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Jackie Brown

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Probably the last thing anyone expected as Quentin Tarantino's follow up to the moment-defining Pulp Fiction was a low-key, leisurely paced film about aging, gracefully and otherwise. Beneath the intricate and entertaining adapted-from-Elmore Leonard heist plot, however, that's what Jackie Brown is—and it's to Tarantino's credit that he makes the film work on both levels. Blaxploitation icon Pam Grier plays the title character, a middle-aged flight attendant who gets caught smuggling cash and drugs for an arms-dealer acquaintance (Samuel L. Jackson). To avoid serving time, she has to work Jackson and his cohorts (Bridget Fonda, Robert DeNiro) and the law (Michael Keaton) against each other while relying upon the help of a bail bondsman (played by the sweetly winning Robert Forster), who may be falling for her. That B- and C-list actors Grier and Forster both walk away looking like stars is further testament to Tarantino's uncanny ability to cast his movies effectively, but the most exciting thing about Jackie Brown is the director's seamless transition to a less flashy, revealing style; it's well-suited to the more character-oriented focus of the film. The signature touches remain, and the crime plot is effective, but as in Leonard's source material (Rum Punch), it's not those elements that stay in your mind. Jackie Brown will probably alienate the fans who latched onto the more immediate pleasures of Tarantino's past work—the giddily staged violence and the funny pop-culture talk—and that's just as well. It should, more importantly, please anyone appreciative of an assured, accomplished, and very good film.