Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Jackie Brown Blu-ray Review

A sexy flight attendant (Grier) is caught in a plot between the police and an arms dealer, and everyone’s looking for the payoff.  There are six unlikely players on the trail for a big score – a half million dollars in cash.  But alliances are shaky when its unclear who is playing and who is getting played. Tarantino’s feature film follow-up to Pulp Fiction,  Jackie Brown earned a 1997 Oscar nomination for supporting actor Robert Forster (Mulholland Drive), three Golden Globe nominations (including Best Musical/Comedy) and an NAACP Image Award nomination for Pam Grier’s performance.  An all-star cast joins Grier and Forster, including Samuel L. Jackson, Robert DeNiro, Michael Keaton and Bridget Fonda in Tarantino’s adaptation of the novel by Elmore Leonard (3:10 to Yuma, Out of Sight).

Film (4 out of 5 stars)

Based on Elmore Leonard’s book “Rum Punch,” Jackie Brown was Quentin Tarantino’s follow up film to his huge hit Pulp Fiction (see my review here).  Much like his first film, Jackie Brown featured an all star cast that blended superstars with film veterans whose careers had faded a bit.  Pam Grier stars as the titular Jackie Brown, a flight attendant for a small Mexican airline whose flight career was on a downward slide because of some previous arrests.  Jackie makes ends meet by smuggling money from Mexico to the United States for a local gun runner named Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson) whose operation has been under surveillance by the ATF.
When one of Ordell’s employees named Beaumont Livingston (Chris Tucker) is arrested, Ordell knows that it’s just a matter of time before Livingston gives him up for a lighter sentence, so he arranges his bail with bondsman Max Cherry (Robert Forster).  Once Livingston is free from jail, Ordell convinces him to go do a job with him and then kills him.  What Ordell doesn't know is that it’s too late and that Livingston had already squealed to the ATF about Ordell’s operation and how Jackie Brown smuggled money for him.
When Jackie Brown returns to Los Angeles with some more of Ordell’s money, an ATF agent named Ray Nicolette (Michael Keaton) and an LAPD detective named Mark Dargas are waiting for her.  They try to get her to implicate Ordell but Jackie refuses to talk.  While searching her bag, Ray discovers some cocaine that she didn’t realize was in there and they have her sent to jail on a drug charge.  Once Ordell finds out that another one of his employees was arrested, he send Max to bail out Jackie as quickly as possible to prevent her from talking too.  Upon seeing Jackie exit the jail, Max is fairly smitten with her right away and offers to help her any way he can.
Later that night, Ordell stops by Jackie’s house to perform his usual employee severance plan, but Jackie proves more resourceful and prepared than the unfortunate Livingston.  Using the gun she surreptitiously took from Max, Jackie offers a deal to Ordell where she will pretend to work with Ray and the authorities but at the same time, will continue to smuggle the rest of Ordell’s money that he still has in Mexico.  To do so, Jackie concocts a plan where she will smuggle the money in under the ATF’s noses and then perform a bag swap in a dressing room to give Ordell his money.  By doing so, she is won’t be prosecuted by the authorities since she appears to be helping them, and she makes Ordell happy by giving him his money.  Ordell agrees and returns home to enlist the help of his old friend and cellmate Louis Gara (Robert DeNiro) and his occasional lover Melanie Ralston (Bridget Fonda).
What Ordell and Ray don’t realize is that Jackie has her own plan where she will keep all of the money for herself by double-crossing all of them.  With Max helping her, Jackie begins to play a dangerous game of pitting the two sides against each other.  If her ruthless plan works, then it would free her from the authorities and eliminate Ordell as a threat, but a lot of things will have to happen perfectly for that to happen.  I don’t really want to give any further details that will spoil all of the double-crosses that will close out the film so I’ll end it here.
Jackie Brown is a lot of fun but it can’t beat Pulp Fiction in my book.  Both movies have great casts and some great dialogue, but Jackie Brown lacks the same electricity of something new and original that Pulp Fiction had.  Pam Grier and Robert Forster were so strong in this that it reminded audiences and the movie industry how good they were and this movie kick-started their careers again like Pulp Fiction did for Travolta.  Samuel L. Jackson is fantastic as the comical yet completely ruthless Ordell.  He’s got some great lines in this movie too but nothing will ever top his role as Jules.  The role of Louis was a departure for Robert DeNiro, as Louis isn’t too bright and seems to be happy being a foot-soldier to Ordell.  His only flaw is that he can’t stand being mocked, which Melanie found out the hard way.  It’s always good to see Michael Keaton in anything and he’s really good here as Ray (a role he would reprise later in Out of Sight).   Jackie Brown is very enjoyable  and a worthy follow up to Pulp Fiction but it never reaches the same heights.

Video (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)

Much like Pulp Fiction, this 1080p (1.85:1) transfer looks simply amazing!  The level of detail in this transfer was very surprising to me since every close up is so sharp that you can see the pores and every line on Robert Forster’s weathered face.  Colors are vibrant (take a look at Jackie’s apartment with it’s many different hues) and well represented.  Black levels are also suitably dark and inky as they should be and the contrast is spot on.  There are a few soft shots here and there but that seems like nitpicking in comparison to the rest of the wonderful transfer.

Audio (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)

Jackie Brown’s DTS-HD 5.1 mix is also very good but not quite as good as the more active Pulp Fiction mix was.  The dialogue is clear and intelligible from the front speakers, while the rear speakers assist with the great sounding music and effects.  Tarantino’s notorious use of eclectic music is very much on display here and it all sounds great.  The effects also sound good and several times you might be startled by the sound of a gun shot.  This is a nice immersive mix that doesn’t have the same sonic activity as its predecessor but it still sounds impressive in its own right.

Special Features (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)

If you've read my review of Pulp Fiction then these extras won’t come as as surprise to you since they are basically the exact same extras but with a different focus.  The one new extra is in high definition while the old ones are in standard definition.
  • Breaking Down Jackie Brown – A newly recorded group discussion with the following critics:  Elvis Mitchell, Scott Foundas, Stephanie Zacharek, Tim Lucas and Andy Klein.  They talk about the movie and share their opinions about it.  Much like this extra on Pulp Fiction, it wasn’t for me since they are basically recycling the same old comments we’ve all heard before many times.
  • Jackie Brown: How It Went Down – The cast and crew including:  Quentin Tarantino, Pam Grier, Robert Forster, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert DeNiro, Bridget Fonda, Michael Keaton, and writer Elmore Leonard talk about the movie.  This is the best extra on the disc in my opinion as you get to hear from all of the principal people that were involved in the film which is very interesting.
  • A Look Back at Jackie Brown – Interview with Quentin Tarantino – At almost an hour long, Tarantino holds court and talks about the movie and shares his thoughts about the movie industry.  As usual, he is hyper and all over the place but also very entertaining to watch.
  • Deleted and Alternate Scenes – Tarantino introduces these seven deleted scenes which are mostly inconsequential except for the one where Keaton and Grier crack each other up while improvising.
  • Chicks With Guns video – The full five minute clip from the TV show that Louis and Ordell were watching.
  • Siskel & Ebert At the Movies – We get to see the legendary pair review Jackie Brown which is a nice reminder of how good they were together and how sad it is that we lost Gene Siskel.
  • Jackie Brown on MTV – A fairly pointless extra that I recommend skipping.
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • TV Spots
  • Poster Gallery
  • Enhanced Trivia Track
  • Stills Galleries
  • Robert Forster Trailers
  • Pam Grier Trailers
  • Pam Grier Radio Spots
  • Soundtrack Chapters

Final Thoughts (4 out of 5)

If you enjoy Quentin Tarantino movies or just like movies where everyone double-crosses each other so much that you never know how it’s going to end, then you should enjoy this movie.  It’s got a great cast, funny dialogue, and enough ruthlessness and violence to qualify as a Tarantino movie.  This Blu-ray also looks and sound great and it’s leaps and bounds better than the previous DVD release.  Plus, it’s only around $10 on Amazon, so how could you pass this up?
Order your copy today!

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