Last week I launched my director series with Quentin Tarantino and his first feature length film Reservoir Dogs. Today we take a look at what is arguably his finest film – the award winning and ground breaking neo-noir crime black comedy masterpiece Pulp Fiction.
The film, released in 1994, was a huge commercial and critical success. It was nominated for seven Oscars including Best Picture, Tarantino and co-writer Roger Avary won for Best Original Screenplay, it won the Palme d’Or at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival, and actors John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson and Uma Thurman all received Oscar nods.
I originally saw the film years ago and rewatched it last night for this review. And my goodness it was an even better experience than the first time; my film appreciation skills have likely improved. But that is enough yapping from me. Here’s my review in four easy to chew and digest slices:
#1 A visual and audio delight
First off Pulp Fiction is a beautifully and interestingly shot film. You have lots of intense close-ups of the actor’s faces including the one where you hear crime boss Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames) speaking and only see the reaction of boxer Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis). Or you have the static shot of Christopher Walker’s Captain Koons as he delivers the hilarious watch monologue. And no one does action and visceral violence like Tarantino so every shot hits like a gut punch. There is also the scene with Thurman’s character crime boss wife Mia Wallace makes a shape in the air denoting a “square” and you see a graphic of a rectangle. This comes out of nowhere but works with the character.
On the audio side we have a super funky retro soundtrack with lots of pumping surfer tunes. The best part is the iconic dance scene of Vincent Vega (Travolta) and Thurman doing the twist to Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell”. Who stops a crime movie to have a dance scene? Tarantino does! And it is twelve flavours of awesome sauce.
#2 Gripping intertwining plots
There are some movies in which you can figure out generally what will happen after watching the first ten minutes. This is not the case with Pulp Fiction and it hits you with twist after twist after twist and then another twist again. The three main stories – Vincent and Marsellus Wallace’s wife, The Gold Watch and The Bonnie Situation – are all strong and brimming over with dark humour. And they also feature a number of memorable and iconic scenes, from the nerve wracking drug overdose adrenaline shot scene to the cringe-inducing male rape scene complete ball gags and creepy gimp. Who keeps a gimp in a box? Seriously now.
The nonlinear structure Tarantino first used in Reservoir Dogs is perfected here and the story threads are masterfully woven into a colourful, bloody, profanity-laden tapestry. It is a joy to start a story, then go back, see it from a different perspective and then jump forward. And Tarantino does it so skillfully that once you are paying attention you will never get confused.
#3 Star making performances
Rewatching the movie last night I was thoroughly impressed by the performances and everybody brings their “A” game. Jackson is a standout as conflicted Bible quoting contract killer Jules Winnfield and he fully deserved his Academy Award nomination. The scene where he interrogates and then kills Brett is one of the most intense ever put on screen. Jackson is ably supported by Travolta who is charming and cool as fellow hit man Vincent Vega and the chemistry between the two is explosive.
Other great performances include Bruce Willis as daring and noble boxer Butch Coolidge, Thurman’s delightful drug addict Mia Wallace, Ving Rhames as intimidating crime boss Marsellus Wallace, Eric Stoltz as laid back drug dealer Lance, Harvey Keitel as super cool “cleaner” Winston Wolfe and Tim Roth as twitchy robber Ringo/”Pumpkin”. Tarantino worked with both actors on Reservoir Dogs and they deliver the goods in Pulp Fiction as well. Even Tarantino’s cameo as domesticated Jimmie is super funny and entertaining.
#4 Ripping dialogue
The dialogue in this film is so snappy, so riveting, so intelligent and so interesting that you can watch this movie with your eyes closed and still have a fantastic time. It is so clever and amusing that you sop up every word like gravy streaks with a buttermilk biscuit.
Jackson and Travolta do it best and I loved their chats about giving a woman a foot rub, what they call junk food in Amsterdam or what constitutes a miracle. But every line, every conversation has something to enjoy and the film’s stellar cast put them to optimal use. This movie had been laughing and then laughing some more and it is the best part of one of the best films I have ever seen.
Rating: Pulp Fiction gets a perfect 4/4 Royales with cheese.
So are you a fan of Pulp Fiction? What is your favorite scene? Feel free to comment below and if you enjoyed this post you can share it with your peeps. Sharing is caring.