This one is good, real good. Quentin Tarantino is one of the most gifted filmmakers working today, and his “Pulp Fiction” is a film you could discuss for hours. It’s often referred to as the most influential film of the 1990s, and I have no problem believing that. I wrote a 50-page essay about it in film school but for this review, my goal is not to dissect every single detail and spoil everything for a reader who hasn’t seen it. I can’t even really tell you about the plot too much, because what’s fun about the film is how it’s made of all these different stories that cross paths to get to unexpected places.
“I ain’t your friend, palooka.”
John Travolta went from ’70s icon to ’90s superstar with his striking performance as Vincent Vega, a long-haired junkie who’s always keeping his cool, even while he works as a hit-man. He moves smoothly and talks slowly, it’s almost as if he were living at another pace (his heroin habit probably contributes to that). Vega works for Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames), a millionaire crime kingpin. Big, bald and black, he ain’t the kind of man you wanna screw with. Vega was Wallace’s guy in Amsterdam for a few years, but now he’s back in Los Angeles, where’s he’s teamed with Jules Winfield (Samuel L. Jackson).
“Say ‘what’ again. Say ‘what’ again, I dare you, I double dare you motherfucker, say what one more goddamn time!”
Jules is definitively my favorite character. With his afro, his funky facial hair and his street talk, he’s like a Blaxploitation hero. He’s a killer, but he still has values. He brings to the film a deeper core, as he becomes a different man after a truly mind-blowing event. That’s a side of the film that’s often overlooked, even though it’s essential. Think about it: without Jules’ redemption, I don’t believe the film would be so powerful. But don’t think that Jackson is always all serious. Travolta and him have great chemistry together, and Tarantino gives them plenty of fun dialogue to sink their teeth into. Their conversations about the little things in life are one of the really unique things about the film. My favorite Jackson scene though is when he talks bullshit with a young man he’s gonna kill. It’s hilarious how the guy is terrified while Jules fools around, taking a bite of his cheeseburger, a sip of his Sprite… And the tension keeps building up, but Jules always stays in control, until he’s ready to do what he’s got to do…
“Honey, since I left you, this has been without a doubt the single weirdest fucking day of my life!”
Tarantino is a brilliant writer, but he’s also a damn good director. His camera is very dynamic, and his visuals are inventive. People sometimes criticize how he steals tricks from other movies but to me, that’s what makes him so special. By combining stuff he learned from Godard, Leone, Scorsese, De Palma and others, he creates a unique blend that is always exciting. He also has a talent at getting the best out of his cast, and every scene is exceptionally well crafted. Even though his films are more about characters and dialogue, they often feature violent action scenes. In “Pulp Fiction”, the most visceral moments are probably in the story involving Butch Coolidge, an aging boxer who’s supposed to take a dive for Marsellus Wallace, but decides to do things differently. Before long, he’s on the run from angry gangsters, only to fall in an even bigger nightmare when he comes across a couple of perverted rednecks. I won’t say more, but let just say that things get awfully rough!
“I want that trophy, so dance good.”
Butch is played by Bruce Willis, who’s really cool even without the big budget mayhem that usually surrounds him. He’s a pretty great actor, actually. He even has some tender scenes with his annoying French girlfriend Fabienne. Cause, ya know, the film ain’t always violent. By moments, it’s quieter, but still damn fun, like when Vincent goes out with Marsellus’ wife, Mia, played by the delicious Uma Thurman. They chat, they get to know each other, they even dance the twist! Of course, Tarantino ain’t gonna let them (and the audience) get too comfy too long…
“I think fast, I talk fast and I need you guys to act fast if you wanna get out of this. So, pretty please… with sugar on top. Clean the fucking car.”
And that’s “Pulp Fiction”: you never know what’s coming. Tarantino takes us from story to story, from one set of oddballs to the other. I’ve only named a few so far, but the movie features a lot more memorable characters. Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer play a couple of small-time thieves who stumble on real pros. The always intense Harvey Keitel can also be seen as Mr. Wolf, who’s specialized in solving problems and that’s one hell of a messy situation he’s called in to clean up! And who can forget Christopher Walken, who has an already classic cameo as a Vietnam veteran. Then there’s Eric Stoltz as a drug dealer, Rosanna Arquette as his body-pierced wife, Steve Buscemi as a ’50s diner waiter, and Tarantino himself as Jules’ abused friend in the Valley.
“I think we should be leaving now.”
“Pulp Fiction” is a spellbinding film. It works on many different levels, and each scene seems to tap into one of Tarantino’s influences. Some even say it’s more of an anthology than a film, since it’s so jam-packed with pop culture references. The visuals are awesome and so is the soundtrack, which gives a really cool feel to the film, with everything from surf music to funk. This is a picture you can watch over and over without ever growing tired of it.