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Jackie Brown, the third film from director Quentin Tarantino, serves as his subtle homage to Blaxploitation. The eponymous Jackie Brown (Pam Grier), a burnt-out middle-aged flight attendant, routinely smuggles money across the border from Mexico; during the course of the film, Jackie becomes entangled in the lives of gun runner Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson), his ex-convict friend Louis (Robert De Niro), Louis' piece of hot tail Melanie (Bridget Fonda), bail bondsman Max Cherry (Robert Forster), an ATF officer (Michael Keaton), and an LAPD officer (Michael Bowen).
When the authorities discover Jackie's smuggling, they put together a sting operation where Jackie will implicate Ordell in the money smuggling so the ATF can take him down. The ATF promises to clear Jackie of the outstanding charges against her, but she only goes free if the plan goes off without a hitch. When Jackie finds out Ordell plans on smuggling in more money than normal, she keeps the information from the ATF and works out a plan of her own to keep all the money for herself while gaining her freedom. With Max's help, Jackie could pull it off, but she must outsmart the cops, Louis, and Ordell…
The novel Rum Punch by Elmore Leonard served as the basis for this film's story.
Jackie Brown includes examples of the following tropes:
- Actor Allusion: Jackie and Max have a conversation about getting old and growing tired. Their actors, Pam Grier and Robert Forster had been big stars in the seventies, but their stars had waned when they took this movie. Ironically, this movie revitalized their careers.
- Affably Evil: Ordell. He becomes significantly less affable once he realizes Jackie has ripped him off
- And Starring: Chris Tucker as Beaumont
- Anticlimax: Ordell is killed off quickly by the cops.
- Bittersweet Ending: Jackie and Max pull off their scheme without a hitch, but Max decides he's too old for romance, and Jackie leaves him behind.
- Blaxploitation: This is Tarantino's tribute to the genre. The way the soundtrack, lighting, and casting (particularly of Pam "Foxy Brown" Grier) are used is quite similar to the style of such films.
- California Doubling: Averted by changing the book's setting of Florida (with money being moved from the Bahamas) to California (with money being moved from Mexico).
- Casting Gag: Sid Haig played villainous characters in a lot of blaxpoitation films opposite Pam Grier; in this film, he has a cameo as a judge. When filming the scene, Grier (who didn't know he had been cast) was so shocked to see him in a lawful role that she bust out laughing.
- The Chessmaster: Jackie. She escapes an angry Samuel L. Jackson with four words: "He's got a gun!"
- Continuity Nod: Jackie Brown is adapted from Elmore Leonard's novel Rum Punch, which shares a setting with Out of Sight. When Out Of Sight was adapted into a film, Michael Keaton reprised his role as ATF officer Ray Nicolette.
- Dumb Blonde: Melanie.
- The Film of the Book
- Foot Focus: The extreme closeups of Bridget Fonda's bare feet in an early scene. This is a Tarantino film we're talking about; what did you expect?
- Hot Chick in a Badass Suit: Jackie during the second money hand off.
- Kick the Dog/Villain Ball: Louis is essentially an Anti-Villain for most of the movie, basically spending most of his time sitting on the couch chilling with Melanie or hanging out with Ordell. Suddenly, in the last quarter or so of the film he becomes impatient with Melanie, man-handling her and generally being quite a Jerkass, culminating in him shooting her in the parking lot because she annoyed him
- Ms. Fanservice: Melanie, in every single frame she's in.
- N-Word Privileges: Subverted; Ordell seems physically incapable of going two sentences without saying it, but this is intended to make him seem even more obnoxious than he already is.
- The Oner: The film's opening scene with Jackie on the moving sidewalk (which doubles as a Shout-Out to the opening scene of The Graduate).
- Also, Jackie walking through the mall working herself up to look extremely upset as part of her plan, before she calls for Ray.
- Pam Grier Is About To Shoot You
- Race Lift: Jackie is white in the novel, but her race was changed for the film just because Tarantino wanted to work with Pam Grier.
- Ordell was explicitly stated to be a light-skinned black man (i.e mixed-race), so much so that he can walk through a Neo-Nazi parade unharmed. In the film he's played by the unambiguously black Samuel L Jackson.
- Scary Black Man: Ordell and Winston
- Sexy Stewardess: Jackie, obviously.
- Simultaneous Arcs: The money exchange at the mall is shown several times from different characters' viewpoints to show off exactly how Jackie's scheme played out.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: Johnny Cash in a Blaxploitation film? Only from Tarantino.
- The Red Stapler: Invoked early on, where Ordell talks about how everyone wants to buy a pair of .45 calibre handguns because they saw them in a movie except the version they want has serious jamming issues, and the much more reliable model is virtually unknown.
- Stylistic Suck: Robbie's promotional video has an amateur, low-budget feel to it.
- There Is No Kill Like Overkill: The page-topping quote is a good example.
- Too Dumb to Live: Chris Tucker's character, Beaumont.
- Trunk Shot
- Where Da White Women At?: Ordell and Melanie; inverted with Jackie and Max Cherry.
- You Have Failed Me: Ordell shoots Louis Gara for killing Melanie and leaving her body in the parking lot. The scene is made much more effective by his actually looking sad about it.
- Also chillingly illustrated in Ordelle's line;
"What the fuck happened to you, man? Shit, your ass used to be beautiful!"
- He also kills Beaumont because he thinks he might fail him.