Looking back at Quentin Tarantino’s stellar filmography, his 1997 film “Jackie Brown” feels like something of an outlier. Sure, it maintains his flair for iconic dialogue, stylization, set pieces, characters, and then some. All of these elements, however, are grounded in a greater sense of reality: the streets of Los Angeles and the surrounding area.
But this isn’t the heightened, uber-cinematic Los Angeles of “Pulp Fiction” (or even “Reservoir Dogs”). Instead, the stakes feel higher and the characters are struggling for survival. Perhaps the fact that the film is Tarantino’s only script adapted from another work (Elmore Leonard’s crime novel “Rum Punch”) can account for the larger basis in reality, bringing him down to Earth. Which isn’t to say that “Jackie Brown” is all dark and gritty; on the contrary, it’s quite funny. It just doesn’t lose touch of the more human elements.
Enter Freddie Gibbs and Madlib, the rapper/producer duo behind this year’s “Piñata,” a fantastic, old-school rap album in an otherwise dry year. Their killer collaboration makes for a great pairing with “Jackie Brown.” The opening track, “Supplier,” ends with a sample that says, “Only the strong survive.” That sentence can sum up the general idea behind both “Jackie Brown” and “Piñata.” They both contain stories about people making their way through bleak environments. Gibbs (or at least the “Freddie Gibbs” he portrays throughout the album) and Samuel L. Jackson’s character, Ordell Robbie, in particular, have both risen above their situations through crime and other efforts. And neither seems overtly guilty about doing what it takes to succeed.
Not only are both “Jackie Brown” and “Piñata” inspired by blaxploitation and soul/funk music, but they are both unafraid of playing the darker moments for laughs. “Piñata” contains plenty of interstitial comedy skits. “Jackie Brown” contains Tarantino’s typical brand of sharp humor. While they don’t really shine much light upon each other, the two works are complementary and play well together, creating a double feature of sorts.
The Climax: The Finale and “Uno”
The final scene of “Jackie Brown” is just Pam Grier sitting in her car, gently singing along to Bobby Womack’s “Across 110th Street” (“doing whatever I had to do to survive”), which makes for a perfectly fine ending. When set to the somewhat lyrically similar “Uno,” however, the sense of paranoia is heightened by Madlib’s spacey production.