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Jackie Brown

Six players on the trail of half-a-million in cash. There’s only one question… Who’s playing who? 

Year: 1997 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (XWide) 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: This film is not expected to be subtitled, though this cannot be guaranteed. 
Directed by Quentin Tarantino 
Starring: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster  
An image from Jackie Brown

Quentin Tarantino has a well-earned reputation as a director who incites shock. Whether that be via outlandish bloodbaths, taboo-trashing dialogue sequences, or just the hyper-stylisation of almost everything that he delivers, Tarantino serves up pictures which are blisteringly original and unforgettable in their visceral impact.

Yet the biggest surprise he has yet delivered is Jackie Brown, the single film of his career so far which comes anywhere close to mirroring a conventional flick. Jackie Brown (his adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s novel Rum Punch) features little-to-no splatter, very few lengthy monologues, and a rather subtle story at its heart, yet its quality is as strong as anything the director has put his mind to in the last two decades.

Jackie (Pam Grier) is a flight attendant with a sideline in money-smuggling for the menacing Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson). A gun runner under close watch by the A.T.F., Ordell has stashed away a retirement fund of half-a-million dollars, which Jackie plans to embezzle by entailing the help of bail bondsman Max Cherry (Robert Forster). The A.T.F. even have their own role to play in Jackie’s shrewd scheme, although the wrath of the terrifying Ordell and his henchman Louis Gara (Robert De Niro) should never be taken lightly.

The performances are what really elevate Jackie Brown, with each of its cast nailing their own distinctive niche in Tarantino’s mixture. Grier is fiery as the eponymous heroine, while Jackson is goddamn terrifying at times as the increasingly unhinged antagonist. However, it’s Forster’s pared-down performance as Max that is the standout: his portrayal of a lonely clerk is simply heart breaking in its pathos.

Directed with a striking restraint, yet always crackling with tension, Jackie Brown is a unique film in Tarantino’s oeuvre. It may boast a less immediate kind of thrill, but his third film still shines with his own renowned brand of cool.

Michael Perry

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Screenings of this film:

1997/1998 Summer Term (35mm)
1997/1998 Summer Term (35mm)
1998/1999 Autumn Term (35mm)
1998/1999 Autumn Term (35mm)
2012/2013 Summer Term (35mm)
2017/2018 Spring Term (35mm)