Film Review: Jackie Brown (1997)

Also known as: Rum Punch (working title)
Release Date: December 8th, 1997 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Written by: Quentin Tarantino
Based on: Rum Punch by Elmore Leonard
Music by: various
Cast: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster, Bridget Fonda, Michael Keaton, Robert De Niro, Michael Bowen, Chris Tucker, LisaGay Hamilton, Tommy “Tiny” Lister Jr., Hattie Winston, Sid Haig, Aimee Graham, Gillian Iliana Waters, Quentin Tarantino (voice, uncredited), Denise Crosby (uncredited)

Lawrence Bender Productions, A Band Apart, Miramax, 154 Minutes

Review:

“Here we go. AK-47. The very best there is. When you absolutely, positively got to kill every motherfucker in the room, accept no substitutes.” – Ordell Robbie

Jackie Brown is probably the most underappreciated film of Quentin Tarantino’s career. It followed Pulp Fiction and it has similar vibes but it didn’t seem to connect with audiences in the same way.

I think the main reason that this didn’t win over audiences, as effectively, is because Tarantino adapted a novel, as opposed to just doing his own thing, which has been his modus operandi in every movie that he’s made apart from this one.

Elmore Leonard is a great crime writer that makes cool characters and has seen his work adapted a dozen times over. Plus, his writing style actually fits well with Tarantino’s filmmaking style. However, I think that because this was an adaptation, it was more of a straightforward, fluid story, as opposed to what Tarantino did in Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs, before it.

Those movies followed non-linear paths, which was kind of groundbreaking at the time for regular filmgoers. Jackie Brown was presented in a regular chronological narrative style and maybe it seemed less “cool” to people.

Whatever. I think it’s a pretty solid movie that was superbly cast, superbly directed and had a great flow and pace. Tarantino also does get a bit tricky in showing events in the film from different points of view. So he still does his own thing with how time is managed in the movie, it’s just not as prevalent as it was in his previous flicks.

Most importantly, the story in the film is really good and engages the viewer. A big reason for this is that the core characters, even the plain evil ones, are all charismatic and kind of likable. Mostly, you just find yourself pulling for Jackie, as well as Max, her accomplice and a guy that’s a bit smitten with her.

Also, as prickish as they can be, you kind of like the cop and his FBI agent partner in this. Michael Keaton and Michael Bowen were both damn good. Keaton actually plays this exact same character in 1998’s Out of Sight. That film isn’t actually a sequel to this but it kind of feels like it exists in the same universe because of Keaton revisiting the same role just a year later.

I also enjoy the scenes with any combination of Sam Jackson, Robert De Niro and Bridget Fonda. The three of them played off of each other really well and had pretty nice chemistry. De Niro’s character was pretty chill and his performance was understated but he still brought a certain intensity to his character.

This is a very character driven movie. So I guess it’s great that all of these characters are interesting and that all the actors brought their A-game to this movie.

Jackie Brown is just damn good. I feel like it gets overlooked when people discuss their favorite Tarantino pictures but it’s always been one of my favorites. It fits well with Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs, as well as a film Tarantino wrote but didn’t direct, True Romance. Honestly, I wish he’d make films like these again.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: Quentin Tarantino’s other early crime films.

Film Review: The Meteor Man (1993)

Release Date: August 6th, 1993
Directed by: Robert Townsend
Written by: Robert Townsend
Music by: Cliff Eidelman
Cast: Robert Townsend, Marla Gibbs, Eddie Griffin, Robert Guillaume, James Earl Jones, Bill Cosby, Another Bad Creation, Luther Vandross, Sinbad, Naughty by Nature, Cypress Hill, Big Daddy Kane, Stephanie E. Williams, Roy Fegan, Frank Gorshin, Marilyn Coleman, Bobby McGee, Don Cheadle, Nancy Wilson, Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister, Jenifer Lewis, LaWanda Page, Faizon Love, Biz Markie, John Witherspoon, Wallace Shawn, Chris Tucker (uncredited)

Tinsel Townsend, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 100 Minutes

Review:

“You don’t have to vote. I’ll leave. I’m sorry about what happened to the neighborhood tonight, but I feel even sorrier watching what’s going on in this room. How can we stop the crime and the gangs if we act like we don’t see them? Everybody complains about the police. They aren’t perfect, but how can you complain when you do nothing? You don’t have to vote.” – Jefferson Reed

Meteor Man is a very ’90s movie but it’s also aged tremendously well for what it is. Additionally, it has so much heart it’s damn hard not to love. Plus, it features a large roster of legendary black actors that it’s really cool seeing them all in one place under the direction of the uber talented and then young Robert Townsend.

I love this movie, although I was a bit apprehensive in revisiting it for the first time in at least two decades, as I didn’t want my memories of it to be diminished.

I’m happy to say that I actually have a deeper appreciation for it now than I did back then when I was really impressionable and nowhere near as versed in motion picture history or the art of filmmaking.

To be real, this is a film with several flaws and it features a superhero whose powers are never clearly defined and seem to change on a whim for plot convenience. At the same time, this barely matters, as this isn’t simply a cookie cutter superhero tale, it’s something deeper with more meaning than a typical Marvel or DC adaptation. It’s also better than the vast majority of comic book movies from (and before) its era.

At its core, this examines the turmoil and effects of inner city crime on its communities. It asks when “enough is enough” and it shows good people actively trying to overcome it and clean up their neighborhoods.

Many critics in 1993 tried to make the point that the film failed because it showed that people could only make a difference with a superhero doing the bulk of the work. What the reviewers failed to see was the bigger picture or frankly, the f’n film.

Reason being, Meteor Man loses his powers and is about to be killed by the violent gang and that’s the moment where the good, scared folks of the neighborhood finally proclaim that “enough is enough” and they fight back to help save the one man that came to their rescue when he’s at his darkest hour.

The community in the film become the heroes the neighborhood needs. And while Meteor Man regains his powers for a final showdown with the film’s big villain, it’s the community again that saves the day when even bigger villains show up to finish the job. More than anything else, this is about people inspiring each other and coming together.

That being said, it’s still really damn cool that this message came together so beautifully in a film about a superhero. That also made it cooler and more universally accessible for all ages than just being a movie about a gang controlled neighborhood. We’d seen those many time before this and many of them lacked the heart and soul that Townsend put into this motion picture.

As far as I know, this is also the first black superhero film. If it’s not, please correct me in the comments.

All in all, Meteor Man is a product of its time but that doesn’t mean that its message isn’t relevant, today. It’s light, it’s fun, it’s energetic, it has character, it has love and it definitely deserves more recognition than its gotten over the years. I hope, at some point, new generations discover it and see it for what it is and not what the critics in 1993 thought it was.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other Robert Townsend movies, as well as other ’90s superhero movies.