Pulp Fiction

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Director: Quentin Tarantino.
Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino, Roger Avary.
Starring: John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis, Uma Thurman, Harvey Keitel, Ving Rhames, Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer, Christopher Walken, Eric Stoltz, Rosanna Arquette, Quentin Tarantino, Maria de Madieros, Frank Whaley, Phil LaMarr, Alexis Arquette, Burr Steers, Paul Calderon, Bronagh Gallagher, Angela Jones, Peter Greene, Duane Whitaker, Stephen Hibbert, Julia Sweeney, Robert Ruth, Lawrence Bender, Steve Buscemi.

“Oh man, I will never forgive your ass for this shit. This is some fucked up repugnant shit”

By the time that Quentin Tarantino’s sophomore effort reached us in 1994, he had already been heralded as the new wunderkind of American cinema. His debut Reservoir Dogs recaptured the magic of the heist thriller and his screenplay to the bold and brilliant True Romance opened up a real desire to see more of his fast-talking low life’s. Pulp Fiction is certainly no different and is now widely considered one of the best films ever made. It received 7 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Director and one for each of it’s leading trio of actors in Travolta, Thurman and Jackson. It walked away with the Best Screenplay award and it won the coveted Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. On this evidence alone, it’s hard to argue that Tarantino not only delivered on, but surpassed, his early promise.

In L.A.’s criminal underworld, the lives and stories of the inhabitants intertwine. There are two hitmen with very different outlooks, a boxer forced to take a dive for the money, a gangster’s moll who likes to dance and do drugs and many others who play a part in influencing their redemptive paths.

…a shapeless mass of matter” or “a magazine or book containing lurid subject matter…“. These are the definitions of the word “Pulp” which we are provided with before the film even begins. As a result, Tarantino’s masterpiece is self-referential from the opening title card. What follows is only proof of his intentions to recreate the trashy and hardboiled pulp novels of the early 20th century. Even the film’s poster reflects the sensational cover art of these novels and it’s this attention to detail that’s often overlooked in Tarantino’s homage to a bygone age. I suppose it’s understandable that these details are overlooked considering Tarantino’s highly stylish approach. He employs his (now common) nonlinear storylines and chapters, his abundantly original cast of characters and his dialogue has rarely been sharper. Quite honestly, he takes great pride in making pop-cultural allusions but due to it’s success the film itself has now entered the very pop-culture it revels in. To this day, it’s endlessly quoted and few, if any, will ever frown at you inquisitively if you were to make a Pulp Fiction reference.

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It’s not just the one-liners, the observant monologues or the endless back and forth, intelligent and philosophical discussions between the characters, it’s the fact that snippets of dialogue actually matter in terms of the overall structure. Something can be flippantly mentioned one minute only for it to resurface with relevance at a later part in the film. Ultimately, it’s the dialogue that brings every strand together and it’s, quite simply, masterfully constructed.

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To embody his colourful characters, Tarantino assembles his most impressive cast yet. Considering his relative obscurity at the time, it was a bit of a gamble to have John Travolta headline the whole affair as hitman Vincent Vega (the brother of Michael Madsen’s Vic Vega from Reservoir Dogs) but I don’t think I’d be alone in saying that it was a welcome return to scintillating form. Uma Thurman also impresses as Mia, the coke snorting gangster’s moll who seems ill at ease with all the violence and whispers that surround her no-nonsense kingpin husband Marsellus Wallace (a brilliant Ving Rhames). Even the limited acting skills of Bruce Willis are all but forgotten as the self-important, ageing pugilist Butch Coolidge. The real prize possession, however, would have to be Samuel L. Jackson’s Jules Winnfield; as Vincent’s unhinged partner (and “Bad Motherfucker“) he likes to quote passages from the bible and believes in divine intervention. Jackson is absolutely tremendous and it’s a role that has become the signature of his understanding and expertise in delivering a quality line.

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There are so many great performances that it’s hard to mention them all. From top to bottom, the whole cast bring Tarantino’s dialogue to life; from the aforementioned main performers to the supporting likes of Christopher Walken’s Capt. Koons who hid an uncomfortable watch “up his ass” for 2 years to Zed and Maynard – Peter Greene and Duane Whitaker’s white trash who like to “bring out the gimp” and sodomise their captives. There’s even a character who only gets mentioned by name but still makes an impression: Antwone Rockamora, brilliantly nicknamed “Tony Rocky Horror” who’s mentioned in an unforgettable, lengthy discussion on the sexual implications of massaging a woman’s feet and whether it’s in the same ballpark as “sticking your tongue in the holiest of the holies“. So iconic are these characters and dialogue that most will know exactly what I’m talking about without me having to elaborate and therein lies the sheer joy and richness of the film.

From illuminated McGuffins to Big Kahuna Burgers, Pulp Fiction is one of a kind. It redefined the crime film with it’s emphasis on cool and endlessly quotable dialogue and there’s so much attention to characterisation that Tarantino could have made several films from his material. Watching “a bunch of gangsters doin’ a bunch of gangster shit” has never been more enjoyable.

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(Included in My Top Ten films)

Mark Walker

Trivia: Other actors considered for the film included Daniel Day-Lewis as Vincent, Mickey Rourke, Matt Dillon and Sylvester Stallone as Butch, Paul Calderon as Jules, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daryl Hannah, Meg Ryan, Joan Cusack and Isabella Rossellini as Mia. Rosanna Arquette also auditioned for Mia, but was offered Jody instead.

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47 Responses to “Pulp Fiction”

  1. Happy New Year Mark! Glad to see you blogging again.

    I haven’t seen this in ages but I always remember that iconic dance scene. It’s a bit too violent for me so I haven’t got the urge to see it again, but I can see why people love it 😀

    Like

    • Happy New Year, Ruth. I thought i’d get back to reviewing with obe of my favourite films to spur me on. I can see why it would be too violent for you but i always found the violence to be done with tongue-in-cheek and theres so many iconic scenes that it’s always worth another visit.

      Like

  2. One of my all time favorite films. Nice writeup and I completely agree

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  3. Love this film. Actually have the screenplay somewhere – equally fun to read!

    Like

  4. My man is back!

    I gotta say I’m surprised that you haven’t reviewed this before. I knew you really liked Pulp Fiction. You point out several of its strengths, but don’t forget the great use of music. That soundtrack was great.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’M BACK!!! 😉
      Hopefully, I can keep it up. Thought I’d return with a personal favourite and one i’ve always been meaning to write about. Can’t believe i missed out a mention for the soundtrack, though. Damn!!! I thought I’d covered all the bases.

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  5. One of my favorites of all-time. Good review Mark. Happy to see you back.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. jackdeth72 Says:

    Happy New Year, Mark!

    An excellent dissertation on a fine piece of ensemble acting brought together by a cast no one really expected at the time. I didn’t think Mr. Travolta could pull the role off before sitting down to an early matinee. I was mistaken by the film’s end. And had a new and very long list of talent to keep an eye on in the future.

    Great lines, oddball situations tinged with Hipster gallows humor as the film’s three tales come together.

    Exception stuff, indeed.

    Cheers!

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    • Happ new Year Jack and thanks again for stopping by. I couldn’t agree more on your thoughts. Travolta was a real piece of genius casting and it worked a treat. Tarantino tends to always get his cadting spot on, though.

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  7. Great review of an absolute classic, my man! The script is just superb and Samuel L. Jackson electrifies!

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  8. Ah, Pulp Fiction is a beauty. Fantastic review Mark. This movie is wonderful, and indeed in dire need of a rewatch by me!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Happy New Year! Pulp Fiction is QT’s masterpiece and this review wonderfully illustrates why. Absolutely great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Never heard of it!
    Haha. Seriously – one of my favourite films, there’s so much to love about it, a lot of which you’ve mentioned. People use the word masterpiece too often but this really is one. Very few mainstream American directors have been able to deliver such a confident, cinema-changing work so early in their careers. Coppola, Spielberg, I guess. Amazing how this reverberated through the 90s and still influences films today, despite the fact QT himself is the ultimate magpie! Good read mate.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Couldnt agree more, man. You could say it’s one of the most influential from contemporary American cinema but I’d say it’s actually in the history of American cinema. You’re right about QT being the ultimate magpie too. However, he manages to put his own spin on it and make it all seem fresh. It’s amazing how much he influenced cinema considering he was pilfering from as much as he could himself.

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  11. I love this movie. That’s pretty much all I can say about it. An absolute modern classic.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. love this movie. QT really knows how to wrote a great story and obviously dialogue and this is one of his best.

    great review!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Excellent review Mark, still can’t beat that dance scene.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Great review, Mark. Pulp Fiction holds up well whether you’ve seen it just once, or for the umpteenth time. A modern classic, if there ever was one. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cheers Michael. I used to watch it religously when it first came out but hadn’t seen it in years after that. Caught it again recently and it was just as good as I remembered it. Top Quality stuff.

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  15. Hi Mark! 2015 will be a good year because you are blogging again. The one scene that sticks in my mind over and over is the overdose scene and bringing Mia Wallace back to life. The foam, the search for the syringe, the inhale, the reactions–outstanding. This film is the best of 1990s and certainly in the top ten of all time, in my estimation. Great review 🙂

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    • Cheers Cindy. Here’s hoping i can keep on contributing to a good year then! 😉

      Im with you on that scene. The panic felt by everyone is definitely there and often the likes of Eric Stoltz and Rosanna Arquette are never given credit for a very believable argument by man and wife. Easy to overlook but it really struck me on my recent viewing.

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  16. What a classic, eh? Hard to believe it’s 20 years old. Yikes. So many classic scenes and characters. Zed’s dead Mark!

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    • Zed’s dead baby! 😉

      Yeah, man! 20 years old and its taken me that long to write something about it. Its a classic and no mistake. Just how many lines from it (comfortably) spring to mind? Too many to even count.

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  17. Great review! This is my all-time favourite film and the quotability is second to none. That Ezekial 25:17 quote is applicable to pretty much any social situation.

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    • Much obliged! Totally agree on the quotability. The only film I quote more is The Big Lebowski. These films never let you down when you’re looking for a great line. 🙂

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  18. I think you’ve said it best here Mothereffin Mark!!! ‘Pulp Fiction’ just continues to blow away, upon each subsequent watch. And you know what’s really crazy? You can mention any given quote from this film and they still don’t approach the “overused/cliche” category that lesser films’ admittedly more brilliant one-liners often do. Cheers to Quentin Tarantino for delivering this.

    I’m oh-so-curious to see what his ‘Hateful Eight’ might be like. . .

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    • Absolutely, bro! I don’t think I’ve ever found myslef cracking a Pulp Fiction reference, line or joke and the company around me hasn’t got it. It works every time. It’s a bonafide classic.

      And, Yes, The Hateful Eight is sounding very good indeed. Can’t wait!

      Liked by 1 person

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