With only his second feature film in Pulp Fiction, director Quentin Tarantino has established himself as a force to be reckoned with, creating a style that has been duplicated so many times that the term ‘Tarantino-esque’ had to be invented to keep up with the never ending stream of pictures that have copied his always entertaining formula of film making.
Pulp Fiction involves four intertwining storylines: Two hit men Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Jules Winfield (Samuel L. Jackson) reclaim a mysterious package for their employee Marcelus Wallace (Ving Rhames); Vincent takes Marcelus’ wife, Mia (Uma Thurman) out to dinner for the night to turn to a near tragedy; a boxer named Butch (Bruce Willis) is on the run after he refuses to take a dive in the ring for Marcelus; and Vincent and Jules are stuck in a bizarre situation after their hit turns into a catastrophe, prompting to call on the services of the mysterious Mr. Wolf (Harvey Keitel), only for the day to get worse when they are stuck in a diner which is being robbed by two love struck criminals (Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer).
The biggest strength of Pulp Fiction is the excellent script by Tarantino which is full of pop culture riffs with the comedy blacker than black. The dialogue between the characters is excellent where subjects such as foot massages, $5 shakes and TV pilots are common place. No doubt it is one of the most quoted films of all time which is also filled with unforgettable moments such as Samuel L. Jackson’s ‘Ezekiel’ speech, John Travolta and Uma Thurman dancing to Chuck Berry at the fictional (yet extremely cool) “Jack Rabbit Slims restaurant” and Travolta and Jackson talking about fast food restaurants in Europe.
Yet the best scene has to be the brilliant monologue delivered by Christopher Walken as Captain Koons, where he tells a young Butch the story of how his birthright (his great grandfathers watch) had survived the Korean War when his father was trapped in a prison camp, only to die and pass the watch on to Koons who kept the watch safe.
Plucked from the dregs of straight to video hell and never ending Look Who’s Talking sequels, John Travolta rises to the occasion delivering what might very well be his greatest acting achievement. Samuel L. Jackson too delivers his best performance with years of wallowing in bit parts finally paying off, while Hollywood superstar Bruce Willis continues to surprise making good choices to counter act with his typically big budget fare.
Uma Thurman is superb, Harvey Keitel and Christopher Walken shine in unique minor roles, while the likes of Eric Stoltz, Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer, Roseanna Arquette and Ving Rhames will never be able to surpass what might very well be their most memorable, if not best performances
There are no “good guys” found in Pulp Fiction. This is a movie about criminals with the violence and drug use shown in grim detail. Some may say that it glorifies criminal life, but this critic cannot agree. Sure some of the characters come off as “cool”, but Tarantino clearly shows the consequences to the characters actions with Uma Thurman’s overdose scene a case in point on how the excesses of doing drugs can lead to disastrous results.