Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson) has invited round an old friend, Louis (Robert De Niro), who has just been released from prison after being convicted of bank robbery. Ordell makes his fortune illegally gun running, and they are relaxing by watching a corporate video promoting weapons when the telephone rings. Ordell tells his girlfriend Melanie (Bridget Fonda) to answer it, but she protests the call is for him; nevertheless, Ordell insists in no uncertain terms so she goes over, picks up the receiver and says "Hello?", then immediately tells Ordell it's for him without listening any further. But Melanie's attitude will be the least of Ordell's problems when he hears from Beaumont (Chris Tucker) who works for him but has recently been arrested: the man is a liability. And then there's air stewardess Jackie Brown (Pam Grier)...
Writer and director Quentin Tarantino's adaptation of Elmore Leonard's novel Rum Punch was welcomed with a more muted reaction than his previous two hits, perhaps because it looked like a conscious effort to move away from those works. Gone were the endless discussions on pop culture, the crowd-pleasing violence and the clever-clever mixing up of scenes and replacing them was a more conventional thriller plot and more care taken to build up a female protagonist where before his work had been something of a boys' club. The title harks back to star Grier's blaxploitation movies like Foxy Brown, and there is a nineteen-seventies attention to character if not a lot of action as you might have anticipated.
But Brown is one of Grier's resourceful heroines, only now facing her late forties with few prospects after a youthful criminal record thanks to her ex-husband's lawbreaking has relegated her to working on the cheapest airline around. And when the police (represented by cops Michael Keaton and Michael Bowen) pick her up for smuggling Ordell's money into the country, she's put in an even more difficult situation, having to rely on her wits to get her through this predicament. Beaumont would put Ordell in a tricky position should he go to court, so the gangster sees only one way out, and Beaumont turns up shot dead - I wonder who could have done that? When Jackie finds out about this, she knows she might be next on the hit list, so thinks up a plan to play cops and robbers against each other; risky, but it might just work.
One of the more engaging aspects of the film is that consideration of character, and the cast patently relish their opportunities offered. Grier's role should have led to brighter things at this stage of her career, and it's a real shame it didn't, but Robert Forster was revitalised in his part as the bail bondsman who becomes Jackie's partner in crime, Max Cherry. Although their romance never makes it past a wistful what-might-have-been, they make a terrific team, not getting any younger and clinging onto hope that they'll get their one last chance. As the plot is wrapped up in creating these personalities, it's not an especially tense film and only Jackson's easygoing-yet-menacing Ordell provides much suspense, but the dialogue really renders this laidback. The well-chosen music on the soundtrack has equally as much rhythm and pace as the conversations, and it's clear Tarantino has love of hearing talk, and lots of it. What you're left with is actually as self-indulgent as his other films, but with perhaps his best characters - inspired by Leonard, of course.
American writer/director and one of the most iconic filmmakers of the 1990s. The former video store clerk made his debut in 1992 with the dazzling crime thriller Reservoir Dogs, which mixed razor sharp dialogue, powerhouse acting and brutal violence in controversial style. Sprawling black comedy thriller Pulp Fiction was one of 1994's biggest hits and resurrected John Travolta's career, much as 1997's Elmore Leonard adaptation Jackie Brown did for Pam Grier.