Jackie Brown: Right and Wrong in the Criminal World (Part Two)

Jackie Brown: Right and Wrong in the Criminal World (Part Two)

But is it wrong to cross a crook?

Right and wrong gets pretty fuzzy in scenarios like these. The vast majority of the film, though, concerns itself with the title character double and triple crossing her acquaintances.

After getting snagged by Michael Keaton’s cop character – the actor perhaps at the end of his high profile days – Jackie is eventually bailed out of jail by Ordell. Viewers, though, have already been privy to the criminal’s dealings with recently released associates. In sensible fashion, when Jackie and Ordell meet, she promptly borrows his gun and shoves it into the small of his back.

For a character who is increasingly shown to be a ‘normal’ woman over the course of the film, it’s a surprising move. But it appears that Jackie’s of the opinion that in this underworld, one has to do for oneself. She’s regailed – again and again – by the cops she’s dealing with about the state of her sad career and that doing any time in jail would ostensibly damn her to poverty and joblessness once released. The scenario isn’t unique to the character, but displays our culture’s indifference to those who haven’t led what people understand as ‘normal’ lives. Of course, all of this could have been avoided if Jackie refrained from smuggling money into the country.

In the discussion of normal women in Jackie Brown, it’s more than imperative to run through the various scenes that women find themselves dancing, performing or otherwise working to please men – any men.

There’re at least two scenes where the Robert DeNiro character finds himself seated and watching random women dance for him. There’s actually a lot of footage of black women dancing, which viewers might simply pin on Tarantino’s obsession with period blaxploitation. But when the DeNiro character’s left alone with Ordell’s live in lady, there’s an immediate offer to fuck. And “three minutes later” it’s all over. Oddly, though, after being granted all of these scenes with women fawning over him, the DeNiro character just gets snuffed out in a VW bus. It might just be retribution – or Ordell again displaying that there can be no loose ends in his universe.

Either way, after Jackie Brown gets pinched by the police, she becomes the only female character in the film refusing to be controlled by male forces. It’s this stance that might bestow the film with the sense of a redeeming quality. After all, Jackie eventually gets away. And by all rights, she probably shouldn’t have.