bridget Fonda.

Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert's "At the Movies" review of Jackie Brown is presented in full (4:45). Two thumbs up! Why haven't more films thought to include these?

Two items fall under the heading Jackie Brown on MTV. A commercial (1:03) wittily promotes a $25,000 giveaway tied to the film's release. More substantial is Tarantino, Fonda, and Grier's December 17, 1997 promotional appearance on "MTV Live" (14:22), where they are casually interviewed by Carson Daly and Ananda Lewis. It's a real time machine.

A Marketing Gallery holds three trailers (3:50), eight 15-second-to-1-minute TV spots (3:56), and eight posters promoting the film. It's everything a publicity section should be, and a lot of fun.

A limited edition miniature Jackie Brown statue is pictured in the Memorabilia gallery. A different movie titled for a heroine named Brown, "Foxy Brown", is among the Pam Grier movies whose posters get their own gallery.

Still Galleries include the following: Production Stills (158 images), Behind-the-Scenes Stills (197 images), Location Scouting (71), Production Design Sketches and Logos (27), Memorabilia (33 images of limited edition character statues and other things you likely didn't know existed), Posters from Pam Grier Movies (21), Posters from Robert Forster Movies (11), and Soundtrack Covers from Pam Grier Movies (7). It's good content, but you'll likely want to mute the "whoosh" sounds that accompany every frame advance.

Adding replay value, an "Enhanced Trivia Track" is a welcome alternative to an audio commentary. With plain yellow subtitles, it regularly dispenses facts over film playback pertaining to what is onscreen, related to the story, dramatic intent, and the film's making, influences, and place in its makers' careers.

"Soundtrack Chapters" merely identify songs and allow you to jump to their (first) use in the movie. It doesn't return you to the menu when finished (and the pop-up menu disappears too quickly). Still, it's a cool feature.

The Roger Corman-produced "The Big Doll House", first in Pam Grier's women in prison phase, is one of 31 old movie trailers featuring the revived stars of "Jackie Brown." Max Cherry makes an appearance along with his fruity business card in the Blu-ray's stylish menu montage.

Next, we get something unique and memorable that I would rank among my all-time favorite bonus features: collections of trailers for Robert Forster and Pam Grier movies, arranged chronologically.
Leave it to Tarantino to realize something so appropriate and feasible, yet rare. Most studios wouldn't dare think of promoting other studios' films, but some of these aren't even on DVD and not all of those that are include their trailers on DVD. Maybe I'm weird, but I could spend hours watching old trailers, even faded and beat-up ones promoting dreadful-looking movies, which describes most of these.

Forster's reel (27:45) promotes Reflections in a Golden Eye, Justine, The Stalking Moon, Medium Cool, Godfather knock-off The Don is Dead, Avalanche, The Black Hole, Alligator, Vigilante, Walking the Edge, Hollywood Harry, and Night Vision. From Pam Grier (36:20), we get trailers for The Big Doll House (with much nudity), Women in Cages, The Big Bird Cage, Black Mama, White Mama, Hit Man, The Twilight People (two), Coffy (two), Scream, Blacula, Scream, The Arena, Foxy Brown (two), Bucktown, Friday Foster, Sheba, Baby, Something Wicked This Way Comes, Above the Law, and Original Gangstas (which also features Forster). With these, one could easily turn their living room into a queue area for a Not-So-Great Movie Ride.

In the same vein, we get 1-minute radio ads for Grier's Coffy, Black Mama..., Bucktown, Friday Foster, Sheba, Baby, Scream, Blacula, Scream, and a Foxy Brown/Truck Turner double feature. These unfortunately drop their former "Play All" option, but still nicely display poster art while running.

"Also from Lionsgate" treats us to a redband Blu-ray and DVD trailer for Reservoir Dogs (1:45). You'd think the concurrent BD debut of Pulp Fiction would warrant a notice, but then it's safe to assume most watching this already know about that one.

A few minor things are dropped from Jackie Brown's DVD. There's Quentin Tarantino's 50-second introduction to it, which justifies the long wait for the movie to show up on that format. In addition, DVD-ROM features -- a screenplay viewer, a "Stash the Cash" trivia game, reviews, articles, and filmographies -- are gone, though much of the information (or updated versions of it) can be easily found on the Internet. The DVD's two relevant sneak peeks, advertising Pulp Fiction's Collector's Edition DVD and Jackie Brown's soundtrack, are also understandably lost. Finally and less excusably vanished are text features from Disc 2: ten print reviews, eight articles (both also included on DVD-ROM HTML files), and outdated film credits for Grier, Forster, and Tarantino, are not recycled. I'm guessing that none of these casualties showed up on Lionsgate's DVD either.

The Blu-ray disc is expertly authored. It supports bookmarks and also resumes, which makes the disc's long loadtime forgivable. A DTS-HD master audio sound check lets you test speaker connections. Suggesting that maybe Lionsgate is just getting credit for another studio's work, one does find a promo for Miramax's Canadian partner Alliance Films' Blu-ray releases buried within the disc's files.

Recalling the DVD's screens, the stylish menu offers a montage of the film's characters. It lets you turn off navigation sounds. The loading icon features Jackie with money and airline wings.

No special thought is given to packaging; Jackie Brown's disc is held in a standard eco-friendly Elite Blu-ray case, accompanied by neither insert nor slipcover.

In his first of two Elmore Leonard movie appearances, ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms) agent Ray Nicolette (Michael Keaton) questions Jackie Brown. Ordell (Samuel L. Jackson) teaches Louis (Robert De Niro) about his gun running with a viewing of "Chicks Who Love Guns."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Less flashy, violent, and beloved as Quentin Tarantino's other movies, Jackie Brown is of his most gripping, substantial, and enjoyable works, perhaps second only to Inglourious Basterds. On Blu-ray, in addition to an outstanding feature presentation, the movie is treated to one of the best collection of bonus features I've ever encountered, offering a wealth of varied and entertaining extras which Lionsgate deserves major kudos for retaining. Comparable to the most loaded Criterion Collection sets but reasonably priced like an ordinary catalogue release, this disc is highly recommended.

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Pam Grier: Something Wicked This Way Comes | Samuel L. Jackson: The Spirit Jumper
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Jackie Brown Songs List (in order of use): Bobby Womack - "Across 110th Street", Joseph Julian Gonzalez - "Chicks Who Love Guns", Brothers Johnson - "Strawberry Letter 23", The Supremes - "Baby Love", Roy Ayers - "Exotic Dance", Pam Grier - "Long Time Woman", Bloodstone - "Natural High", Johnny Cash - "Tennessee Stud", Jermaine Jackson - "My Touch of Madness", The Delfonics - "La La La Means I Love You", The Delfonics - "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)", Foxy Brown - "(Holy Matrimony) Letter to the Firm", Minnie Riperton - "Inside My Love", Bill Withers - "Who is He (And What is He to You?)", The Meters - "Cissy Strut", Roy Ayers - "Aragon", Elvin Bishop - "She Puts Me in the Mood", The Guess Who - "Undun", Randy Crawford - "Street Life", The Grass Roots - "Midnight Confessions", Roy Ayers - "Escape", Roy Ayers - "Vittrioni's Theme - King is Dead", Orchestra Harlow - "Grazing in the Grass", The Vampire Sound Incorporation - "The Lions and the Cucumber", Umberto Smailia - "Mad Dog (Feroce)", Slash's Snakepit - "Jizz Da Pitt", Elliot Easton's Tiki Gods - "Monte Carlo Nights"

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Reviewed October 19, 2011.



Text copyright 2011 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1997 Miramax Films, A Band Apart, and 2011 Lionsgate and Miramax.
Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.