Review No. 476
As eternally transfixing as Marsellus Wallace’s luminous suitcase.
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY QUENTIN TARANTINO. STORIES BY ROGER AVARY AND TARANTINO. STARRING JOHN TRAVOLTA (VINCENT VEGA), SAMUEL L. JACKSON (JULES WINNFIELD), UMA THURMAN (MIA WALLACE), HARVEY KEITEL (WINSTON “THE WOLF” WOLFE), TIM ROTH (“PUMPKIN”/”RINGO”), AMANDA PLUMMER (YOLANDA/”HONEY BUNNY”), MARIA DE MEDEIROS (FABIENNE), VING RHAMES (MARSELLUS WALLACE), ERIC STOLTZ (LANCE), JODY (ROSANNA ARQUETTE), CHRISTOPHER WALKEN (CAPTAIN KOONS), AND BRUCE WILLIS (BUTCH COOLIDGE). ALSO STARRING PHIL LAMARR, FRANK WHALEY, BURR STEERS, PAUL CALDERÓN, BRONAGH GALLAGHER, MICHAEL GILDEN, SUSAN GRIFFITHS, STEVE BUSCEMI, ANGELA JONES, KATHY GRIFFIN, DUANE WHITAKER, PETER GREENE, STEPHEN HIBBERT, QUENTIN TARANTINO, AND JULIA SWEENEY. DISTRIBUTED BY MIRAMAX FILMS ON OCTOBER 14, 1994. PRODUCED IN ENGLISH BY THE UNITED STATES. RUNS 2 HOURS, 34 MINUTES. RATED R BY THE MPAA, FOR STRONG GRAPHIC VIOLENCE AND DRUG USE, PERVASIVE STRONG LANGUAGE AND SOME SEXUALITY.
PULP FICTION WAS WATCHED ON MAY 10, 2013.
“The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who in the name of charity and good will shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord…when I lay my vengeance upon thee.” –Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson)
Cue up Dick Dale’s “Misirlou”. Or Kool & the Gang’s “Jungle Boogie”. Or Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell”. Writer-drector Quentin Tarantino uses these songs just as he uses every other stylistic element in Pulp Fiction: to add an extra dose of dark, humorous flavor to his quixotic screenplay. Tarantino approaches the project with a simplistic intent of being carefree and fun, and through this, he achieves genius. Pulp Fiction is so carefree, so fun, and so delightfully outrageous, that the urge to play it again is irresistible.
I had the entire movie spoiled for me. I didn’t know it front to back, but I knew how it was going to end and, for the most part, why. And yet Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction still struck me like an unpredictable lightning bolt. Tarantino doesn’t play god with his works, he is god with his works. And as the genius that he is, it’s a harsh understatement to refer to such brilliance as a “comedy” or a “thriller.” He throws both those genres for a wild loop.
Pulp Fiction sets us up with several stories of corruption and, later, redemption. Even if not all at once, these stories have tied together by the end. Essentially, the one connecting the stories is Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames), a high-profile mobster in Los Angeles, California. We don’t realize it immediately, but the film’s leading plot focuses around his fabled power: you screw him over, you die; and yet so many of his trusted subordinates are bound to screw him over. He is taking vacation on his own, and he asks Vincent Vega (John Travolta) to take his wife, Mia (Uma Thurman), for a “fun night.” It starts out with dancing, and before she knows it, she’s already overdosed and gone comatose. Marsellus agrees to provide Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis), a hotheaded boxing champ, with a large amount of money, so long as he can cheat his way out of a match. Instead, he takes the money and refuses his half of the deal.
Pulp Fiction is your ideal “black comedy.” Its depiction of violence marked revolutionary extremities upon its initial release, and that’s not all there is in this landmark look at depravity. But the through-the-eyes view allows us to see through the eyes of the main characters. It’s an incredibly dark movie, but it’s surprisingly lighthearted. The levity John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson add, via their philosophical debates, is absolutely immeasurable. The villains aren’t their characters or Marsellus or Butch or Mia. If anyone, they’re the characters we don’t see very often. The story progresses due to the mess the characters get caught up in with one another. As Samuel might put it, it’s because of “the iniquities of the selfish,” not “the tyranny of evil men.” I’ve said too much already, and I mustn’t spoil any more. It’s impossible not to rock along with Pulp Fiction; you will know the auteur is Tarantino when he lays his genius upon thee.
Jules (Samuel L. Jackson): “English, motherf___er! Do you speak it?!”
Brett (Frank Whaley): “Yes.”
Jules: “Then you know what I’m saying.”
Jules: “Describe what Marsellus Wallace looks like.”
Jules: “Say ‘what’ again! Say! ‘what’! again! I dare you! I double-dare you, motherf___er! Say ‘what’ one more goddamn time!”