The Silent Majority

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Jackie Brown

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Jackie Brown

Quentin Tarantino’s third film opens on Pam Grier, playing Jackie Brown. Her demeanor generates the “I don’t give a fuck” vibe. Behind her is a hideous, multi-colored tile wall which screams 1970. On the soundtrack is Bobby Womack’s soulful “Across a 110th Street”. The title, “Jackie Brown” splashes on the screen in Blaxploitation style.

We then find out, despite the stylish, soulful, and nostalgically badass introduction, Jackie is just trying to get to work. She is a flight attendant for a small, low-paying airline. On the side, she smuggles money for Ordell Robbie, a low-level gun merchant, played by Samuel L. Jackson. That is, until she gets caught with more than Ordell’s cash by the ATF.

Jackie Brown is Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece. The film appears to be a superficial foray into Blaxploitation cinema, but consider the genre: Exploitive, gratuitous, and glamorizing. Blaxploitation featured street-level amoral characters killing, stealing, and copulating. In Coffy, Pam Grier used sex to get close to her enemies, and murder them in cold blood to avenge sister. Still, we rooted for her, despite a skewed sense of morality.

Jackie Brown also features killing, stealing, and copulating, but the criminals are aged and desperate to get off the streets once and for all. The glamour is removed from the equation and what the audience is left with are a group of rag-tags trying to make up for their mistakes. The cast is both colorful and plentiful. Tarantino, working from the novel Rum Punch, by Elmore Leonard, paints a beautifully sardonic world of petty criminals all making a last ditch effort to come out on top.

Beautifully realized, Jackie Brown is a sober, mature, and unforgiving crime film. It is endlessly inventive in how it defies genre conventions. It is both paying tribute to Blaxploitation and criticizing it. The film never sees a dull moment between its fascinating characters, stunning dialogue, soulful soundtrack and impeccable storytelling.

The original tagline for the film read: “Six players on the trail of a half a million in Cash. There’s only one question… Who’s playing who?”

Much like that Blaxploitation vibe, the tagline merely describes what is on the surface. The important question isn’t “Who’s playing who?” but rather “Why are they playing?”

– Alex Lyons

— Alex Lyons studied English and History at the University of Guelph, where he acquired keen insights into late Victorian history, and its literature. This education, of course, serves no purpose here. Alex still lives in Guelph, and thinks of Jack the Ripper often.


Written by thesilentmajoritysays

March 11, 2009 at 12:48 PM

Posted in crime

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