Pulp Fiction (1994)

May 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

John Tavolta and Samuel L. Jackson being humbled in "Pulp Fiction"

Written by Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avary

Directed by Quentin Tarantino

Starring John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, Bruce Willis, Ving Rhames, Maria De Medeiros, Eric Stoltz, Rosanna Arquette, Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer, Frank Whaley, Phil LaMarr, Quentin Tarantino and Harvey Keitel

A seminal and revolutionary film, Pulp Fiction has no peer, can’t be duplicated no many how many inferior films copy its style and structure, and like a fine wine, gets better with age. Yes, there is gratuitous violence, yes, there are extreme and graphic instances of drug culture, but yes, there is a moral center and a point to the film. An interwoven collection of loosely connected stories, told in chapter form as a pseudo-fairy tale version of Los Angeles’ seedy underbelly, in which we follow mob enforcers, a mob boss wife, drug dealers, a shady boxer, a man and woman wanna-be stick up team and their various associates. Pulp Fiction doesn’t claim to be realistic, but the stylization is firmly grounded in something resembling our reality, providing the characters with relatable attributes. Pay close attention to the divergent paths of Travolta and Jackson’s characters to understand this. They might talk in a unique pattern with interesting conversations, but look closely and its feasible that while their thoughts may not have been as well collected, these conversations could happen in real life between a pair of high thinking criminals.

Pulp Fiction is a movie which revitalized John Travolta’s career from former wunderkind up and comer to aging hack by giving him a unique character that he knocks out of the park in a perfect, legendary performance that he disappears into as Vince, a thoughtful hit man slash heroin addict. It transformed Samuel L. Jackson from a working character actor into one of the most cherished cinematic icons of our generation and possibly of all time as Jules, an even more thoughtful and very spiritual hit man. It crackles with gorgeous, poetic and pulpy dialogue that sings out of the actors’ mouths to the point that the film could be listened to as a radio play and it would still be gripping.

It gave interesting, vital and empowering roles to female actors with equally inventive and interesting dialogue, from the most famous- Uma Thurman- to the nearly nameless in Maria de Medeiros as Bruce Willis’ innocent lover. Quentin Tarantino’s use of music and pop culture is unrivaled in this film and the gratuitous violence can be forgiven by how clever it is and by Tarantino’s inventive and stylized way of showing us violence. Tarantino is able to take a character with only 5 or 10 minutes of screen time and make them indelible and definitive with performances from the likes of Harvey Keitel as mob cleaner Winston Wolf, Tim Roth as the male part of a pair of would-be crooks, Amanda Plummer as his girl Hunny Bunny, Christopher Walken as a Vietnam army vet with an amazing story to tell, Frank Whaley as a clueless white bread criminal, Rosanna Arquette and Eric Stoltz as slacker stoner drug dealers, Paul Calderon (My name’s Paul and this shit’s between y’all) as a bar tender. (Interestingly enough, Calderon was Tarantino’s first choice for Jules, the Sam Jackson part.) and above all, oddly enough, is Tarantino himself as the surly Jimmy Dimmick, a friend of Sam Jackson’s Jules, who helps him and Travolta’s character out in a tough spot, though finds every way to whine about it as he does so. It’s a very naturalistic, smooth and hilarious performance. Pretty amazing stuff from a guy who only acts as a side gig to his film making.

Pulp Fiction forced us to reassess how many levels a film could work on. Pulp Fiction is a gangster film, a spiritual journey, a moral metaphor, a pop culture event, an ode to 70’s style exploitation films, a snapshot of the era in which it was made and a wholly original form of cinematic language and above all, a damn entertaining time at the movies.


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