Pulp Fiction (1994)
Release Date: October 14th, 1994 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Quentin Tarantino Actors: John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis, Ving Rhames, Uma Thurman, Christopher Walken, Maria de Medeiros
t starts with two people having a conversation. In director Quentin Tarantino’s world of peculiarities and extremely uncommon characters deeply submersed in ordinary activities and standard settings, unexpected things happen in the middle of deliriously convoluted dialogue. The verbal intercommunications trump nearly every other interplay, and this is despite numerous outrageously lurid scenarios that boast wild imagery rarely, if ever, seen before in the movies (akin to the revelations of David Lynch’s shocking “Blue Velvet”).
Los Angeles hitmen Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) drive to a hotel where they’re tasked with executing a trio of young hoodlums, who worked on a job with “business partner” Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames) that went awry. On the way to their destination, involving driving, using an elevator, and walking through hallways, they converse. It’s yet another example of unique, perplexing exchanges that permeate every situation, especially when they speak with the inexperienced gang and reveal their reason for arriving.
That evening, Vincent is asked to take Wallace’s wife Mia (Uma Thurman) out on the town for a good time. Having previously listened to a horror tale of former associate Tony being thrown off a balcony for administering a simple foot massage to the woman, Vincent is understandably distant at first. But as the night wears on, he loosens up and the duo dance the twilight away – before returning to Mia’s house, where she accidentally snorts Vincent’s heroin, which she mistakes for cocaine. Meanwhile, boxer Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis) is paid to throw a fight for Wallace, but secretly has designs on winning. When he double-crosses the gangster and attempts to skip town, he comes to realize his escape with girlfriend Fabienne (Maria de Medeiros) is not going to be a simple undertaking.
Characters talk to themselves, speak offscreen, recite monologues, babble about inconsequential subjects, and shout obscenities. There’s an incredible amount of dialogue in the film, but there is also a great gathering of characters and character actors. Cameos and short supporting performances all deliver notably lengthy observations (from the laugh-out-loud funny soliloquy by Christopher Walken, down to a nosey cab driver’s inquisition, played by Angela Jones) – with the majority tinted with straight-faced, sarcastic humor, imparting that murderers and gunmen are regular people too. Commentary even on the act of discourse is incorporated into the screenplay – and it’s an Oscar-winning script that made writer Quentin Tarantino a household name. His uncredited co-writer Roger Avary, who had a significant part in the creation of “Pulp Fiction,” wasn’t so fortunate.
The runtime denotes a touch of supercilious brooding, with so much discourse and multiple, interweaving storylines. Almost completely unrelated scenes materialize frequently, eventually unveiling themselves to be highly relevant to purpose, motivation, and finally redemption. It’s all arranged in a nonlinear manner, with chapters intertitled to designate key sequences and personas; as the sections are played out, it’s apparent that different plotlines overlap and are slyly oriented out of chronological order – though it all comes together at the conclusion with striking gratification. Staying true to the pulp magazine source subject matter, plenty of drugs, alcohol, sex, nudity, cursing, violence, and all manner of criminal elements are included. And certainly not to be forgotten, the film’s soundtrack is something of a modernized “American Graffiti,” where virtually uninterrupted, strongly affecting, mood-influencing songs arrestingly supplement a series of sardonic misadventures fueled by hysterical wordplay.
– Mike Massie