Author Topic: Jackie Brown (1997)  (Read 6351 times)

Offline Antares

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Jackie Brown (1997)
« on: June 04, 2010, 02:14:10 AM »
Jackie Brown





Year: 1997
Film Studio: Miramax Films, A Band Apart, Mighty Mighty Afrodite Productions
Genre: Drama, Suspense/Thriller
Length: 154 Min.

Director
Quentin Tarantino

Writing
Elmore Leonard (1925)...Original Material By
Quentin Tarantino...Screenwriter

Producer
Bob Weinstein (1954)
Harvey Weinstein (1952)
Richard N. Gladstein
Elmore Leonard (1925)
Lawrence Bender (1957)

Cinematographer
Guillermo Navarro (1955)

Music


Stars
Pam Grier as Jackie Brown
Samuel L. Jackson (1948) as Ordell Robbie
Robert Forster as Max Cherry
Bridget Fonda (1964) as Melanie
Michael Keaton (1951) as Ray Nicolette
Robert De Niro (1943) as Louis Gara
Michael Bowen as Mark Dargus
Chris Tucker as Beaumont Livingston

Review
       For those who’ve ever read my reviews, or had a film discussion with me in regards to directors, it comes as no shock that I have a well-defined disdain for the films of Quentin Tarantino. Derivative of previous director’s work and self-stroking narcissism are the cornerstones of almost all of Tarantino’s work. At one time, I would have included every film he has made in that description, but finally, I have found the one film that does not follow that innocuous formula. That film is Jackie Brown, Tarantino’s follow up to the highly successful Pulp Fiction. Unfortunately, the fans of his first two films were highly critical of this offering and the film did not do well at the box office.

       What sets this film apart from the other films he’s released is that this one rarely deviates from conventional storytelling, and with its sparse amount of gratuitous violence, pretty much guaranteed that his fanbase would dismiss this film outright. But what his fanboys do not understand is that, for the first time in his career, Tarantino created something original without sampling other people’s work, re-shaping it and passing it off as his own creative subject matter. It saddens me to think of how his career would have progressed had this film been the success it should have been. Maybe we would have been spared the puerile and pedestrian films that followed this one. Maybe I’d be lauding his maturation into one of the industries auteurs, instead of deriding his immaturity and the laziness that abounds in his subsequent works.

       But that’s enough of a diatribe; let’s move on to the film in question. Pam Grier stars as Jackie, a 40-ish flight stewardess who has fallen on hard times. Busted years before for smuggling cocaine for her boyfriend pilot, she now works for a small Mexican airline that barely pays her enough to make her rent. To make ends meet, she has been shuttling money for an LA gun runner named Ordell (Samuel L. Jackson) who has an accomplice in Mexico who is laundering his ill gotten gains. Things are going smoothly, until one day, Jackie is stopped by two men, one is an ATF agent and the other a cop from Los Angeles. While searching her travel bag, they come upon a substantial amount of Ordell’s money and also a small bag of cocaine. Turns out, another of Ordell’s accomplices, a punk named Beaumont (Chris Tucker) has turned in Jackie in hopes of receiving a lighter sentence on an earlier drug bust. Beaumont, in turn, has been hastily dispatched to the netherworld by Ordell, fearing Jackie’s fate would soon be imparted upon him by the police. With her past conviction, Jackie is in deep trouble. She knows Ordell killed Beaumont, and he probably has designs on eliminating her too. But Jackie has an ace in the hole, and Ordell knows it. He can’t get his hands on his $500K that’s sitting in Mexico without Jackie’s help.

       Enter Max Cherry (Robert Forster), the bail bondsman who secured Beaumont’s release by writing the bond that Ordell has paid for. Now Ordell wants to transfer the bond to Jackie, so that he can eliminate her too. Max agrees to the transfer and secures Jackie’s release. After dropping her off at her apartment, he returns to his office and notices the handgun that he keeps in his glove compartment is missing. He knows Jackie took it to protect herself, surmising that Ordell has killed Beaumont and Jackie’s next on the hit list. He does nothing that night and returns to Jackie’s place the next morning to retrieve his weapon, which Jackie gladly returns to him. She invites him in for coffee, and she recounts the events of the previous evening after Max’s departure. It’s self-evident to the both of them that an attraction exists between the two and Jackie asks Max to help her get out of the mess she’s in. He agrees and the rest of the film deals with Jackie’s expertise in setting up Ordell, all the while, stringing along the ATF and police into believing that she is ready to hand over Ordell to them. With the end result being that Ordell is out of the way, permanently, and Jackie skates with his $500K.

       One of the key strengths to this film, was the fact that for the first and only time in his career, Tarantino showed the ability to restrain himself from making every character in the film an extension of his narcissistic personality. For once, each person had a voice that set them apart as unique from the others, without the appearance of being a faded carbon copy of Quentin’s pseudo-hipster, street credible über-geek. Helping matters along are the dynamic performances of the principle leads in the film, Grier and Forster. There is not a hint of bullshit to their portrayals of two common, everyday persons, each desperately in need of rebirth from the malaise that has set in their souls. As good as Grier is, it’s Forster for me, who steals this movie. I know Jackie is going to find a way out her mess, but will Max betray his convictions to help her succeed? Will he, in the end, walk away with her into the sunset or is Jackie playing him the same way she’s playing Ordell and the ATF? It is his integrity throughout the film that keeps the screenplay gelling and keeps you on the edge of your seat.

       In closing, as much as I really enjoyed this film, there were two small things in the film that left me wanting to be a backseat driver in regards to the story. One was the choice of a couple of songs that didn’t quite fit the atmosphere of the film. The first instance was a gangsta rap song that was used as a thematic tone during one scene. In keeping with the 70’s flair, and knowing Tarantino’s love for diverse musical offerings, I was surprised that he did not use any one of Gil Scott-Heron’s ghetto tone poems in its place. Scott-Heron was after all, the father of rap music and it would have conveyed the same feeling without sounding out of place and staying within the context of the overall film atmosphere. The second instance takes place during the final money exchange, where Tarantino uses The Crusader’s Street Life as background for the bag switch. Now, while this song stays within the time framework of music that has been used throughout the film, it doesn’t truly convey the tension of what’s taking place at that moment in the story. At this juncture, I would have opted to use The Undisputed Truth’s Smiling Faces Sometimes. The lyrics of that song would have fit nicely with the betrayals that were happening onscreen at that moment.

       The other thing that I would have done differently was Ordell’s demise. All the throughout the film, Ordell has been one cold, cool and calculating MoFo. But when he gets to Max’s office, he completely goes against character and walks willingly into a trap. This did not make any sense to me. He tells Max in the car, that if Jackie isn’t alone in the office or if this is a setup, then Max is going to catch the first bullet, before Ordell is dropped. So what does he do, he enters the office using Max as a shield and asks why it’s so dark in there. He hears Jackie in the pitch black back office and instead of having Max turn on the lights,
(click to show/hide)
. For me, Ordell would have kept Max in front of him, the shootout occurs and both are killed, but of course, you then wouldn’t have had the great ending to this film.

       I have to give Tarantino credit for not succumbing to a Spielberg moment with the final scene in this movie. When Jackie shows up the next day, in Ordell’s car and with Ordell’s money, she offers Max the chance to accompany her to Spain. They embrace and kiss, the phone rings and Max starts talking to a mother whose son has been arrested. Jackie realizes that he’s not coming with her and she gets back in the car and drives away. Max ponders for a moment and if this were a Spielberg film, he would have dropped the phone, ran out the door, and chased Jackie as she drove down the street. She would see him in the rear-view mirror, stop, get out of the car, run to him, they’d embrace, fade to black. But keeping with the integrity of the characters and the screenplay, Tarantino keeps it real.
(click to show/hide)
I applaud Tarantino for ending the film this way.  :clap:


Review Criterion
5 Stars - The pinnacle of film perfection and excellence.
4 ½ Stars - Not quite an immortal film, yet a masterpiece in its own right.
4 Stars - Historically important film, considered a classic.
3 ½ Stars - An entertaining film that’s fun or engaging to watch.
3 Stars – A good film that’s worth a Netflix venture.
2 ½ Stars - Borderline viewable.
2 Stars – A bad film that may have a moment of interest.
1 ½ Stars – Insipid, trite and sophomoric, and that's its good points.
1 Star – A film so vacuous, it will suck 2 hours from the remainder of your life.
½ Star - A gangrenous and festering pustule in the chronicles of celluloid.
« Last Edit: November 04, 2010, 12:13:20 AM by Antares »

Offline Dragonfire

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Re: Jackie Brown (1997)
« Reply #1 on: June 04, 2010, 02:46:30 AM »
I haven't seen this one.  After not being able to stand Pulp Fiction, I avoided this one when it came out.  It does sound interesting and like it could be better.  I may try to see it sometime.

Offline Antares

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Re: Jackie Brown (1997)
« Reply #2 on: June 04, 2010, 02:49:11 AM »
This film is the complete antithesis of Pulp Fiction. Interesting characters that aren't shallow and opaque, linear storyline and of course, Quentin's not in it.  :thumbup:  :devil:  :laugh:

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Re: Jackie Brown (1997)
« Reply #3 on: June 04, 2010, 06:31:22 AM »
This film is the complete antithesis of Pulp Fiction. Interesting characters that aren't shallow and opaque, linear storyline and of course, Quentin's not in it.  :thumbup:  :devil:  :laugh:

I credit all of this to Elmore Leonard.  :laugh:

Jackie Brown is the about the only Tarantino film I can watch without rolling my eyes continuously. I would love it if he adapted more Leonard books, as his style complements Leonard's quite nicely.

Najemikon

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Re: Jackie Brown (1997)
« Reply #4 on: June 04, 2010, 06:53:06 PM »
Good review! Though a little back-handed.  ;) What the heck has poor old Spielberg done to deserve a thrashing? I don't even recognise the ending you refer to, as Spielberg would keep it real (erm... "homie") but ramp up the melancholy. I think you're projecting; suddenly you can't quite blame Tarantino completely, so who's standing nearest? Spielberg! Get 'im! :laugh:

But anyway, back to Jackie Brown, I too thought Forster was simply marvellous. And as I've always said, one of QT's best qualities is supporting marginalised cast and crew. Forster and Grier now had some control over their futures because of this. I have the sound-track and disagree that some were mistakes, but that's probably because my knowledge of the genre is limited, so I was entirely in QT's hands. I loved the way the recurring track was used. Beautifully delivered.

Alien seems to be having a sly dig as well :P, but I do agree that I wish he would direct other peoples material more often, because he clearly understands how to marry the tone correctly. He did the same with his CSi and ER episodes, and its this evidence that made me pray very hard to the Movie Gods when he started mouthing off with Pierce Brosnan about how he'd like a crack at Bond. Never a hope, but I still say that would have been special... 

I've mentioned this elsewhere, but have you seen Out Of Sight? Also being based on Leonard, we have one of the few if not only time the same supporting character is played by the same actor in two otherwise entirely unrelated films: Michael Keaton.

Offline Antares

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Re: Jackie Brown (1997)
« Reply #5 on: June 04, 2010, 08:01:57 PM »
Well Jon, you didn't expect a review by me about a Tarantino film to be all love and lollipops, now did you? :whistle:


Good review! Though a little back-handed.  ;) What the heck has poor old Spielberg done to deserve a thrashing? I don't even recognise the ending you refer to, as Spielberg would keep it real (erm... "homie") but ramp up the melancholy. I think you're projecting; suddenly you can't quite blame Tarantino completely, so who's standing nearest? Spielberg! Get 'im! :laugh:


To be truthful, when Max and Jackie are embracing in his office, and Jackie starts her exit, it instantly came into my head about Spielberg. I said to myself, if Tarantino goes for the happy ending, I'm going to puke. Maybe you're right and Spielberg may have kept it real too, but you have to admit, that when a director takes the easy way out with the ending of a film and has everything bundled up nicely with a beautiful bow on top, then that's a "Spielberg" ending.


I have the sound-track and disagree that some were mistakes, but that's probably because my knowledge of the genre is limited, so I was entirely in QT's hands.

I think if you ever heard Gil Scott-Heron's stuff from the 70's, you'd change your mind. Also, have you ever heard the other song I mentioned? Smiling Faces Sometimes is a classic, gritty street soul masterpiece, that to me, rivals Isaac Hayes seminal soundtrack theme from Shaft. You should try and search it out, it's a great tune.


Alien seems to be having a sly dig as well :P, but I do agree that I wish he would direct other peoples material more often, because he clearly understands how to marry the tone correctly.

I hesitated to put the following into my review, because I didn't want anyone to mistakenly think I was comparing Tarantino to Kurosawa. But basically, what I was going to say was that Kurosawa, when he wrote his screenplays, always wrote with the same two partners, who helped to curb Kurosawa's penchant for going off track and losing focus as to the heart of the story. Kurosawa respected their opinions and knew that he himself, did lose track some time. This is what Tarantino needs also, a guiding hands, who he'll listen to, to reign him in in his excesses. Unfortunately, I feel that Tarantino is now too ensconced in the belief that he is a true auteur and he will never allow himself to be pulled back by anyone.

I was curious to your reaction to the statement I made pertaining to Tarantino's habit of writing dialog for characters that make them all appear to be shadows of Tarantino himself?

I've mentioned this elsewhere, but have you seen Out Of Sight?

Nope, haven't seen it.

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Re: Jackie Brown (1997)
« Reply #6 on: June 04, 2010, 08:42:16 PM »
Alien seems to be having a sly dig as well :P, but I do agree that I wish he would direct other peoples material more often, because he clearly understands how to marry the tone correctly. He did the same with his CSi and ER episodes, and its this evidence that made me pray very hard to the Movie Gods when he started mouthing off with Pierce Brosnan about how he'd like a crack at Bond. Never a hope, but I still say that would have been special...  

Oh, I'll take digs at Tarantino. I think he's a great editor, but as a filmmaker he's a thief. That's not to say I don't enjoy his movies, I do. But he rips off so much I don't think he's very original.

Jackie Brown, though, is a favorite of mine from him because he wasn't over-the-top "look how cool I am." I hate that from him, because he's not the cool one. The people he rips off are the cool ones.

Quote
I've mentioned this elsewhere, but have you seen Out Of Sight? Also being based on Leonard, we have one of the few if not only time the same supporting character is played by the same actor in two otherwise entirely unrelated films: Michael Keaton.

Out of Sight is fanf'ingtastic, too. The only problem I have with it is Ving Rhames as Buddy. In the book, Buddy was a straight up redneck. As good as Rhames was, he wasn't Buddy IMO.
[/quote]

Najemikon

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Re: Jackie Brown (1997)
« Reply #7 on: June 04, 2010, 08:52:07 PM »
Because it's a Soderbergh film, Out Of Sight is worth seeing, if only for the good J-Lo performance! A rare thing. ;)

I had meant to comment on what you said about Tarantino writing dialogue to appear as shadows of himself. I don't agree, but then I see him as rather shy, not quite an egotistical sort pushing himself through the characters.

He does do true individuals, but matches speech patterns and I enjoy the rhythm of his dialogue, something that was very important in the early days when you could hear the pedigree of Musical>Gangster>Thriller, or even bloody musical>melodramas like Cat On A Hot Tin Roof which I hated, but I respect all the same.

I might not like musicals, but a film with a notion to a melody within drama can be wonderful. I finally have the DVD of Force of Evil, which Scorcese highlighted for the sing-song aspect of the speech, which others have said creates an unrealistic pattern. Maybe your dislike of QT in this sense is a displacement of hearing that heightened-reality. I don't even think it's that different in Jackie Brown, but Grier and Forster are the best actors he's worked with so sold it better.

I really like the style though and no-one writes quite like Tarantino these days. The Coen brothers have a recognisable pattern too, but they kind of use it against the flow of the film, in keeping with their off-centre view. In fact, my own reference to the Coen's reminds me of my conversations with Matthias who put me onto Brick. That is a great film, but also has entirely unrealistic speech. It's great to listen to though.

So I can't see this as an extension of his ego. In fact, as way of example, I refer once more to the CSi episode he wrote. Consider this is a long standing series that trusts actors to be settled within their characters. His writing simply added a flow to them. It didn't turn them into Tarantino puppets.

Anyway, have you ever heard the guy talk? He's a live-wire nerd who is nowhere near as cool as his characters!

I also don't think that he sees himself as an Auteur, though I'd argue he could easily be considered one if he does develop better relationships with others, especially a composer. I love his soundtracks, but I'm eager to hear what sort of score he could influence. Alien said it like it was a bad thing, but as you pointed out with Kurosawa, the absolute best are collaborators. Hitchcock was the same and where would Scorcese be without his famous editor?

His real fault is a desire to please, which you allude to. He took it too close when Jackie Brown "failed". I enjoy all his films, but honestly, he will run out of steam, although I was very impressed with Inglourious Basterds which I think showed a new direction following the definite failure of Death Proof. I think sometimes he's concentrating on a gimmicky style to cover up a lack of self-confidence. While brilliant, they are short lived. Oddly, this feeds into something I'm about to say on Spielberg... ;)

To be truthful, when Max and Jackie are embracing in his office, and Jackie starts her exit, it instantly came into my head about Spielberg. I said to myself, if Tarantino goes for the happy ending, I'm going to puke. Maybe you're right and Spielberg may have kept it real too, but you have to admit, that when a director takes the easy way out with the ending of a film and has everything bundled up nicely with a beautiful bow on top, then that's a "Spielberg" ending.

I admit nothing!  :tease: I think he's greatly underestimated and unfairly dismissed as a showman who sells out to the audience every time. Because he certainly doesn't. How someone as naive and childish as David Fincher gets a free pass, but scorn is poured on Spielberg I'll never understand.

Two of his more recent movies have been used as a stick to beat him with on this very point. One is Minority Report (I felt the ending was spot-on, but because it has a Noir-ish tone, critics felt it should be completely Noir, which I don't). The other is A.I. which I have staunchly defended as a superb ending for years.

In fact the attitude towards A.I. sums up everything that is wrong with the notion of who Spielberg is and what he does. First, Kubrick fan boys think he stole the film and destroyed the theme, because they can't stand the thought that their beloved director was actually incapable of making a film a general audience could warm too. He handed it to Spielberg because he had the maturity to recognise it was beyond him.

Second, many people seem ignorant of how a screenplay should be constructed and only feel it's right if it ends the way they want it to. Fincher again, panders to this. The popular version of A.I. for critics would betray the point of the story and they don't see the darkness because they wouldn't know a sub-text if it punched them on the nose!

I suppose if a sub-text did punch someone, it would no longer be a sub-text... :headscratch:

But what I'm saying is that he doesn't take the easy route. If Tarantino can be accused of thinking of the audience, "what will they like?", Spielberg is actually saying, "can I trust them with this?". That may be too broad, but in other words, QT comes up with a superb screenplay and then decorates it with illusion so you don't have to think as much. I like it, but as I said, I hope he does do more Jackie Browns. A.I. had the confidence to say, "this is the truth of the story. Suck it up."

Najemikon

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Re: Jackie Brown (1997)
« Reply #8 on: June 04, 2010, 08:56:19 PM »
Sorry, Alien, didn't mean to squeeze you out, but me and Antares have history discussing the finer points!  :P Glad you support Out of Sight too. By the way, shameless plug for review: http://www.dvdcollectorsonline.com/index.php/topic,5490.msg108171.html#msg108171

Please see above post for how cool I think QT really is. Have to say, I think we've moved on from the "thief" accusations, but I will say your comment is one of the more incisive I've heard, that he is a better editor. I don't agree, as I believe the whole is greater than the parts and he pulls it together as a director should. I say homage, inspired, you say "ripped off", but the fact is, you've got to be good to make it look good. And he makes it look good.

Offline Tom

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Re: Jackie Brown (1997)
« Reply #9 on: June 04, 2010, 09:01:41 PM »
Maybe you're right and Spielberg may have kept it real too, but you have to admit, that when a director takes the easy way out with the ending of a film and has everything bundled up nicely with a beautiful bow on top, then that's a "Spielberg" ending.

Do not think anything by it. Jon didn't even like it, when I called the ending of the "War of the Worlds" remake a "Spielberg" ending. And that is a Spielberg movie!  ;D



Najemikon

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Re: Jackie Brown (1997)
« Reply #10 on: June 04, 2010, 09:05:37 PM »
 :voodoo:

War of the Worlds is clumsy, but I saw what he was trying to do, which was interpret the book. Something other adapters (*cough*jackson*cough*) should try more of.

Offline Antares

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Re: Jackie Brown (1997)
« Reply #11 on: June 04, 2010, 10:24:54 PM »
Jackie Brown, though, is a favorite of mine from him because he wasn't over-the-top "look how cool I am." I hate that from him, because he's not the cool one. The people he rips off are the cool ones.

Preach it brother!!!!

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Re: Jackie Brown (1997)
« Reply #12 on: June 04, 2010, 10:33:49 PM »
Sorry, Alien, didn't mean to squeeze you out, but me and Antares have history discussing the finer points!  :P Glad you support Out of Sight too. By the way, shameless plug for review: http://www.dvdcollectorsonline.com/index.php/topic,5490.msg108171.html#msg108171

Please see above post for how cool I think QT really is. Have to say, I think we've moved on from the "thief" accusations, but I will say your comment is one of the more incisive I've heard, that he is a better editor. I don't agree, as I believe the whole is greater than the parts and he pulls it together as a director should. I say homage, inspired, you say "ripped off", but the fact is, you've got to be good to make it look good. And he makes it look good.

Oh, hell, that's not a squeeze out at all, so no worries.

I won't dispute that he makes bad movies look good. He is talented in that regard. He wisely takes the best parts of movies people haven't seen before and incorporates them nicely in his own movie.

But my problem with him is, unless called on it, he acts as if the ideas are his own. The best example of this, of course, is Reservoir Dogs when he denied for a good while that he had never heard of City on Fire, much less seen it. Really now. I honestly don't believe they are homages because Tarantino doesn't come as clean as he should.

Yet, like I said, I watch his films and a big enjoyment of his films for me is picking out scenes he stripped from other movies. It's kind of like when I listened to Beastie Boys' License to Ill for the first time and picking out all of the riffs they lifted.

While I haven't seen Inglorioius Basterds yet, I have seen all of his others and I'm still waiting for something original from him. He's certainly capable of doing it, I just don't think I've seen it yet.

I don't know if I agree with you on his dialogue. He has the same (and again I go to) "look how cool my dialogue is" in every movie. My God, the diner scene in Grindhouse when they were talking about cars was so tedious.

(And don't even get me started on his contribution to Grindhouse. That was wrong on so many levels.)

However, he does do something right because I still buy his movies.  :laugh:

Offline Antares

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Re: Jackie Brown (1997)
« Reply #13 on: June 04, 2010, 10:40:44 PM »
Wow, looks like I can sit back with this very delicious margarita I'm drinking and let Alien have a go at Jon.  :whistle: :tease: :hysterical:

Najemikon

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Re: Jackie Brown (1997)
« Reply #14 on: June 04, 2010, 10:46:11 PM »
Retreating, Antares? Yeah, I've seen you off, now lets start on your little friend!  :voodoo: :training:  :devil:

 :bag:

Death Proof simply isn't entertaining, but it was ambitious. He was trying to pull off a Psycho effect, but simply proved how bloody hard it is. So, I agree it did come off tedious, but I still enjoyed it, even while it wasn't going anywhere. The final act is frigging superb though, being as I love the pointless chase movies, like Vanishing Point and I appreciated his efforts with the stunts.

The last time a director couldn't be accused of stealing something the Lumiere brothers attacked a cinema audience with a train! Fact is, Tarantino filters the work into something frequently more cohesive, daring and brilliant.

In keeping with the topic, Jackie Brown better than supposed Pam Grier classics like Foxy Brown and Coffy. Inglourious Basterds accused of ripping off a fun little Italian movie when in fact he only took the title, but if you want to push the point, so much better than Inglorious Bastards. City on Fire? Tried to watch it once. Give me a break! The links with Reservoir Dogs are tenuous and what similarities are there are filtered into something superb.

And just what did Pulp Fiction rip off? Bearing in mind Dogs was originally just a chapter within that film, expanded for an easier debut.