Dames in the Driver's Seat: Rereading Film Noir

By Jans B. Wager | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 12
JACKIE BROWN (1997): GENDER, RACE,
CLASS, AND GENRE

Pam Grier was one of the first important female action heroes. She was able
to both exploit the male libido and assert [physical] power over men.

DARIUS JAMES, That's Blaxploitation!

I knew I needed a great-looking 44-year-old who looks like she can handle
anything but is actually very vulnerable. Sounds like Pam Grier to me.

QUENTIN TARANTINO, QUOTED IN JILL GERSTON,
[Pam Grier Finally Escapes the 1970s,] New York Times

Neo-noir Jackie Brown (1997) has it all: a gorgeous black femme fatale, a glib black criminal, a host of other peripheral characters, a low-key white male protagonist who never seeks the limelight, a pair of cocky but unsuccessful white cops, and a triple-cross complex enough to rival the plot of classic noir The Big Sleep. Jackie Brown reflects noir influences in the characters, the plot, and the working-class milieu that serves as the film's setting.1 It also features a densely layered, information-packed mise-en-scène that rewards repeated viewing. A middle-aged, underpaid airline stewardess, Jackie Brown, played stunningly by Pam Grier, winds up backed into a corner by a gun dealer, Ordell (Samuel L. Jackson), the police, and an atf (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) officer. Jackie embodies allure, intelligence, vulnerability, and strength. Despite her

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