34 Things I Love About Jackie Brown- My Birthday Gift To Myself

Hey folks. Today is my 34th birthday, and so to celebrate, I thought I would take a look at what might possibly be my favorite movie ever, Quentin Tarantino’s 1997 film Jackie Brown. What I didn’t want to do today is give you folks a straight up review of a film that many or most of you have probably seen. So instead I thought I would just list the 34 things that I love about Jackie Brown.

1. The way that the opening tracking shot, set to the strains of Bobby Womack’s Across 110th Street, establishes Pam Grier's character before she even says a word. On a side note, the version of the song used is not the same as in the 1972 crime flick Across 110th Street, but rather a version that Womack later recorded for an album.

2. Chicks Who Love Guns.

3. The Killer had a .45 so they’ve got to have a .45.

4. Ordell (Sam Jackson) playing the Brothers Johnson’s “Strawberry Letter 23” while he shoots Beaumont (Chris Tuckers). Great song and Tarantino plays with the positioning of the sound during this scene which is fascinating. As a side note, “Strawberry Letter 23” is actually a cover song. The original is by rarely heard of songwriter/guitarist Shuggie Otis.

5 The perennially barefoot, stoned, beach bunny Melanie played by Bridget Fonda. Not only is she off the charts hot, but her storyline with Di Nero’s ex-con Louis amuses me.

6. The scene where Max Cherry (Robert Forrester) goes to get Jackie out of jail. The instant connection between the two characters is visible, and from this very first scene the film establishes one of cinema's great subtle love stories.

7. This exchange:
Ordell: “Is that what I think it is?”
Jackie: “What do you think it is?”
Ordell: “I think it’s a gun pressed up against my dick!”

8. Fonda and Di Niro’s sex scene. Sure it's one of the shortest of all time, but Fonda’s line “That was nice, now we can catch up.” always makes me laugh. (You also get a quick shot of Fonda’s bum at the end of the scene, but you gotta look fast.)

9. Max Cherry discovering the Delphonics. When Jackie puts on a record of the Delphonics singing “Didn’t I Blow Your Mind This Time” when Max comes by her place, the bail bondsman finds music that summons Jackie forth in his mind. It’s not long before he’s hitting Sam Goody for a tape and playing “La-la-la-la-la (Means I Love You)” as he’s cruising down the road.

10. The clip from the film that Fonda’s character is watching is the Italian film Ferocious starring Helmut Berger, and not as Ordell thought, Rutger Hauer.

11. All throughout the film there is incredible movement and life in the camera that keeps Tarantino’s world vibrant and exciting. Tarantino worked with cinematographer Guillermo Navarro who also filmed From Dust Til Dawn, and he brought a similar pop to the camerawork here.

12. “Turn up the volume as loud as you want, but don’t go messin’ with my levels, I got them set just the way I like.” -Ordell to Louis

13. Michael Keeton as Ray Nicolette, a character he would later portray again when Elmore Leonard’s Out Of Sight was filmed.

14. Sid Haig’s cameo as a Judge. Haig and Grier co-starred many times in the 70’s in films like The Big Bird Cage and Coffy.

15. The Cockatoo Inn lounge. If my neighborhood bar was as pimpin’ as that, and women like Ms. Brown frequented it, then I would be a permanent fixture.

16. The difference between a manager’s fee and an agent’s fee.

17. The appearance of one of Tarantino’s movie brands. While there are no Red Apple cigarettes or Big Kahuna burger in Jackie Brown, Jackie does eat from Teriyaki Doughnut, the same place that Marsellus Wallace was getting takeout from in Pulp Fiction when Butch runs him over.

18. The chemistry between Pam Grier and Robert Forrester. In my opinion, Jackie Brown is one of the most overlooked and underrated love stories ever. It remains a subtle part of the plot, but it eventually becomes a heartbreaker in the end.

19. Jackie smoking in the mall. I remember when you could smoke in a mall. Ahh, the good old days.

20. Max Cherry: “You’re rationalizing”
Jackie: “Cause that’s what you got to do to finish the shit you start.”

21. The amazing close-up of Max Cherry’s eyes as he stands in the mall watching Ordell’s plan unfold before him.

22. Louis and Melanie watching Crazy Mary, Dirty Larry starring Bridget’s dad Peter.

23. The musical sequences on the way to the last caper. Jackie listening to Randy Crawford’s “Street Life” and Louis getting irritated by Melanie blaring the Grassroot’s “Midnight Confessions” while Max Cherry drives in silence.

24. The suit that Jackie buys that looks strikingly like Mia Wallace’s duds in Pulp Fiction.

25. “When you robbed banks did you have to look for your car too?”- Melanie to Louis

26. Cars that stall during getaways.

27. The sound tracking during the scene where Max goes in the dressing room. He walks in to a tense baroque piece, but when he comes out with the bag, it’s to the strains of Roy Ayres track “Escape” taken from the soundtrack to Coffy.

28. “You know all them motherfuckers are as crooked as a barrel of snakes.” -Ordell

29. Ordell’s final words to Louis.

30. Max’s phone call with Ordell. Shooting it from behind Ordell with smoke billowing around him denies the audience from Sam Jackson’s face during his dramatic threats, but it ratchets up the tension for the final scenes of the film.

31. Jackie practicing with the gun.

32. Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister’s small role as Winston, Max’s right hand man.

33. Max and Jackie’s final scene.

34. The fact that there is no better cinematic translation of Elmore Leonard’s work. Sure Tarantino made some pretty liberal changes from Leonard’s original novel Rum Punch, but the speech patterns and situations in the film are pure unfiltered Leonard magic shown through the prism of Tarantino’s world.

So there you have it. Thirty four reasons that I love Jackie Brown. I could name a hundred, and if I live to be that old I might just have to do it. Before I sign off for today, I want to remind everyone about the Two Years, Too Awesome Giveaway I have going on all month. Send in your entries and join me back here later this week for more reviews.

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  1. Brilliant summation. I learned many things here today. Best line: "There is no better cinematic translation of Elmore Leonard's work."

    I count Leonard as one of my favorite authors and you are spot on there. Thanks for bringing a smile to my face.

  2. Happy birthday again! And you picked a great film to review here. I loved your reasons for loving JACKIE BROWN. Definitely one of Tarantino's best films - definitely top 3. I'm in the mood to rewatch this one again.

  3. This film keeps coming up lately - must be running on cable.

    I find the ending of this film to be one of the most bittersweet moments ever. I wish that an alternative ending was shot with Don Cherry changing his mind, and jumping into Jackie's car at the last minute.

  4. This is a great film and hands down my fave QT film. There is just something about the mood and atmosphere of this film that gets me every time. I also like how QT takes his time and lets us get to know all these characters and what motivates them. As you pointed out, the chemistry between Pam Grier and Robert Forester is dynamite and really makes you care about these two and what happenes to them. It's a shame that this film wasn't more successful commercially as QT seems to have backed off this kind of character-driven, in-depth character study kind of film. Oh well...

    1. Great points, I'm with you and I'd even go so far as to say JB signifies the beginning of T's slow, painful departure from all the things that made his early films great - the devil's in the details, the layers reward the observant and make sense to even the casual moviegoer and like you say, he's backed off this kind of stuff for some freaking unknown reason. Will he ever return to us?


    For some reason I kept getting this film confused with "Out of Sight", a movie I know you also like, but I never thought too much of. Maybe I'll have to give it another look someday.

    On your recommendation, several months back I picked up a copy of "Jackie Brown" and realized I had never seen this movie in its entirety (I had seen parts of it).

    I know that's a bad oversight, especially since "Reservoir Dogs" and "Pulp Fiction" are two of my other favorite movies. NOW Jackie Brown also has a place in my favorite movies list!

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Hells yeah to your b-day and hells yeah to JACKIE BROWN. It's clever and funny and all without being too showy. Quentin's other movies often tend to allow his stylistic flairs, camera tricks, and his billion other movie influences to overshadow everything else, even at the expense of the performances, which can occasionally seem forced and TOO intentionally quirky, but in JB he lets the awesome cast really shine through; I think it's his most "actor/character" driven movie by far, and that's what I love most about movies - the characters.

  8. Still my favorite Tarantino movie. I watched this just last week for, probably, the 100th time. Great pick!


  9. Whoa. My 34th birthday is tomorrow. I'm freaking out here, man. Happy birthday (belated)! You weren't born in Great Falls, Montana by any chance, were you?

  10. Love this post, could be a great new blogger meme. Great movie that gets better and better. I recall seeing it at a sneak preview and its slow burn, after the fury of PULP FICTION, was a bit disappointing. But watching it a few times over the years proves how smart Tarantino was to do a more "adult" movie as his follow-up to that classic.

  11. Oh, hell yes "Jackie Brown"! Such an amazing flick.

    On an interesting side note, the Brothers Johnson cover of "Strawberry Letter 23" also shows up, briefly, in "Pulp Fiction": it can be heard coming from one of the apartments Jules and Vincent pass on the way to see "big brain" Brett.

    Happy birthday, by the way!

  12. Wow, your favorite film? I love me some Jackie Brown and always feel like it is Tarantino's most underrated films. It's nice to see some one give it some real love for once. When Max listens to “La-la-la-la-la (Means I Love You)” in his car is one of my favorite moments in the film. You can see the slight content in his eyes over discovering this great new (to him) style of music.

    Anyways, great post, and I hope you had a happy birthday!

  13. Wow, lots of comments so let's get started.

    @Damocles66- Glad there are other Leonard fans out there! I did have to specify that Jackie was the best cinematic translation because if I were to include TV i'd have to admit that Justified has surpassed all other representations.

    @Fred the Wolf- You should give it another look. I kept my eyes off of it for two years so it was nice to get to see it once again.

    @Pax- That's what I want too. The hopeless romantic in me imagines that he reconsiders later and has Winston find her. After all finding people that don't want to be found is what Winston does. Thanks for the comment Pax.

    @JD- I think Tarantino wanted to take the 'pulp' tone of his previous film but work with more believable characters. I'd like to see more of that from him, but I've never been disappointed in one of his films, well, Destiny Turns on the Radio, but he only "acted" in that.

    @X-Ray Spex- With the Keeton connection, I can see how you could confuse Jackie and OOS. I do like the latter, but not nearly as much as I like Jackie. Thanks for the comment.

    @J. Astro- When you think about it Reservoir Dogs was a completely character driven film, but then he was allowed the high gloss of Pulp Fiction. Jackie Brown is a good even split between the two, but the Kill Bills and Basterds fit more squarely into Tarantino's cinematic elseworld than Jackie's realism with flourishes

    @Tower Farm- Thanks, Jackie is always a welcome film to view again.

    @Richard of DM- No I was born and raised in South Carolina so no need to fear. Congratulations on your birthday sir, and I hope you have as much fun as I had on mine.

    @Will Errickson- Glad you enjoyed the post. After seeing Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction left me wanting something grittier, and for me Jackie Brown delivered on that. I think is a film that gets better with time.

    @Roger Feelburt- Wow that is an amazing little nugget of trivia, I'm going to have to pop in the disk and check that out. Thanks for the comment and I'm glad there are plenty of Jackie Fans out there.

    @Matt-suzaka- I would put Jackie Brown and Vertigo neck and neck for the crown of favorite film. They're so close in my mind that I cant pick one over the other, and I've already reviewed Vertigo and intentionally hadn't watched Jackie Brown for 2 years so absence makes the heart indeed grow fonder.

    That scene with Max in incredible. There's so much that Forrester does with his face in this film. Even a slight eye movement or tone conveys so much about his character.

  14. Happy Birthday! This is for you,

  15. I would like to exchange links with your site
    Is this possible?

  16. What I learned today:

    1. I owe you a happy birthday.
    2. I should really see Jackie Brown.

  17. Far and away #4 (Ordell playing the Brothers Johnson’s “Strawberry Letter 23” while he shoots Beaumont) is my favorite moment. The musical change that adds to the dark mood of the scene and then the lyrics "rainbows and waterfalls run through my mind" that explain what is happening with Ordell emotionally - he doesn't really want to kill Beaumont but doesn't have any other choice as he sees it - all genius.

  18. OMG even being a queer that gun girl Julia Ervin makes me want to jack off.

  19. Very nice review, cool to see a different perspective/approach to this film, and I second Fred's feeling (and others) that a revisit to the film is in order - and soon. Yeah, T's branding and motifs are all here in JB for the picking. Do you know the story behind True Romance which contains a lot of these references and even the same characters. It's funny how that film was directed and even the script was worked on by others yet it feels very much like Tarantino. I also think JB is the last of T's really character driven films. I mean you can see his classic stuff in the beginning of From Dusk Til Dawn (you know he had more than a few fingers involved in the film) and here and there in Death Proof and Kill Bill but they're overpowered by his obsession with satire and theatrics. I've been working on an article going over this for my blog but I haven't penned it out yet. Soon I hope. Looking forward to looking around your site more. Please feel free to drop by mine and say hello.


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