01/12/1998 at 01:00 AM EST
Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson
Well, it's no Pulp Fiction, but director-screenwriter Quentin Tarantino doesn't have to apologize for Jackie Brown, his long-anticipated follow-up movie. A more conventional and less violent film than 1994's Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown is a moderately amusing, twisty-turny heist picture about a resourceful flight attendant (Grier) who scams both a homicidal gun dealer (Jackson) and the feds. Jackie Brown could use trimming, but Tarantino, basing his script on Elmore Leonard's 1992 novel Rum Punch, displays once again his sure comic touch with low-life scum.
Mostly, Jackie Brown provides an excuse for Tarantino to give '70s blax-ploitation star Grier (Coffy and Foxy Brown) a plum role. Although a striking presence, she proves to be an actress of limited range. Shrewdly, Tarantino surrounds her with a top-notch, enthusiastic cast, including Jackson, Robert De Niro, Bridget Fonda (a hoot as a bong-smoking bimbo) and Michael Keaton. The real surprise here, though, is the touching turn by Robert Forster (Medium Cool) as an aging bail bondsman who's sweet on Grier. Jackie Brown is unlikely to do for him what Pulp Fiction did for Travolta, but count Forster as another successful graduate of Tarantino's Whatever-Happened-To rehabilitation program. (R)