Friday, November 13, 2015

Top 59 Things I Love About Jackie Brown (that no one talks about)

My countdown to Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight continues with a dissection of Jackie Brown. Jackie Brown could very well be Tarantino’s most underrated film. Hell, its Top Critics score on Rotten Tomatoes is currently 61%, the lowest of any Tarantino film. Which means that many major critics didn’t really dig the film when it was released, but I think you’d have a hard time finding one who didn’t like the film today. Be sure to check out my previous posts on Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, and come back next Friday for my take on Kill Bill: Vol. 1.

Jackie Brown, Quentin Tarantino’s first and only film shot in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, as opposed to his preferred 2.35:1.

The Foxy Brown title font.

The way Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson) says the word “here” during his gun speech: “Now dis heah.”

Melanie (Bridget Fonda) suggestively readjusting her back after sitting down sideways in the chair.

Max Cherry’s (Robert Forster) rushed and dismissive “…sit down” to Ordell.

“I bet it was your idea to take that picture too, wasn’t it?”

I used to work with a guy who had a bail bonds business on the side. He said that Forster’s performance in this movie is exactly what most middle aged bail bondsmen are like. Tired, flippant, a little edgy, but guys who know their shit. Basically, he said Forster owned this role.

Ordell giving Louis (Robert De Niro) very specific instructions about how to open Ordell’s car, and what Louis is, and is not, allowed to do once in the car.

And then showing Louis following those instructions, if for no other reason than why not?

I literally used to live two blocks up from Hollywood and Western. So weird, totally forgot this was where Beaumont (Chris Tucker) lives.

Love that much of Ordell’s interaction with Beaumont takes place in a series of stealth oners (long takes that don’t draw attention to being long takes)...
Ordell and Beaumont’s first conversation: 2 minute 35 seconds.

Ordell and Beamount walking: 49 seconds.

Ordell and Beamount talking at the car: 1 minute 44 seconds.

The glorious crane shot revealing Beaumont’s murder in the distance: 1 minute 32 seconds.

Ordell explaining to Louis why he killed Beaumont: 1 minute 57 seconds.

Ordell increasing the volume on his car stereo, thereby turning The Brothers Johnson’s “Strawberry Letter 23” from a diegetic sound (a sound present in the movie itself, such as dialogue or a song from speakers), to a non-diegetic sound (a sound added later in post-production, such as narration or music on the soundtrack).

This scene is 27 minutes into the film, which means we haven’t seen the main character of the film for more than 24 minutes. How many movies can get away with that?

Ray Nicolette’s (Michael Keaton) subtle introduction. “Can I uhh, uhh, help out here?”

Ray delivering the line, “Looks like about $50,000 from here,” while never looking away from Jackie (Pam Grier).

“Jackie, I hope you don’t mind if I call you Jackie. Those guys down in customs, they’re a bunch of fuckin’ pricks. Excuse me, but they are. I don’t know, there’s just something about that job that makes those people really hard to get along with.”  My favorite bit of dialogue in the film.

Ray’s casual mood as he gets coffee in his partner’s office. I adore Keaton in this film. His work has never gotten enough credit.

Grier’s longtime co-star, Sid Haig, playing the judge who sentences Jackie.

“Uhh, uhh, uhh… I didn’t hear you wash your hands.”

Jackie asking Max for his ID. It’s her subtle way of saying, “So, did Ordell send you here to kill me?”

The blood red lighting in this bar.

One of the best uses of split-screen ever conceived. You have no idea what its purpose is, until you do. What a revelation.

“Shut. Yo. Raggedy. Ass. Up. And sit THE FUCK down!”

The double take Jackie does when “Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)” by The Delfonics begins playing…

…and Max’s infatuation with Jackie upon seeing this.

The cross-dissolve of Jackie sitting at her breakfast table to Ray power strutting down the hallway.

Mark Dargus (Michael Bowen) casually granting Jackie permission to smoke in his office, when he was such a dick about it before.

Ray Nicolette and his shorts.

I’m fascinated by a director’s choice of transitions. For example, I’m not sure why Tarantino cross-dissolves the picture of Melanie when she was 14, to her making a shake in the kitchen, but I absolutely love it.

Whenever I watch Jackie Brown, I can’t help but crave a screwdriver. Screwdrivers are to Jackie Brown what White Russians are to The Big Lebowski.

The insanely detailed voicemail Max leaves Jackie. She’s got him.

Jackson’s face when he says, “Hey, she ain’t gone be no ‘rock ho’.”

Ordell trying to hide when he spots Max at the Del Amo Mall.

Sincere question: did Jackie and Max secretly plan to meet at the Del Amo Mall after Jackie’s meeting with Ordell? Or is it pure coincidence?

Mark, Jackie and Ray arguing about how to best describe the shopping bag.

Max justifying the plan to himself out loud in a parking lot.

Louis spacing out while he’s on the phone.

Melanie watching Dirty Mary Crazy Larry, starring Bridget Fonda’s father, Peter.

Louis’ “on the job” disposition: slicked-back hair, anxious, angry.

Jackie staring at herself in the dressing room mirror. Grier says everything without saying anything. One of many reasons she should’ve been nominated for an Oscar for this performance.

There is no end to the pleasure I get from Grier’s delivery of, “I put a cherry on top, boo-yahhhhh.”

Stealth oner: Jackie hurriedly walking through the store and into the mall in a thrilling take lasting 1 minute and 26 seconds.

The brief shot of Max as Louis and Melanie walk in the store.

Louis threatening to knock Melanie “the fuck out.”

The getaway car stalling out as Louis leaves the job.

My favorite scene of the film. Ordell’s silent contemplation, the slow push-in, and then it clicks, “’s Jackie Brown.”

Aside from Grier, Keaton gives my favorite performance in the film, and this is by far my favorite scene of his. I love Ray’s sarcastic frustration here. It’s the only time we see Ray disheveled in the film. And the way Keaton…adjusts himself is absolutely hilarious.

Jackson’s call-back to Pulp Fiction with the line, “This is some repugnant shit.”

Ordell and Winston’s (Tommy “Tiny” Lister, Jr.) brief phone interaction.

“My ass may be dumb, but I ain’t no dumbass.”

The Michael Keaton Hero Shot.

Ray Nicolette and his sandals.

Max stopping his phone call so that he can properly watch his lady drive away.

Don’t know whose closing shot is better, Max harshly out of focus...

...or Jackie driving into the sunset, singing along to Bobby Womack.

More ‘No One Talks About’ Lists


  1. This is one of the finest films I had ever seen as it took me a while to get into it. In fact, I'm glad you're doing something like this as I just finished a piece about my experience with QT in the years of my life. He means so much to all of us who love films. One of my favorite moments in the film is where Max Cherry goes to the record store (I miss those places) to find out where the Delfonics are as I'm sure whoever was working was like "what?" I just love that song. There's so much about that film that is so worth revisiting every time it's on TV.

    1. Hell yeah man, couldn't agree with this more. This is the only QT film it took me a while to get into as well. Because it's so smart and soconfident. Can't wait to read your QT piece, I'm sure I'll love that.

  2. Great post! I think this may be my favourite Tarantino film after Pulp Fiction. I just really love everything about this film, and I can't wrap my head around the fact that there are people that don't like this film, though of course, to each their own. Pam Grier is perfect here, one of the best performances in any Tarantino film. Her closing shot is superb, like you mentioned.

    1. Thanks! This ranks right along there with Reservoir Dogs as my second favorite QT film. Love, love, love it. And I think it has never gotten the full credit it deserves because it followed a phenomenon. But regardless, time has lent itself well to this one.

  3. Man, i need to re-watch Jackie Brown again. It's probably the Tarantino movie i have watched the least besides Death Proof, but i still love it though. It's just that for some reason i never think about this one when i think about Tarantino movies. But this will definitely be the next movie i watch now when i get the time.

    1. I just got done re-watching it now thanks to this and damn, it really is a great movie. Definitely Tarantino's most underrated. That RT score is unbelievable.I guess people didn't think it lived up to Pulp Fiction at the time or something. But the fact that Pam Grier wasn't even nominated for an Oscar that years is even more shocking. Helen Hunt won that year for As Good as it Gets and she was by far the worst part of that movie.

    2. Awesome man, glad you gave it another go. You're right about Pulp, that movie was such a game changer, and I think most people expected another one, which is absurd. And yes, it is baffling that Grier wasn't nominated for this.

  4. Oh my God. Amazing post! I didn't realize that Jackie Brown has a 61% on RT! It's one of my favorites! My favorite scene is the last one, which you included as the last frame :)

    1. Thanks Courtney! The overall RT score is much higher (because it's incorporating newer reviews), but yeah, that Top Critics score is ridiculous. So glad you like the movie though!

  5. THIS is the Tarantino I want to see return. Restrained. Low key. The polar opposite of what he would do after (the Kill Bill saga). The chemistry between Grier and Forster make for one of my favorite on screen duos. That final moment between Max and Jackie is heartbreaking.

    I love that you pointed out the split screen too. So effective. I know how much QT loves De Palma and its nice to see him pay effective homage.

    1. Yeah man, not gonna lie, I would love to see him go back to this level of restraint. Apparently that was his main motivation for The Hateful Eight though, so that's exciting. Thanks for the comment!

  6. "Ordell increasing the volume on his car stereo, thereby turning The Brothers Johnson’s “Strawberry Letter 23” from a diegetic sound (a sound present in the movie itself, such as dialogue or a song from speakers), to a non-diegetic sound (a sound added later in post-production, such as narration or music on the soundtrack)."

    - See I learn so much while reading those :)

    "Mark Dargus (Michael Bowen) casually granting Jackie permission to smoke in his office, when he was such a dick about it before."

    - that made me laugh so hard last time I rewatched the movie, it's such a simple thing but difficult to pull off - make 180 turn on something character did and also make him look like opportunistic petty ass in the process for bigger comedy effect

    "Sincere question: did Jackie and Max secretly plan to meet at the Del Amo Mall after Jackie’s meeting with Ordell? Or is it pure coincidence?"

    - I don't think they planned it, it seemed like coincidence to me.

    Man that this has 61% is a travesty. It's my second favorite QT movie and I think the only really mature one he did. Some characters in this, unlike in his other films, actually feel like actual people and the thing between Max and Jackie is so sweet. I had no idea Tarantino knows how to do 'sweet'.

    1. Love this comment! So happy you like this movie and dig this post. I agree that Jackie Brown is definitely QT's most mature film. And yeah, who knew QT could do 'sweet'.

      And shit, how priceless is Michael Bowen in this movie?

  7. I know I'm in the minority, but this is actually my favorite Tarantino film. I think all the characters are so rich and layered. I also liked the fact that the casting wasn't as I expected it to be, like Robert DeNiro or Michael Keaton's characters. I do wish there had been a little more romantic between Keaton and Grier's characters, but that may have taken away from her relationship with Forester's character.

    1. I actually know a lot of people and film critics who consider this QT's best work, so I think you're in good company there! I like the mild hustle Grier plays over Keaton. Like, they kind of flirt, but not really, but kind of. I dig how casual it is.

  8. I do kinda love this one, and I'm definitely getting excited for H8.

  9. Great post! I really like this movie, almost as much as Pulp Fiction.

  10. I love how the first shot is so alike to the first show in 'The Graduate'

  11. A film I was confused by on first viewing because it was nothing like Pulp Fiction in terms of one-liners, but in hindsight and with subsequent viewings, JB is far more realistic than its predecessor. You could imagine JB happening in real life, and you've got to admire a director who makes something so different to his last film. Bridget Fonda was sexy in a playful way, which you alluded to. Didn't realize it was her father in the movie on TV!

    1. Yeah man, I totally agree with you. Pulp will always be my favorite, but JB is his most realistic film for sure. And that's interesting, given how stylized QT's work is.

  12. John Smith: Don't you think that Samuel is better then Keaton in this movie?

    1. Well, yeah, I suppose. But the point is that they're both So. Good. you know?

    2. Hahaha, I agree (I'm John Smith, using this account)

  13. Brilliant stuff! I doubt Tarantino ever tops this for me. Maybe it's because these aren't his original characters, but I've always felt there was something more here than in any other QT film. LOVE it!

    1. Totally agree, there's an added depth (for lack of a better word) to this movie than the rest of QT's work.

  14. Unpopular opinion, but Jackie Brown is QT's best work. When you're watching it, it's clear you're watching a Tarantino film. Yet there is enough restraint where his style doesn't become too much. Something that has plagued David O. Russell's latest two films imo.

    Also, fun fact: With all due respect to Helen Hunt, Pam Grier should've won every Best Actress award under the sun.

    1. I actually know quite a few people who share that opinion, for exactly the reasons you stated. Definitely dig that.

      The fact that Grier wasn't even fucking nominated remains completely absurd.

  15. I really do think this movie has, and is continuing to, become a cult classic. I saw it the year it came out at a little theater that was an opera house in the 40's, located on Coast Hwy. in Encinitas, Ca. (a very unique, classy town that sits right on a georgous beach called "Moonlight Beach", just a few blocks away from the famous Swami's surf spot. This theater plays mostly b movies, always 3 bucks or so to get in, popcorn 50c... but the place is VERY theater looking, as in, old haunted, lounge couches on the balconie, georgous old statues/ figures, plush drapes, the real thing. This particular night (98) the El Nino was happening & this beach town was flooded almost. At the time I lived in a great studio appt. across the street to this theater, & had no car that yr. By the way, I mentioned this town is trapped in the 60's? So EVERYONE in this theater is smokin a doobie... we had no idea what to expect on a cold, dark night in tho pouring rain taking our chances on an unknown 3$ movie noone's ever heard of, after smokin' a doobie. Suffice it to say it is a memory I will never forget, and Jackie Brown will always be my fav QT movie...

    1. That is a great, great story. Thank you so much for sharing it. Is this theater still around?! It sounds great.

  16. a couple things always confused me: at first it appears Melanie and Louis are strangers, until Ordell leaves them alone and Mel asks how long since she's seen him. And what's with Jackie's "After we were together, you did that...?" ? Did they just stop for a drink and cigarettes, or were they 'together'??

    1. Interesting subjects.

      1. I think it's normal to feel like strangers when you haven't seen each other in a while (especially if the last time you saw each other, one of you was very young). It'd be like seeing an old friend of your parents that you met once, 15 years ago. That sort of thing.

      2. I think "together" simply means "hanging out." Part of the magic of the film is the sexual tension between Max and Jackie. If they slept together the first night they met, the film wouldn't be nearly as great as it is.

    2. some very good points, especially Jackie's relationship with Max, which builds and intensifies through the entire film. She's cutting deals and plotting and scheming but the one person she trusts and is truthful with is Max. And it may just be wishful thinking, but I've never had any doubt that as the credits rolled, Max was scribbling a hurried note to Winston and speeding towards LAX, and Madrid. Robert Forster's understated style is brilliant here, you can see it in his eyes - does he take a chance with this amazing woman who has swept into his life (and admittedly scares him just a little), or will he spend the rest of his life regretting, and wondering?

    3. And I LOVE that the movie leaves things somewhat open ended in that regard. I'm not sure what happens directly after the movie ends, but I like to think that Jackie and Max meet again. Someday.