Jackie Brown movie review & film summary (1997) | Roger Ebert (2024)


Jackie Brown movie review & film summary (1997) | Roger Ebert (1)

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I like the moment when the veins pop out on Ordell's forehead. It's a quiet moment in the front seat of a van, he's sitting there next to Louis, he's just heard that he's lost his retirement fund of $500,000, and he's thinking hard. Quentin Tarantino lets him think. Just holds the shot, nothing happening. Then Ordell looks up and says, "It's Jackie Brown.'' He's absolutely right. She's stolen his money. In the movies people like him hardly ever need to think. The director has done all their thinking for them. One of the pleasures of "Jackie Brown,'' Tarantino's new film, based on a novel by Elmore Leonard, is that everybody in the movie is smart. Whoever is smartest will live.


Jackie (Pam Grier) knows she needs to pull off a flawless scam, or she'll be dead. Ordell (Samuel L. Jackson) will pop her, just like that guy they found in the trunk of a car. So she thinks hard, and so do a bail bondsman (Robert Forster) and an ATF agent (Michael Keaton). Everyone has a pretty good idea of exactly what's happening: They just can't figure it out fast enough to stay ahead of Jackie. The final scenes unfold in a cloud of delight, as the audience watches all of the threads come together.

This is the movie that proves Tarantino is the real thing, and not just a two-film wonder boy. It's not a retread of "Reservoir Dogs" or "Pulp Fiction," but a new film in a new style, and it evokes the particular magic of Elmore Leonard--who elevates the crime novel to a form of sociological comedy. There is a scene here that involves the ex-con Louis (Robert De Niro) and Ordell's druggie mistress (Bridget Fonda) discussing a photograph pinned to the wall, and it's so perfectly written, timed and played that I applauded it.

Tarantino has a lot of good scenes in this movie. The scene where one character lures another to his death by tempting him with chicken and waffles. The scene where a nagging woman makes one suggestion too many. The scene where a man comes around in the morning to get back the gun a woman borrowed the night before. The moment when Jackie Brown uses one line of dialogue, perfectly timed, to solve all of her problems.

This movie is about texture, not plot. It has a plot, all right, but not as the whole purpose of the film. Jackie Brown, 44 years old, is an attendant on the worst airline in North America, and supplements her meager salary by smuggling cash from Mexico to Los Angeles for Ordell, who is a gun dealer. Beaumont (Chris Tucker), one of Ordell's hirelings, gets busted by an ATF agent (Keaton) and a local cop (Michael Bowen). So they know Jackie is coming in with $500,000 of Ordell's money, and bust her.


Ordell has Jackie bailed out by Max Cherry (Robert Forster), a bondsman who falls in love the moment he sees her, but keeps that knowledge to himself. Jackie knows Ordell will kill her before she can cut a deal with the law. Maybe she could kill Ordell first, but she's not a killer, and besides, she has a better idea. The unfolding of this idea, which involves a lot of improvisation, occupies the rest of the movie.

At the heart of the story is the affection that grows between Jackie and Max. In a lesser thriller, there would be a sex scene. Tarantino reasonably believes that during a period when everyone's in danger and no one's leveling about their real motives, such an episode would be unlikely. Max silently guesses part of what Jackie is up to and provides a little crucial help. Jackie takes the help without quite acknowledging it. And their attraction stays on an unspoken level, which makes it all the more intriguing.

In "Jackie Brown,'' as in "Pulp Fiction,'' we get the sense that the characters live in spacious worlds and know a lot of people (in most thrillers the characters only know one another). Ordell has women stashed all over Southern California, including a dim runaway from the South who he keeps in Glenwood, which he has told her is Hollywood. Max Cherry has a partner (Tommy "Tiny'' Lister Jr.) who is referred to long before he goes into action. The sides of the film's canvas are free to expand when it's necessary.

If Tarantino's strengths are dialogue and plotting, his gift is casting. Pam Grier, the goddess of 1970s tough-girl pictures, here finds just the right note for Jackie Brown; she's tired and desperate. Robert Forster has the role of a career as the bail bondsman, matter of fact about his job and the law; he's a plausible professional, not a plot stooge. Jackson, as Ordell, does a harder, colder version of his hit man in "Pulp Fiction,'' and once again uses the N-word like an obsession or a mantra (that gets a little old). De Niro, still in a longtime convict's prison trance, plays Louis as ingratiatingly stupid. Bridget Fonda's performance is so good, it's almost invisible; her character's lassitude and contempt coexist with the need to be high all the time.

A lot of crime films play like they were written by crossword puzzle fans who fill in the easy words and then call the hot line for the solution. (The solution is always: Abandon the characters and end with a chase and a shootout.) Tarantino leaves the hardest questions for last, hides his moves, conceals his strategies in plain view, and gives his characters dialogue that is alive, authentic and spontaneous.

You savor every moment of "Jackie Brown.'' Those who say it is too long have developed cinematic attention deficit disorder. I wanted these characters to live, talk, deceive and scheme for hours and hours.

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Film Credits

Jackie Brown movie review & film summary (1997) | Roger Ebert (9)

Jackie Brown (1997)

Rated RViolence, Language, Some Sexuality

155 minutes


Pam Grieras Jackie Brown

Samuel L. Jacksonas Ordell

Robert De Niroas Louis

Robert Forsteras Max

Bridget Fondaas Melanie

Written and Directed by

  • Quentin Tarantino

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Jackie Brown movie review & film summary (1997) | Roger Ebert (2024)


Jackie Brown movie review & film summary (1997) | Roger Ebert? ›

This movie is about texture, not plot. It has a plot, all right, but not as the whole purpose of the film. Jackie Brown

Jackie Brown
Plot. Jackie Brown, a flight attendant, smuggles money from Mexico into the United States for Ordell Robbie, a gun runner in Los Angeles. When Ordell's courier, Beaumont Livingston, is arrested, he hires bail bondsman Max Cherry to bail him out. To prevent Beaumont from talking to the police, Ordell kills him.
https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Jackie_Brown
, 44 years old, is an attendant on the worst airline in North America, and supplements her meager salary by smuggling cash from Mexico to Los Angeles for Ordell, who is a gun dealer.

What is the movie Jackie Brown about? ›

What was the last film Roger Ebert reviewed? ›

The last review Ebert wrote was for To the Wonder, which he gave 3.5 out of 4 stars in a review for the Chicago Sun-Times. It was posthumously published on April 6, 2013. In July 2013, a previously unpublished review of Computer Chess appeared on Ebert's website.

How does the movie Jackie Brown end? ›

Nicolette, Dargus, and Cherry's business partner Winston, who provided Max with Ordell's location, hiding in the back, ambush him and shoot him dead. The charges against Jackie are dropped, and she plans a trip to Madrid. Max declines her invitation to join her. They kiss goodbye and he watches her drive away.

Is Jackie Brown the best Tarantino movie? ›

Of course, “Jackie Brown” was eventually reappraised and is now known as one Tarantino's best films. It featured career-best work from Pam Grier and Robert Forster, but also excellent turns from Robert De Niro and Jackson.

What is the movie Jackie about? ›

Is Jackie the movie based on a true story? ›

Kennedy, in 1963. It is partly based on Theodore H. White's Life magazine interview with the widow at Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, in November 1963. The film premiered on September 7, 2016 at the 73rd Venice International Film Festival, where it competed for the Golden Lion.

What were Roger Ebert's final words? ›

Sometime ago, I heard that Roger Ebert's wife, Chaz, talked about Roger's last words. He died of cancer in 2013. “Life is but a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

How old was Ebert when he died? ›

On April 4, 2013, one of America's best-known and most influential movie critics, Roger Ebert, who reviewed movies for the Chicago Sun-Times for 46 years and on TV for 31 years, dies at age 70 after battling cancer.

How many movies did Ebert see? ›

Roger Ebert started writing reviews in 1967. As a professional, he watched over 500 movies and he reviewed about 300 movies each year. Over his 40 year career, he published about 10,000 movie reviews.

Why did Beaumont get killed in Jackie Brown? ›

At some point, Ordell learns that his fellow employee Beaumont Livingston has been arrested by the police. He fears that Beaumont may become an informant in order to avoid jail time, so Ordell arranges his bail with bondsman Max Cherry. Upon Beaumont's release, Ordell lures him out of hiding and murders him.

Why is Jackie Brown rated R? ›

Moral Americans who couldn't stomach PULP FICTION will be spared some of the most heinous acts of that film, but JACKIE BROWN still has plenty of offensive material. Ordell frequently uses obscenities and racial slurs. Melanie reclines, smokes a lot of marijuana and quickly invites Louis to fornicate with her.

What is the film Jackie Brown about? ›

Why did Quentin Tarantino make Jackie Brown? ›

Tarantino brought veteran African-American actress Pam Grier out of obscurity and cast her as Jackie Brown. That he did it purely for his love of blaxploitation films which he had grown up watching as a kid is evident from the fact that in the original novel, the character was not black.

Is Jackie Brown in the same universe as Pulp Fiction? ›

All of Quentin Tarantino's movies are part of a universe that's divided in two levels – except Jackie Brown.

Why is Jackie Brown called Jackie Brown? ›

Contrary to popular belief, Tarantino's actual reason for changing the main character's name to Jackie Brown from Jackie Burke was due to his fandom of the Peter Yates film, The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973), which featured a flamboyant and co*cky arms dealer named "Jackie Brown", whose characteristics and behavior were ...

What is the movie Jackie Boy about? ›

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