Directed By: Quentin Tarantino
Written By: Quentin Tarantino (screenplay) Elmore Leonard (book)
This was actually the first Tarantino film I ever saw when I watched it in the theater at 13 years old. It would actually be years before I would know either Tarantino or Samuel L Jackson by name but I swear that they spoke to me with this film. Even to this day I can’t pinpoint what it was that drew me to this movie or what it was that I liked so much about it but something here fascinated me. I thought Jackson was so smooth and devious as the main criminal and it may have been the role that initially made me fall in love with him as an actor. It wasn’t just Jackson though, the whole movie seemed to draw me in and I saw it a couple times in the theater. I was too young to understand the art behind film making when I was 13. Looking back now I find it interesting that this movie, made by a true artist, took hold of my premature imagination and managed to absorb my full attention even though plenty of the film went over my head.
This movie is based off a book by Elmore Leonard called Rum Punch that Tarantino acquired the rights to back in the 90’s. Tarantino wrote the screenplay and did a great job with it but from what I understand he more or less stayed true to the story and followed the book closely. I think it is a great movie and have since it first caught my eye over fifteen years ago. It’s not Tarantino’s best film but only because the competition is so steep. I think Tarantino experienced a significant slump in his career following this movie. Until 2005 when he blew me away with Inglourious Basterds I had considered this the last good movie he had made. To the best of my knowledge this was Tarantino’s last collaboration with Roger Avary and until Basterds and then Django Unchained turned out to be so incredible I had given up hope on him as a director. Tarantino’s greatest work for a long time came while he was working with Avary. Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and this movie were all done in collaboration with Avary and they were all incredible films. During the seven years between this movie and Inglourious Basterds I began to think that he wouldn’t succeed without Avary. I will admit now that he can and will. His last two films, Basterds and Django Unchained, were incredible films and prove Tarantino can do it all on his own.
Like most Tarantino movies this one sports an incredible cast. It revived the career of Pam Grier who took on the lead role. Tarantino had long been a fan of Pam Grier movies and specifically changed the lead role of the story so he could cast Grier in the part. I think she did a terrific job and looked incredible doing it. As great as she did though, I happen to think the greatest role was played by Jackson. He thrives in the roles he gets from Tarantino and he did great with the largest he has had in any of his films. As Ordell he was so calm, cool, and collected that he entranced me as a new teenager figuring out what it was that really made movies great. Jackson has played many great characters over the years. Literally doing everything from Star Wars to Snakes on a Plane. He is a tireless actor who has left his mark on the industry by making more movies than any other actor out there and being really good at it. I like that Robert De Niro was part of this film but I don’t really think that he fit his role all that well. De Niro was still a headliner at this time and I don’t think this side role was right for him; it didn’t suit him very well. Michael Keaton on the other hand did a great job in a supporting role and I was happy to see him playing a part. I have always been a fan of Keaton and liked his collaboration with Tarantino. There has always been a big fuss over the role Robert Forster played but I have never seen what he did that was so significant. He was nominated for the Academy Award for the part and I don’t think he did a bad job, I liked his role I just don’t think it was anything special. Bridget Fonda does well enough in the role that she had but all she had to do was look good and tanned. Truth be told I think the part could have been cast better despite that but Fonda sufficed. Last but not least Chris Tucker can’t go without mention. His part was small but he still played a significant part. Also worth mentioning is Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister who has a small part. My wife and I actually met him in Las Vegas this past October. She had her picture taken with him and I shook his hand. He is an incredibly intimidating man both on screen and in real life but he was really courteous to my wife.
The biggest problem with this movie is that it really runs far too long. Somehow is seems to be a great movie without really being any good. That’s a strange thing to say but it is the best way I can think to describe the movie. There are too many long scenes simply honoring the soundtrack of the movie. Tarantino has said this movie wasn’t a play on blaxploitation but it seems like that kind of throw back to me. He is obviously a fan of that genre as he specifically cast Pam Grier in the lead role. I read that when she came to his office to read for the part he actually had posters from her films hanging on the wall in his office. She assumed he had done this for her but said that they always hung on his walls in there. Between that and the music choices for the film I do feel he was referencing the old blaxploitation films but I am no one to argue with what the director specifically said it wasn’t.
One thing I did notice while watching the movie and would like to point out was something Samuel L Jackson said during the film. In one scene he is sitting across from Robert Forster in his office when he points to a picture of Tiny Lister and asks, “Whose that Mandingo motherfucker right there?” I found the phrase to be interesting specifically because Tarantino’s most recent film Django features and practically focuses on Mandingo fighting during slave times.
In closing I will simply say that this is not my favorite Tarantino movie but it is one that I like and will always have a special sentiment for. I like the cast, I like the story, and I like the direction. Given how incredibly successful Tarantino has become in the last few years I look forward what else he has to offer in the future. This may not be his best movie but it isn’t one of his bad ones and that makes it absolutely worth your time.
I don’t mind this movie. I don’t love it, but I don’t hate it either.
This poster follows in the true Tarantino style. He has a very unique look to each and every poster for his films. I can always tell immediately who they belong to. I love this poster. It is simple and to the point. The fact that she is holding a gun alludes to the genre of the movie. The font of Jackie Brown is a little decorative for my taste, but I think it works here. Especially for the era.
NEXT MOVIE: Jaws (1975)