While I discuss the outline of this film, I don’t give away any pivotal spoilers. But come on… this film has been out for a while.
Usually, when I go to the cinema to see a re-run of an old film, it’s no more than 30% full, therefore it really shows the staying power that in my screening of Pulp Fiction, over 80% of the seats were taken (I should have booked earlier and gotten better seats). So what is it that draws so many people to a 25 year old film on a Summer Wednesday evening in Portsmouth?
Well, firstly, the sheer amount happening means all one hundred and fifty four minutes of this movie keep you engaged. Ringo and Yelanda discuss where to rob, before deciding the restaraunt they are in. Roll credits. Vince and Jules are hitmen who go to pick up a briefcase belonging to gangster Marsellus Wallace, before they drop it off in a bar where Marsellus is talking to boxer Butch. Marsellus then asks Vince to keep his wife Mia company while he is out of town. After this, Butch wins a boxing match he is fixed to lose and tries to escape Marsellus. Once this arc is over, we go back to Vince and Jules picking up the briefcase, after which they need to clean their car with the help of Winston Wolff. They then go to the diner for breakfast which Ringo and Yelanda are about to hold up. Simple right?
The highlight of Pulp Fiction is undoubtedly the characters and there are lots of them. Vince (John Travolta) and Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) are arguably the main ones. We support these characters quickly as they quibble about foot massages and what Europeans call quarter pounders. Mia (Uma Thurman) shows herself to be a lose cannon, making Vince feel awkward and constantly second guessing himself. Butch (Bruce Willis) shows a confident and gritty side, yet deep loyalty to his dead father. It takes one conversation about crime for us to get to know about Ringo (Tim Roth) and Yolanda (Amanda Plummer). One line of Winston Wolfe (Harvey Keitel) and we know what his deal is. With such a large ensemble, they could easily be forgotten. Yet for every single character, Quentin Tarantino does such a good job with their dialogue that we know everything we need to and whether we like them within a minute.
As well as some of the greatest dialogue and characters to grace the big screen, every single song in Pulp Fiction is brilliant. I can’t remember such a great “unoriginal” soundtrack. Starting from the two minute credit scene ten minutes in, which is made bearable by Dick Dale’s “Misirlou”, going to “Jungle Boogie” by Kool and the Gang. Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell” is iconic in the Vince and Mia dance scene. Urge Overkill and Dusty Springfield are two other names which add such an atmosphere to each of these scenes.
All of these factors make the jumbled saturated mess that is Pulp Fiction into one of the great atmospheric films.
But what could Pulp Fiction do better?
To some, Pulp Fiction is sacred. However, there are some things I was left questioning. While the dialogue was usually fantastic, Tarantino’s character’s felt out of place. It’s not really a film to go around quoting in the first place but Tarantino felt like he wanted to be edgy without adding substance.
For such a long film, Butch and his wife also felt pointless. They could’ve cut his storyline out and given Mia or Vince an extra thirty minutes which would’ve been much better as Thurman particularly felt under-utilised. The scene in the basement with “The Gimp” also felt out of place and only there to see how much the audience could take, instead of adding anything of note to the story. Again, Tarantino attempting to be outrageous for the sake of it.
But for those criticisms and what Pulp Fiction gets wrong, it gets much more right with imaginative, creative ways to tell its story. Every scene had intellegent moments which would refer to others. Thus, I imagine, the more you watch the film, the more you will get out of it. Long scenes of dialogue kept your attention when in a poorly written script you would’ve gotten bored.
With great story telling, fun characters and some fantastic long scenes of dialogue, Tarantino’s defining film is deserving of it’s cult status. While he sometimes crosses the line between being edgy in a good way and in a bad way, this is offset by the large amount he gets right. A great screenplay. [As this is an old film, I will not grade it.]
What did you think of it? Comment on the bottom of the page.
Maybe one day Tarantino will come up with an original idea instead of copying the Direct Line adverts.