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MIRAMAX

MOVIE INFO
Director:
Quentine Tarantino
Cast:
Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster, Bridget Fonda, Michael Keaton, Robert De Niro, Chris Tucker
Screenplay:
Quentin Tarantino, based on the book Rum Punch by Elmore Leonard

Tagline:
Six players on the trail of a half a million in Cash. There's only one question... Who's playing who?
Box Office:
Budget $12 million.
Opening weekend $9.292 million on 1370 screens.
Domestic gross $39.647 million.
MPAA:
Rated R for strong language, some violence, drug use and sexuality.

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1
French Dolby Surround
Subtitles:
English, Spanish
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 154 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 8/20/2002

Bonus:
• Enhanced Trivia Track
• Quentin Tarantino DVD Introduction
• Soundtrack Chapters
• “Jackie Brown: How It Went Down” Documentary
• “A Look Back At Jackie Brown
• Deleted and Alternate Scenes
• “Chicks With Guns” Video
• Siskel and Ebert “At the Movies”
Jackie Brown On MTV
• Theatrical Trailers
• TV Spots
• Still Galleries
• Reviews and Articles
• Filmographies
• Robert Forster Trailers
• Pam Grier Trailers
• Pam Grier Radio Spots
• Booklet
• DVD-ROM Materials
• Sneak Peeks


PURCHASE
DVD
Music soundtrack

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EQUIPMENT
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RELATED REVIEWS


Jackie Brown: Collector's Edition (1997)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

The cinematic landscape is littered with directors who couldn’t live up to the billing they earned with their breakout movies. Sometimes they do very well for themselves. For example, Steven Spielberg followed the massive success of 1975’s Jaws with another mega-hit in 1977’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. (Senor Spielbergo eventually flopped with his next flick, 1979’s atrocious 1941.)

After the enormous sleeper success of 1999’s The Sixth Sense, M. Night Shyamalan suffered a modest setback with his next flick, 2000’s Unbreakable. However, that movie still did decent business - it definitely wasn’t a bust - and Shyamalan seems to have recovered quite nicely with 2002’s Signs, which has made $150 million after only three weeks.

Then there are the filmmakers who appear to totally vanish off the earth. When another sleeper hit - 1999’s The Blair Witch Project - led some to see Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez as pioneers in movie making, they responded with… not much of anything. They played no role in the creation of the flop sequel, and they’ve released no films since 1999.

Quentin Tarantino appears to have disappeared as well, though unlike Sanchez and Myrick, he waited until after he released the follow-up to his big hit to take a sabbatical. Tarantino earned critical praise and box office success with 1994’s Pulp Fiction. However, his next effort didn’t fare as well on either front. 1997’s Jackie Brown received mixed notices and encountered an indifferent public; the film made a mere $39 million at the box office, which fell far below the $107 million take of Pulp.

Does that mean Brown offers a weak experience? Definitely not, though the film never quite approaches the heights of Pulp. Of course, it never really attempts to do so. After two flashy and sassy films - including Tarantino’s debut, 1991’s Reservoir Dogs - the director went for something more low-key and subtle in Brown. While the movie fails to deliver the same visceral impact of its predecessors, it still offers a fairly compelling piece of work.

Not surprisingly, Jackie Brown features Jackie Brown (Pam Grier) as the protagonist. A middle-aged flight attendant for a minor airline, Jackie supplements her very meager income with money she receives from Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson), a vicious gun-smuggler. Jackie helps Ordell bring in cash from Mexico, but things start to go wrong for her when the authorities intervene. Represented by Ray Nicolette (Michael Keaton) and Mark Dargas (Michael Bowen), they badly want to bust Robbie, and they entice Jackie to go along with a sting operation with the carrot that they can keep her out of jail.

Jackie goes along with this scheme - in a way. The plot becomes rather complicated, but essentially Jackie plans to toy with both the feds and Robbie while she escapes with the majority of Ordell’s more than $500,000. As an accomplice, she recruits Max Cherry (Robert Forster), her love-struck bail bondsman.

That synopsis greatly simplifies matters, and it also makes it look like the film mainly concentrates on Jackie. That isn’t really the case. In fact, I’d bet that Jackson enjoys as much - if not more - screen-time than Grier. Ordell’s story occupies the majority of the film’s first act, and honestly, the tale revolves more around his affair than it does Jackie’s.

Still, I think the movie offers a pretty even split between the two, and we also find a reasonable amount of exposition accorded to Max as well as Ordell’s accomplices Louis Gara (Robert De Niro) and Melanie (Bridget Fonda). The latter’s a bitchy fading beach bunny who Ordell keeps around for some white girl credibility, while recent ex-con Louis plays a less concrete role. The slow-witted Louis doesn’t seem to be the best partner Ordell could want, but I suppose he possesses a fairly unquestioning loyalty, which makes him useful. Mostly, he gets stoned and screws Melanie, who exhibits open contempt toward both Louis and Ordell.

For the most part, I liked Jackie Brown, but it suffered from one significant flaw that didn’t mar Tarantino’s prior flicks: its star. After he brought John Travolta’s career back to life with Pulp, I guess Tarantino thought he could do the same for Grier. However, two big differences existed between the pair. For one, Travolta remained more famous in his rough years than Grier was in the best of times; she never became anything more than a cult star. Additionally, Travolta possesses substantially higher amounts of talent. Though many of his performances can stink up the screen, when Travolta does his best, he provides very solid work.

Grier, on the other hand, can’t do much above and beyond her sassy attitude. When depth and true emotion need to appear in Jackie, Grier fails to deliver believable feelings. Instead, she comes across as wooden and detached, as though she can think about these elements but doesn’t know how to display them. She never seems natural, and she tends to overemphasize her line readings in a way that makes that stand out badly.

It doesn’t help that Jackie includes so many other talented actors. Jackson rarely provides poor work, and he sparkles as Robbie. He displays enough charm to allow us to see why Ordell’s become fairly successful, but he also offers a sense of true menace when necessary. Jackson plays the coldness at Robbie’s heart in a compelling and believable manner.

Forster received a deserved Oscar nomination for his work as Max, and his low-key honesty in the part also accentuates the weakness of Grier’s performance. Both Max and Jackie should seem weary and somewhat beaten, but while Grier seems to play at that attitude, Forster makes us believe it. There’s a loneliness behind his eyes that makes Max a sad but likable and endearing character.

Fonda seems a little one-note as the conniving and mean-spirited stoner Melanie, but she brings enough sex appeal to the role to make her performance successful. Actually, given Ordell’s description of Melanie as less attractive than she used to be, Fonda might be too sexy; if she possessed any physical flaws, I sure couldn’t see them. Fonda takes the part and imbues it with the appropriate levels of bitchiness.

De Niro’s exceedingly low-key performance as Louis provides a real departure for him, one that some folks don’t seem to like. However, I think it works quite well. De Niro seems a little mannered at times, but he inhabits the role of the moronic ex-con nicely, especially when Louis’ darker side emerges. Many actors could handle the dopiness needed for the part, but few could bring to life both sides of the character.

Jackie lacks the brassiness and spark of Pulp, which may or may not be a weakness. Personally, I miss the older film’s spirit and energy, but this makes Jackie a Tarantino flick for those who don’t like Tarantino flicks. Folks who hated Pulp and Dogs tend to view Jackie much more favorably.

Overall, I liked Jackie Brown, but I didn’t think it equaled the pleasures of Pulp Fiction. Compared with Reservoir Dogs, things seemed more even. Jackie lacked the highs of that film’s best moments, but it also appeared more consistent and better integrated. Ultimately, Jackie Brown worked well, despite a fairly weak performance from its lead actress.


The DVD Grades: Picture B- / Audio B+ / Bonus A-

Jackie Brown appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. In its first DVD incarnation, the picture of Jackie Brown provided a modest disappointment, as it displayed a moderate number of concerns.

Sharpness generally appeared acceptable. Some wide shots seemed a little too soft, but those didn’t dominate the film. Most of the movie came across as reasonably crisp and detailed. Jagged edges and moiré effects created no concerns, but I noticed light edge enhancement at times. Print flaws marred parts of the movie. I noticed occasional examples of light grain and grit, but white specks offered the heaviest distraction. These never became heavy, but they seemed excessive for a fairly recent film.

Colors tended to look somewhat oversaturated, which may have been intentional on Tarantino’s part. He seemed to try for a thick look typical of Seventies flicks, which would account for the slightly excessive warmth of the hues. In any case, the tones generally looked good despite this attitude, and the DVD handled some difficult situations well; for example, the red lighting in a nightclub came across as nicely tight and solid. Black levels appeared fairly deep and dense, but shadow detail was a bit too opaque; low-light situations looked somewhat impenetrable. Ultimately, Jackie Brown presented a fairly attractive image much of the time, but the mix of small concerns caused me to drop my grade to a “B-“.

I thought the soundtracks of Jackie Brown seemed more consistently successful. The DVD provided both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 mixes. As was the case with Pulp, I discerned virtually no difference between the two. I thought both sounded very similar, and I can’t give much of an edge to either track.

Both of Tarantino’s previous films provided fairly forward-intensive soundtracks, and Jackie Brown did little to depart from that formula. However, the movie did expand the soundfield to a certain degree. In the front spectrum, music showed good stereo presence, and effects displayed a nice sense of ambience and setting. Not a lot of specific audio appeared, but the track offered a lot of general information that helped establish a sense of place. As for the surrounds, they also usually simply contributed to this environmental setting, but they did become moderately active at times. For example, the airport scenes bustled with appropriate auditory information.

One area in which Jackie Brown definitely improved on Dogs and Pulp related to the quality of the audio. The two earlier films suffered from some problems in that domain, but Jackie seemed solid. Dialogue sounded natural and crisp, and I noticed no problems related to edginess or intelligibility. Effects seemed clean and accurate, and they packed a nice wallop when necessary, such as during scenes that featured gunfire. As always, music sounded bright and vivid, and the songs also appeared deep and rich. In the end, the audio of Jackie Brown didn’t reinvent any wheels, but it nicely complemented the film.

For this two-disc special edition of Jackie Brown, we get a mix of supplements. Most of these appear on the second platter, but a few show up on DVD One. Unique among his three films, we find a 50-second introduction from Quentin Tarantino. Movie geek that he is, he indicates he knows that fans felt frustrated by the wait for a DVD release of Jackie but notes that he hopes it’ll be worth the wait.

The Enhanced Trivia Track provides a good text commentary to accompany the movie. It covers a wide variety of topics. We get notes about film techniques that appear during Jackie, changes made from the original script, information about the actors, Tarantino, author Elmore Leonard and the musicians heard in the flick, and quite a lot of other details. Occasionally, somewhat long gaps appear in the track, but usually the comments fly at a fairly rapid pace. It definitely offers a lot of useful information about Jackie. I especially enjoyed the brief look at Leonard’s writing rules.

Soundtrack Chapters lists 18 of the different songs heard in the movie and allows you to jump directly to them. Sneak Peeks includes two bits. We find a promo for the DVD release of Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction as well as an ad for the Jackie Brown soundtrack.

Finally, DVD One provides some DVD-ROM features. The “Enhanced Trivia Track” offers the same text seen on the main platter, but it does indeed “enhance” these. This means we find some related photos and other information available along the way. It also allows you to get through the track at a more rapid rate, as a button easily lets you skip ahead to the next factoid.

“Stash the Cash” provides a reasonably fun game. It includes seven different “runs” you must make, and these offer questions all related to specific scenes. Not only do you need to answer as quickly as possible, but you lose all your “money” if you respond incorrectly. Unless you “stash” your cash, that is, but you don’t want to do that because the more questions you correctly answer without a stash, the more bucks you get.

Confusing? Not really, but it does seem pointless. I worked through the game to get a high score, but nothing about the outcome ever changed. The questions always remain the same, so repeated attempts will allow for higher dollar amounts. None of that affects the ending; there’s no reward of any sort. Sure, you can compete against yourself to earn a higher score, but that doesn’t work since the different grabs never vary; you’ll improve through repetition. Still, the questions can be moderately tough, and it’s fun for what it is.

The “Screenplay Viewer” lets you read the original script while you watch the movie; the video runs in a small screen on the left as the text displays on the right half of the screen. I really liked this feature, as I found it fascinating to compare the screenplay to the final product.

While the “Articles and Reviews” and “Filmographies” domains simply duplicates the text found on DVD Two, “DVD Destination Website” sends you to some other links. We find connections to sites for A Band Apart - Tarantino’s production company - plus InterActual and Miramax. Yawn!

As we move to the second disc, we find many more features. Jackie Brown: How It Went Down provides a 38-minute and 51-second documentary about the film’s creation. It combines a few movie clips, lots of shots from the set, and interviews with Tarantino, producer Lawrence Bender, writer Elmore Leonard, editor Sally Menke, production designer Dave Wasco, set decorator Sandy Reynolds-Wasco, prop master Steve Joyner, and actors Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster, Bridget Fonda, Michael Bowen, Michael Keaton and Robert De Niro.

The program covers the basics such as how Tarantino got attached to the project and changes between the film and the novel, but it largely concentrates on the actors and Tarantino. This is good to a certain level, as we hear some nice comments about the performances and Tarantino’s work on the set. However, it also means the show tends to come across as somewhat puffy, as we get lots of praise for the various participants. The documentary merits a look, but it seems a little thin and superficial overall.

Next we get an extended interview with Tarantino entitled A Look Back At Jackie Brown. The 54-minute and 38-second piece offers the simplest program on the DVD, as it truly consists of nothing more than static shots of Tarantino as he chats with an off-screen interviewer. That’s fine with me, as I’m happy that the program’s producers didn’t try to spice it up with annoying gimmicks.

Tarantino almost always presents himself as a solid interview subject, and he gives us lots of interesting material here as well. Happily, he largely avoids facts heard elsewhere, as he mainly covers impressions from the set that deal with the actors. We hear about Chris Tucker, Tarantino’s reputation for reviving careers, Jackson, reactions to the flick, and quite a few other topics during this fairly engaging chat.

A fun addition, we get the full Chicks With Guns Video seen briefly during the movie’s early parts. This segment lasts four minutes and 51 seconds with a Tarantino introduction as well. I like this kind of addition, as it’s great to get a closer look at something that flies by pretty quickly during the movie itself.

Within the Deleted and Alternate Scenes section, we find six segments plus an introduction from Tarantino. The latter runs three minutes, while the different excised clips lasts between 41 seconds and five minutes, two seconds for a total of 12 minutes and 15 seconds of material. I don’t think any of the footage needed to be in the movie, but the scenes are fun to see. Note that the alternate opening clearly is a gag, so don’t expect something that really had a shot at making the final cut.

Next we see a clip from Siskel and Ebert At the Movies as the pair review of Jackie Brown. About half of the four minute and 43 second piece shows snippets from the movie, which doesn’t leave much time for insightful commentary about the movie. Siskel and Ebert offer their quick opinions and not much else. Nonetheless, this offers a nice little archival piece.

Jackie Brown On MTV includes two pieces. “Jackie Brown Promotional Contest” lasts 63 seconds provides an ad to give away $25,000. It features Tarantino, Pam Grier, and Bridget Fonda as they tout the contest. “MTV Live Jackie Brown” runs 14 minutes and 21 seconds and it shows Tarantino, Grier and Fonda as they appear on a December 17, 1997 show hosted by Carson Daly and Ananda Lewis as they discuss the flick. It’s an insubstantial piece, but it’s a nice archival addition nonetheless.

After this we find three theatrical trailers. Actually, all of these provide teasers. We also see eight TV Spots. The Still Galleries domain breaks down into nine areas: “Jackie Brown Posters” (eight images), “Production Stills” (161), “Behind-the-Scenes Stills” (210), “Location Scouting” (71), “Production Design Sketches and Logos” (28), “Memorabilia” (34), “Posters from Pam Grier Movies” (20), “Posters from Robert Forster Movies” (11), and “Soundtrack Covers from Pam Grier Movies” (7). More stillframe stuff shows up in the Reviews and Articles section. This features 10 reviews of the flick and eight articles. Though no pans appear, at least some of these notices provide slightly negative opinions, which departs from the uniformly positive material found on the Pulp Fiction DVD.

The last parts of the DVD include Filmographies for Grier, Forster and Tarantino and other materials related to those actors. Robert Forster Trailers provides 12 ads, whole the Pam Grier Trailers tosses in a whopping 19 clips. We also hear seven Pam Grier Radio Spots.

Inside the package’s foldout case, we find a booklet with some pictures and a lot of text. It includes a letter from Elmore Leonard, the LA Times review from Kevin Thomas, a short letter from filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich, and “Selected Filmographies” for Tarantino, Grier and Forster. Lastly, we get a double-sided poster. Actually, one side shows two ads for the flick, while the other depicts a very Seventies-style promo for the movie.

Jackie Brown marks a departure for Quentin Tarantino as he provides a film that seems more contemplative and slow-paced than his first two flicks. I prefer Pulp Fiction to Jackie, but the latter still offers a compelling and well-executed piece. The DVD offers moderately flawed but decent picture along with very good sound and a terrific package of extras. Fans had to idle for almost five years to finally get Jackie Brown on DVD, but this Collector’s Edition set seems worth the wait.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.2545 Stars Number of Votes: 55
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