Quentin Tarantino, in attempting to continue his success subsequent to his first two feature films, made an interesting decision for his next movie. Instead of relying solely upon his innate ability to create characters and storylines, although indebted to past films, Tarantino engaged an Elmore Leonard novel, Rum Punch, to scaffold the 1997 film Jackie Brown.
Carrying forth the short titles his features, this particular film marks not just the end to Tarantino’s early period, but also one of the more poorly paced efforts in his canon. That’s not to figure Jackie Brown for a boring flick, it’s anything but that. However, even as Tarantino’s earlier films made use of extended patches of dialogue, there were usually torrents of action and even extreme violence to break it all up. Some of that’s still apparent. But the film feels as if it was made by a writer and director who’d been around for a while.
Occasionally referred to as his ‘old man movie’ by dint of the characters each being a few years ahead of the director, Jackie Brown could be thought of as a follow up to some unknown blaxploitation film from the seventies, detailing the character’s lives after that heady decade. And seeing as the Leonard novel was actually the second book making use of these characters there’s ample reason for that pervasive feeling.
In pilfering a white author’s writings, though, Tarantino’s still able to craft a story and a crew of characters that reeks of the exploitation genre. Jackie Brown being the director’s third film, it seems odd that he’d be able to successfully recast all of his favorite tropes in this new setting, but it works.
Placing the action in Los Angeles, again, doesn’t do any harm as Tarantino concocts a sort of post card to the rest of the world concerning itself with what the town looks like when the all seeing camera lens is focused somewhere else other than Hollywood. The people populating Jackie Brown aren’t necessarily down on their luck, but most seem to be negotiating around jail time or attempting to remain beyond the reach of the law. It’s just the criminal element again. But here it’s the criminal element doing wrong to other criminals. The Samuel L. Jackson character, Ordell Robbie, kills one of his underlings after figuring the guy might snitch. And the same almost happens to the title character a bit later.