Pulp Fiction (1994) (R)
Quentin Tarantino's second feature is something of mystery—a comedic masterpiece punctuated with acts of violence, intelligence, and surprising emotions.
Tarantino's first film was the iconic crime thriller "Reservoir Dogs" which placed him on the cinema map, a place that he never left. For being such a ruthless, dedicated, and bizarre director, it's odd how successful he's become. But then when you look at the scope of a movie like "Pulp Fiction" it's easy to see why Tarantino is one of the most celebrated directors of the current age.
The movie begins with two slightly nervous lovers talking at breakfast—Pumpkin (Tim Roth) and Honey Bunny (Amanda Plummer). They are Bonnie and Clyde types; robbing and getting rich while they are still young. The love birds discuss what it's like to rob convenience stores and gas stations and grocers...etc. etc. But Pumpkin has an idea, what if one was to rob a restaurant? No one is really expecting to get robbed while they are eating their first meal, so why not? The couple then kiss, whip out their guns, and demand for everyone to shut up and get out their money—this is a robbery!
Cue the main titles and we are then deposited in the middle of a conversation between Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) and Vincent (John Travolta) concerning the differences in European and American fast-food cuisine. These two are on their way towards extortion and frightening a group of young men into giving them money and/or drugs. But you wouldn't know this the way these two carry on...they talk about the boss and his wife, hamburgers some more, and foot massages.
In the first ten minutes of the movie there is more dialogue than in some other entire films. It would seem that Tarantino has two speeds in "Pulp Fiction": very fast or silent.
A series of stories interconnect throughout the entirety of "Pulp Fiction" as characters try to manipulate, philosophize, and just stay alive.
There's the main boss: Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames) and his wife Mia (Uma Thurman). They are the top dogs of the movie, although they are also the characters that are on-screen the least amount.
Wallace runs practically everything in "Pulp Fiction"; for it is a gangster and drug-lord's world that Tarantino drops us into. There's under-the-table dealing, fights, and naturally lots of high escalating violence that explodes out of no where.
The appeal of "Pulp Fiction" is indescribable. The characters are so real and so fully embodied by a cast that is virtually unrivaled...it's hard to beat good writing paired with good acting.
It's some of the minor roles that show Tarantino's character ability. Take for example Esmarelda (Angela Jones), a cab driver who acts as a get away driver. She is morbid, has a dark background, and is insatiably curious—and we know all of this from less than ten minutes of screen time.
The array of characters include a boxer who is told to throw his fight, the boxer's girlfriend who is obsessed with the idea of getting a pot belly, and a couple of drug dealers who are less than eloquent.
There is no stop to the kaleidoscope of mayhem and glorious originality that Tarantino brings to life in his sophomore film.
Though it was nominated for seven Academy Awards, it only won one—best original screenplay for Tarantino and co-writer Roger Avary. To be fair though, the impact of this film goes far beyond the Oscars...it has become the quintessential crime movie, the piece that defined Tarantino's career, and a reference for all movies to follow that showed any similarity to it.
The subtle performances come from Bruce Willis and Christopher Walken; but to be honest Uma Thurman steals the show. Every scene she's in has her quirky and addicted Mia climbing over the other actors to soak up the lime light.
Tarantino uses the same actors a lot—just from "Reservoir Dogs" he takes Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, and Steve Buscemi (I didn't even know he was in the film until I saw the credits). He would use Samuel L. Jackson many times after "Pulp Fiction" as he would with Thurman.
The movie is self-reflected of Tarantino's nerdy-ness—he even has one scene where Jules and Vincent tell Jimmie (Tarantino in a small role) that his clothes are dorky.
Surprising cameo roles pop up like a one-liner Kathy Griffin.
The movie's attraction lies in the multiple stories that it juggles, and how it handles them.
"Pulp Fiction" is Tarantino's crowning achievement—hilarious, morbid, and fascinating.
Score: 4 out of 4 stars
Posted by Micah Jones