Thursday, April 21, 2016

A to Z Challenge: Rum Punch/Jackie Brown

I hadn't read or watched these before deciding upon this challenge, but I did have Rum Punch on my Kindle, so that helped me out when I couldn't really find another R.  I'm not sure why R was another hard letter, but it kind of was.

Anyway, the book was written by Elmore Leonard, who has had plenty of other books turned into movies like Get Shorty, Out of Sight, 3:10 to Yuma (twice I think), and some others.

The plot of book and movie is there's a stewardess named Jackie who works for a crappy shuttle airline and moonlights as a mule for a guy named Ordell.  One day she's bringing in some money when she's stopped by an ATF agent and his partner, who seem to know exactly what she's up to.  She goes to jail but won't give Ordell up and she's put in jail.  Ordell goes to Max Cherry, a bail bondsman to get her out.  Jackie and Max get something going and they decide to work out a deal with the ATF first for a "dry run" to smuggle some money in and then a much larger amount, during which they'll bust Ordell.  Except Jackie and Max work out how to sneak most of the money for themselves.

The movie was adapted by Quentin Tarantino and stars Pam Grier, Samuel L Jackson, Michael Keaton, and Robert de Niro in a largely useless role that could have been played by just about any dude for much cheaper I'm sure.  The movie is OK but the problem is it's 2 1/2 hours long!  There was no need whatsoever to turn a book that's only about 300 pages into a movie as long as your average summer blockbuster.  It's a fairly ordinary crime thriller that involves a stewardess who is caught between a gunrunner and the ATF.  The whole thing could easily have been streamlined to about 90 minutes.  That was actually the point where I got up to use the can, paused it, and saw there were still 54 minutes left!  Yipes.  The runtime is more tolerable on the second watching if only because I knew to expect it.  Still, a lot of the chitchat could have been cut out.  Unfortunately I think Tarantino, like Leonard, bought into the hype that he's really good with dialogue so he crammed the movie with lots of unnecessary talking to drag things out.

And yet what's funny after I read the book is it's 2 1/2 hours and yet it barely scratches the surface on a lot of things.  Somehow there's still a bunch of stuff that gets cut out.  A lot of that stuff would have actually made Robert de Niro's character interesting and worth the money they paid him.  In the book his character works for Max Cherry and is a henchman of Ordell, which is how they get brought together.  Whereas in the movie Ordell just shows up in Max's office.  Later the de Niro character steals some guns from Max's office to use to rob a liquor store.  Max also has a wife with an art gallery in a mall, which is where the "dry run" and other smuggling run happen.  In the movie he just shows up at the mall the first time to watch a movie.  Max and Jackie also fuck a few times, whereas I think they're more like "Just friends" in the movie.  So like I said despite being much, much too long the movie still can't be as deep as the novel.

Honestly I'd recommend the book since the movie takes practically just as long to get through. Here's a fun fact:  Rum Punch is actually a sequel to the much-earlier novel The Switch.  That book was made into the 2013 movie Life of Crime starring Jennifer Aniston and Tim Robbins.  So the movies were actually made in the reverse order of the books.

As far as it goes, I still think Get Shorty is the best Elmore Leonard book/movie combo, though I haven't read some of the other books that have become movies like Out of Sight.

1 comment:

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