Pulp Fiction (1994)

Pulp_Fiction_coverPulp Fiction was a very eclectic kind of film. It incorporated a vast plethora of genres in a way that made it seem like several films blended together, and illustrated an unconventional style of narrative, and worked splendidly. It’s no wonder why the film is frequently among the favourites of established critics. In fact, many still proclaim this film to be among the greatest films of all time, and in that regard, its reputation is absolutely well-earned.

The story concerns three distinct characters – a contract killer named Vincent Vega, his partner Jules Winfield, and a prizefighter named Butch Coolidge. Their stories happen out of chronological sequence, and they sometimes intersect in various ways that you might not notice immediately. Even though the film sometimes seems like a bloated crime film due to its length, a lot happens in the film’s rich, non-linear story. One thing I noticed is that much of the story is told through monologues and casual conversations, and I’d say it was a great way of delving into the characters and their personalities, and by the time the film ends, you may find yourself thoroughly invested in the lives of the film’s wise-cracking hitmen and other shady characters.

In this regard, I think that the appeal and success of Pulp Fiction has less to do with its gripping story and rich narrative, and more to do with the brilliant performances given by its characters. The film rescued John Travolta from the realm of the washed-up actor, cemented Bruce Willis as a serious actor, and brought Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman and Tim Roth to the forefront of Hollywood’s pantheon of respectable film actors. The acting was powerful in its delivery of Tarantino’s electric barrage of brilliantly coarse dialogue, much of which has become endlessly quotable. Every character in the movie shined brightly like sizzling firecrackers, from John Travolta’s role as the leading hitman to Bruce Willis’ role as an ageing pugilist, and from Ving Rhames’ role as a gangster kingpin to Harvey Keitel’s role as the fixer. However, the greatest performance of all came from Samuel L. Jackson, who plays the role of Travolta’s partner. His was a role that epitomized the spirit of Tarantino’s films more than anyone else, with the raw, unhinged presence of his character.

The film also serves an excellent way of showcasing Quentin Tarantino’s unique sense of stylish film-making. Of course, his style, and that of Pulp Fiction, is steeped in the aesthetic and atmospheric qualities of older films, but he manages to take what he loves most about those older films and synthesizing them into a totally original cinematic experience. If anything, the film lives up to the literal definition of its title, in the sense that it’s like a book of lurid subject matter, and yet the way it presents itself illustrates a syncretic mix of slick film production and the roughness of pulp. With its sharp humour, bold acting and brilliant narrative, this film will remain a shining example of great film-making, and a must-see for anyone who loves film.

  • Score: 92%
  • Grade: A
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3 thoughts on “Pulp Fiction (1994)

  1. I have seen this film. The plot seems to be similar to anthologised crime stories, short stories with characters interacting with characters from other stories. One of the interesting things about the film is the way some aspects of the film are not explained. For example, I have never worked out what the contents of the briefcase are, what Brad and his friends’ (who resemble University students) relationship with Marcellus Wallace was and why Vince Vega shows contempt for Butch when they first meet. I do not know if this is intended to add mystery to the film or whether these are supposed to be other stories not explored by the characters shown in the film. I find it interesting how Jules begins the film as a cold-blooded hitman and ends the film as a kid wanting to emulate a TV hero. I also like the way the scene with Brad is lit, the early morning light gives an ethereal feel which is exacerbated by the “miracle” which occurs there. What are the monologues and casual conversations you enjoyed?

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    1. The conversations I enjoyed the most were the conversations between Vega and Jules, although I’d single out the one between Butch and his girlfriend for special mention (even though Butch was rude, you could tell why). By the way, the other stuff you mentioned was quite interesting. Covering it would probably have added more depth, but make the film even longer.

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      1. I agree that the conversations between Vega and Jules are entertaining, showing the two gossiping about their boss, arguing about a strange experience and Vega trying to debunk Jules wish to “walk the Earth”. I mention the idea of the unseen stories being unread chapters in a book because of a comment Quentin Tarantino made about the Reservoir Dogs film. Claiming he hates it when parts of the film are referred to as flashbacks, the director states that he wanted to change the order of the story of the film similar to the way how novels change the sequence of events in their stories. This comment made me think of Pulp Fiction as the filming of an anthology of crime stories, with only some stories filmed.

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