Jackie Brown. 1997. USA. Directed by Quentin Tarantino. With Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster, Robert De Niro, Bridget Fonda, Michael Keaton, Chris Tucker. 35mm. 154 min.
Widely considered cinema’s first female action hero, Pam Grier was so idolized by writer-director Quentin Tarantino that, when they met to discuss the titular role of Jackie Brown, Grier found herself surrounded by posters of her iconic 1970s films, which had long decorated his office walls. Adapting Elmore Leonard’s novel Rum Punch, Tarantino had only Grier in mind as his lead, and in many ways the film is tailored to her talents. As an underpaid, middle-aged flight attendant caught smuggling money for menacing gun runner Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson), Grier’s trademark style, grit, and intelligence are on full display as she concocts a complicated scheme to double-cross both Ordell and the cops, aiming to get away with half a million dollars in the process. In Isaac Julien’s blaxploitation documentary BaadAssss Cinema, feminist theorist and cultural critic bell hooks both lauded Jackie Brown as a resistant modern black heroine and traced the character’s cinematic lineage to Coffy, Grier’s 1973 breakout. Perpetually ready to challenge any man who gets in her way, Grier’s filmography is filled with women who can’t be held down.