Monday, November 10, 2008

Jackie Brown

Jackie Brown is a bit of an oddity. It's Quentin Tarantino's third and probably least remembered film. One of the only stories he's done that wasn't his own, he took the plot from an Elmore Leonard novel (Who wrote many things that were adapted to screen, like 3:10 to Yuma) and reworked it into a tribute to 70's blaxploitation films, even starring a veteran of the genre, Pam Grier. Another big character is played by Robert Forster, who was also a long-time actor without a ton of success, and whom I only recognize from recent episodes of the increasingly-shitty Heroes. I guess Tarantino likes reviving people's careers. Some really big names (at least for the time) like Robert De Niro and Michael Keaton play smaller parts, but the movie focuses on Grier, Forster, and the always cool Samuel L. Jackson, who by the way turns 60 next month, can you believe that?

Anyway, Jackie Brown is a pretty solid crime movie, if not up to the standards of Tarantino's other work. It does a lot of things well that you expect from him, like clever dialogue that's just fun to listen to and some interesting decisions made with the filming. For some reason, I always seem to like the way he handles important scenes, especially violent ones. You can just sort of tell when something bad will happen, but it's still surprising to see how it actually comes about. Jackson is about as entertaining here as he was in Pulp Fiction, and the cast in general does a good job with the script.

On the other hand, the movie has some of the problems he's known for, too. If there's one thing he needs to learn as a filmmaker, it's how to let a scene go. Maybe he just needs a more assertive editor. Jackie Brown is indisputably too long. This isn't an epic crime drama, it just wants to be. It has all the makings of a tightly woven, thrilling movie, it just has an extra half-hour stapled on. Too many scenes don't really serve the plot, just add character where it isn't needed or go on for too long. Showing the same important moment from three different perspectives is a somewhat interesting creative choice, but there's no reason it couldn't have worked with all three cut together and a lot of time saved. It just sort of feels like an unnecessary flourish. And I know he likes to follow characters around with really long tracking shots, but I'm not sure anyone else does. Tarantino took a long break from directing after this movie, and I've never really heard why, and Kill Bill's running length suggests it wasn't to rethink his style. Whatever the reason, it wasn't because he made a decent if unexceptional genre film.

1 comment:

sluggwood said...

You were right. It really drags. Not much stood out to me at all either, except the multiple-viewpoint scene, and even that was just overlong. I'd have to say it's the weakest of Tarantino's stuff that I've seen.
And daddy Petrelli still wasn't very good.