While it can hardly be considered a sleeper after being nominated for an Academy Award, Golden Globes, and a SAG, I still feel like this is the most under appreciated but best Tarantino film. Generally considered subtler and gentler than his other work–and all the better for it, in my opinion–the subtlety seems to have disappointed many fans of the unabashed audacity of Pulp Fiction.
But this is my favorite of his films, thanks in part to the brilliant characters provided by Elmore Leonard, a man that can write about dumb criminals like no one else. Surprisingly, both Leonard and Tarantino can write and empathize with a middle aged, low income, African American woman. Although the character in the book, Rum Punch, was white, Tarantino changed to accommodate Pam Grier with Leonard's full approval and for good reason too, she is beyond phenomenal and the entire cast keeps up with her: Robert Forster's sincere and charming bail bondsman, Max Cherry; Robert DeNiro's dangerous but dull witted Louis Gara; Bridget Fonda's voracious surfer girl, Melanie Ralston; Michael Keaton's contrived tough guy cop, Ray Nicolette and Samuel L. Jackson's Ordell Robbie, a criminal who reads as a wanna be bad ass who has watched too many Samuel L. Jackson movies.
All of these performances and characters are so thoroughly believable and so complex that it makes watching their interactions an absolute treat. If you missed this movie when it came out, or saw it but it failed to live up to your high octane expectations, please give it a second look. I think it stands as one of the great crime movies of its decade and is by far my favorite Elmore Leonard adaptation and Tarantino film.