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'Jackie Brown'

By Steven Hunter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 26, 1997


Quentin Tarantino
Pam Grier;
Samuel L. Jackson;
Robert Forster;
Bridget Fonda;
Michael Keaton;
Robert De Niro;
Michael Bowen;
Chris Tucker
Running Time:
2 hours, 15 minutes
Under 17 restricted

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If any two artists are more perfectly mated that Quentin Tarantino and Elmore Leonard, I can't imagine who they'd be. It's not merely that both men are attracted to vivid dialogue, pathological personalities, the twilit milieu of crime and punishment and the tough games between small-time cops and small-time hoods. It's that both share a view of the universe: They see a skewed, irrational place where character flaws tilt outcomes off in messy ways.

Unlike the customary thriller that sells neatness as part of its appeal and justice as its most prominent product, their work sees a twisted, darkly comic place where many are stupid, nobody is heroic and even the best are merely adequate.

"Jackie Brown," derived from Leonard's "Rum Punch," follows as a number of bright boys try to use Jackie (Pam Grier, restored to star status under Tarantino's auspices), a rather beat-up but still beautiful flight attendant working for a cheesy Mexican airline. Jackie runs money for gun-smuggler and small-time psycho Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson in a smashing performance). ATF agent Ray Nicolette (Michael Keaton) picks her up to use against him. But she's smarter than any of these bad boys figure, and the movie watches her adroitly outmanipulate these professional manipulators, with the help of an old bail bondsman, Max Cherry (Robert Forster).

But mainly it listens. Tarantino loves to follow the profane and outrageous riffs of Ordell or watch as his moronic No. 1 guy Louis Gara (Robert De Niro) tries to figure out what to do with the treacherous surfer bimbo Melanie (Bridget Fonda, mean as a snake). The film occasionally drags -- a money transfer scene set in a department store lasts longer than several geologic epochs -- but it's so funny and the plot twists are so sudden and violent it's great fun    

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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