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Jackie Brown

(1997) *** 1/2 R
155 min. Miramax. Director: Quentin Tarantino. Cast: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster, Michael Keaton, Robert De Niro.

/content/films/4241/1.jpgPerhaps the most distinctive writer-director working today, Quentin Tarantino certainly has a knack for giving modern audiences what they want, and doing it in a manner more refined than anyone else's. Call him Spielberg with Tourette's: Tarantino may not be as intellectual as other filmmakers, but he has savvy to spare; he knows how to grab the gut and tickle the funny bone as well as Spielberg knows how to play the heartstrings. 1997's Jackie Brown shows Tarantino arguably working at the top of his game. With the ultra-arch, critically and commercially popular Pulp Fiction under his belt, Tarantino added some heartstrings to his orchestra. Jackie Brown succeeds as a witty Elmore Leonard crime story (adapted from his novel Rum Punch) but also as a surprisingly affecting mid-life romance.

Having won kudos (inlcuding the Palme D'or at Cannes) for rescuing John Travolta's career via Pulp Fiction, Tarantino went one better by casting blaxploitation queen Pam Grier as the lead in Jackie Brown. A Cabo Air stewardess with a double life as a "bag man," Grier's Brown lives under the thumb of small-time gunrunner Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson). ATF agents—including Ray Nicolette (Michael Keaton)—have been on to Ordell for some time, and they pick up Jackie with the intention of flipping her to nab her boss. Meanwhile, Ordell is busy cleaning up inconvenient messes, by hiring bail bondsman Max Cherry (Robert Forster, also rediscovered here) to spring nabbed underlings into Ordell's hands, whereupon they end up conveniently dead. Jackie immediately recognizes that her life is in danger, and that she'll need to devise a cunning plan to weather the storm. Drawn into these complications are Ordell's pothead girlfriend Melanie Ralston (Bridget Fonda) and his dimwitted friend and  henchman Louis Gara (Robert De Niro, used to great effect), who's just completed a four-year prison stretch. (Chris Tucker, Lisa Gay Hamilton and Tommy "Tiny" Lister Jr. round out the ensemble.)

Jackie Brown has a distinctive vibe that's at odds with Tarantino's wired public persona. Yes, Jackson's funny-scary character lets fly with 38 instances of the "n"-word (as counted by writer-director Spike Lee), but Ordell is a slow-burn character as opposed to his blazing Jules in Pulp Fiction. In that film, people talk first, shoot later, and think last; in this one, at least some of the characters conspicuously mull things over. Jackie plays gangland chess, thinking three moves ahead, and we're frequently made aware of what Max is thinking but not saying, a unique phenomenon in Tarantino's hyper-verbal universe; Grier and Forster show themselves to be entirely resonant in depicting these lives of quiet desperation and hope. Tarantino completes his laid-back vibe (deceptively laid-back, of course, as this is a crime film of considerable urgency) with his soundtrack selections, including Bobby Womack's "Across 110th Street" (the theme to an earlier film of the same name) and songs by The Delfonics and The Meters. Despite the danger, it's an inviting world.

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Aspect ratios: 1.85:1

Number of discs: 1

Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Street date: 10/4/2011

Distributor: Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Lionsgate brings Jackie Brown to Blu-ray in a hi-def transfer comparable to the fine one for Pulp Fiction (both were approved by director Quentin Tarantino). Any artifacting here is negligible; much more noticable are the film-like results, general stability of the image, true color and contrast, and improved resolution. The photography for Jackie Brown results in some softness to the image in midrange and long shots, but closeups excel in detail. The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix here likewise sounds in tune with its Pulp Fiction counterpart: terrific results in the music department, potent effects work, and ever-clear dialogue.

The all-new "Breaking Down Jackie Brown" (43:49, HD) gathers the critics Elvis Mitchell, Scott Foundas, Stephanie Zacharek, Tim Lucas and Andy Klein to discuss the film. We also get the previously included bonus feature "Siskel and Ebert 'At the Movies'" (4:46, SD), which presents Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel's review of the film.

"Jackie Brown: How it Went Down"
(38:55, SD) features set footage, clips, and vintage interviews with Quentin Tarantino, Pam Grier, Robert Forster, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert De Niro (who sits next to Tarantino and says...nothing?), Bridget Fonda, Michael Keaton, Elmore Leonard and others.

"A Look Back at Jackie Brown" (54:42, SD) is an interview with Quentin Tarantino.

"Deleted and Alternate Scenes" (15:29, SD) come with an introduction by Tarantino.

Rounding out the disc are the "'Chicks With Guns' Video" (4:52, SD) with introduction by Tarantino;
Jackie Brown on MTV, including "Promotional Contest" (1:03, SD) and "MTV Live" (14:22, SD); a Marketing Gallery with three trailers (3:50, SD) and eight TV spots (3:56, SD); Still Galleries; Trivia Track; Soundtrack Chapters; "Robert Forster Trailers" (27:46, SD); "Pam Grier Trailers" (36:21, SD); and Pam Grier Radio Spots.

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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