Quentin Tarantino did an admirable job of adapting one of Elmore Leonard's greatest works.
The widely acclaimed crime novelist Elmore Leonard died at his home on Tuesday (August 20, 2013) of complications from a stroke. His novels include the Edgar Award-winning La Brava, Out of Sight and numerous stories turned into big screen movies Get Shorty and Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown.
The latter tale, adapted from Leonard's Rum Punch, appeared perfect for Tarantino in his post-Pulp Fiction era, and he cleverly cast Pam Grier - the star of Coffy and Foxy Brown - in the lead role.
It's supporting cast including Robert De Niro, Samuel L Jackson, Bridget Fonda and Michael Keaton, though Grier and Robert Foster were the real treats. Jackie Brown revitalized both actors' careers, with the former landing a Golden Globe nomination and the latter scoring an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
After the success of Pulp Fiction, Tarantino and his long-time producer Roger Avary - presumably armed with a little more cash - acquired the film rights to Leonard's novels Rum Punch, Freaky Deaky and Killshot.
The director originally set about adapting one of the latter two, leaving Rum Punch to another director, though he was said to have fallen in love with the novel and penned the screenplay, renaming it Jackie Brown.
Tarantino changed the ethnicity of the main character from white to black, renaming her Brown, from Burke. Nervous about presenting the changes of Leonard, the pair finally spoke to the author shortly before the first day of shooting, though the novelist apparently loved the screenplay and - reportedly - called it the best work he had ever read.
The book - and movie - followed a flight attendant who smuggles money from Mexico to the United States to make ends meet. She works for a black-market gun runner (played by Samuel L Jackson in the movie).
When the runner discovers that one of his other couriers has been arrested - and will speak to the police to avoid jail time - he arranges for his bail with his bondsman (Forster) and promptly goes to work on the rat.
The critics were enamoured by the movie, "The tale is filled with funny, gritty Tarantino lowlife gab and a respectable body count, but what is most striking is the film's gallantry and sweetness," said Newsweek.
"Quentin Tarantino puts together a fairly intricate and relatively uninvolving money-smuggling plot, but his cast is so good that you probably won't feel cheated," said the Chicago Reader.
Time Out called it, "Tarantino's finest, most mature movie to date," while Entertainment Weekly described Jackie Brown as "a scuzz-bucket film noir directed by Stanley Kubrick at his most static-mesmeric."
It was a tough gig for Tarantino to do something fresh after Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, and the critical vultures were circling when the director pulled in the A-list names for Jackie Brown. However, it remains one of the director's finest and most complex works to date.
Quentin Tarantino Was A Huge Fan of Elmore Leonard
Robert Foster's Career Was Revitalized By Jackie Brown
Pam Grier Played The Lead in 'Jackie Brown'