Jackie Brown PAL Laserdisc

Jeremy Clarke reviews

Jackie Brown
Distributed by
Pioneer LDCE

  • Cat.no: PLFEC 37311 Cover
  • Cert: 15
  • Running time: 150 minutes
  • Sides: 3 (CLV)
  • Year: 1997
  • Pressing: 1998
  • Chapters: 23 (9/6/6+1)
  • Sound: Dolby Surround
  • Widescreen: 1.85:1
  • Price: £29.99
  • Extras : Theatrical Trailer


      Quentin Tarantino


    Pam Grier
    Samuel L. Jackson
    Robert Forster
    Bridget Fonda
    Michael Keaton
    Robert De Niro

After wowing audiences with his ear for dialogue and ability to recycle elements of other movies, usually in movies that appear closer to movies than real life, wunderkind Tarantino finally finds the missing element in the form of a writer who does meticulous research. His film Jackie Brown is based on the novel Rum Punch by Elmore Leonard (whose numerous other stories, filmed or televised, include 3:10 To Yuma, Cat Chaser, Get Shorty, Touch, Out Of Sight and Maximum Bob) and a very fine adaptation it is too.

The six leads play variously an air hostess (Grier), an illicit guns dealer (Jackson), a bail bondsman (Forster), a flaky couch potato with an appetite for drugs and sex (Fonda, who plays a completely different character in Touch), an Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) cop (Keaton) and a recently released convict (De Niro). As in the book, to which Tarantino sticks pretty closely (although he simplifies certain elements), events develop as characters meet, collide with, double cross or occasionally kill one another. Black characters use the word “nigger” a lot too, which has apparently upset a lot of people (Tarantino being a white director who, it’s felt, has no right to use such words even though all the characters that do so here are black), but to this reviewer that posed no problem. Far more importantly, here is a major Hollywood movie (and a successful one – a thriller that delivers thrills) in which the single most important character is a forty four year old black woman.

Which brings us to one of the remarkable things about the movie – Grier, a long forgotten Blaxploitation star – whose performance (and career comeback prior to roles in Escape From L.A. and Mars Attacks!, like John Travolta before her in Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction) is nothing less than remarkable. Check out her appearance in a skin tight red dress in Chapter 14 when she bawls out Jackson for failing to tell her about the presence of an additional girlfriend when she has to switch a bag of money for an identical bag without. Or the way she goes to pieces in the amazing single take steadicam shot walking away from a mall boutique with a bag in which is concealed $50,000.

Of course, this isn’t just Grier but Leonard’s brilliant characterisation onto which is added Tarantino’s superb casting sense and flair for filmic language. Check out also the opening and closing shots – Grier on a moving airport walkway with sixties colours behind her on the wall, Grier driving inside a car – to Bobby Womack singing Across 110th Street: Tarantino has taken an actress Hollywood thought washed up, put her back in the limelight and said something about the black experience in the process.

Not to say that other elements aren’t equally fine – Keaton makes a great over-stimulated ATF man while Jackson (fast becoming a regular Tarantino collaborator following Pulp Fiction) impresses as usual. A special mention should also go to the less well-known Forster who, like Grier, is superb as a character ageing and considering starting over but managing to hold themselves together and still look good beyond forty (and picked up a deserved Oscar nomination here for Best Supporting Actor).

As elsewhere in Leonard, the plot derives primarily from characters, but revolves around Jackie’s getting picked up at the airport by Ray Nicolet (Keaton) and colleague, stung for smuggling $10,000 and a bag of cocaine (the cocaine is news to Jackie!) and then being pressured to tell who the money came from and where it’s going.

Although low on splatter and or body count, what follows (and indeed precedes) this passes the “anybody can die at any time” test with flying colours. If less showy and bloody than prior Tarantino offerings, it feels much truer to real life and real people and is, in this writer’s opinion, his best film to date. And if you think this is good, wait til you see Steven Soderburgh‘s upcoming Leonard adaptation Out of Sight, which refers to a number of the same characters and plays as an even more impressive thriller.

The film looks great on disc, with chapters largely in al the right places (although a few more would be nice particularly in side 2, chapter 14) and the first side break following a fade to black (just after Jackie explains, “I’ll talk to the cops tomorrow and tell you if it’s on”) is in exactly the right place. But the one between sides 2 and 3 could have been a chapter earlier, at the start of the second money bag exchange and lots of clever Reservoir Dogs/The Killing style time shifts, instead of in the middle of this sequence. Black mark Buena Vista.

A trailer is included, but it’s not alas the “Pamela Grier IS Jackie Brown” one but a bog standard, lesser affair. The sound is great too – but primarily in Tarantino’s use of music which obviously sound better through the hi-fi in DS than it ever would out of a mere TV. The finest sound comes in intercutting different music playing in different locations (people’s rooms, people’s cars) exactly as the picture cuts between them – a radical and hugely effective innovation by Tarantino. There is also the occasional door slam off to one side of the screen and some wonderful ambient mall background noises.

But ultimately, though Jackie Brown more than satisfies, this is not so much a great demo disc as a great film beautifully transferred, correct aspect ratio and all, to disc. A joy.

Film: 5/5
Picture: 5/5
Sound: 5/5

Review copyright © Jeremy Clarke, 1998. E-mail Jeremy Clarke

Check out Pioneer‘s Web site.

[Up to the top of this page]