Pulp Fiction (1994)
Pulp Fiction is a movie that is hard to pigeon hole into any particular genre. It is comedy, it is drama, it is action thriller and it is tragedy. I picked this movie to watch and review in a similar fashion as last week’s movie. Last week I chose “The Untouchables” because something about the week prior reminded me about that movie. This week was the same. In the week prior our instructor brought up identifiable themes of particular directors and used Quentin Tarantino as an example. He mentioned “the trunk shot”, where Tarantino always seems to have a scene where the camera is pointed outward from the trunk of a car at the actors. That was something that hadn’t occurred to me to be cognizant of while watching a movie, so that gave me the impetus to watch Pulp Fiction again since it had been many years since I had last seen it. I was further reminded of it because of the movie Memento, which was reviewed by some last week. Memento has a similar trait in that it is non-linear, although Pulp Fiction doesn’t run precisely backwards in time.
Pulp Fiction doesn’t follow any one particular story line but instead has several sub-themes that all somehow either intersect or are inter-related. As such, this makes it a hard film to review by conventional means. It is more of a collection of short stories than it is a single movie. Each act it contains may or may not follow the prior act, more often than not having no chronological relationship to the act that appeared before it. In fact, in one act a main character meets his end, only to appear in later acts. In describing the movie’s timeline to someone who hadn’t seen it, I described it as beginning and ending in the middle of the story, with each of the acts between the beginning and the end having no bearing on the continuity of the entire movie. Somehow, Tarantino made it work. How, I’m not exactly sure, but it did work and was very entertaining.
One story line depicted in a few of the acts involved an over-the-hill boxer named Butch. He is convinced by a local big-time gangster named Marcellus Wallace to take a fall in the fight, allowing the gangster to make a good deal of money by betting on the challenger. Butch has plans of his own which aren’t revealed until after the fight is over, and a whole new set of dramatic incidents take place in the wake of Butch thwarting the plan.
Another plot line involves two hit men employed by Marcellus Wallace to retrieve a briefcase from some small-time thugs who didn’t act as expected or agreed. Although the briefcase is central to the why of the story, the story itself is far more about the personal motivation, aspirations and relationships of the two hit men. Not too many people would consider that two hit men might have idle conversations about fast food restaurants in Europe or infidelity and consequences before they go and blow people away, but that is exactly what is depicted. The extreme juxtaposition of the brutality of what they do and the banality and mundane nature of their idle banter beforehand is striking. One of the hit men having a spiritual experience or epiphany and deciding to quit the game makes for even more stark contrasting and entertainment.
Another separate plot line involved one of the hit men who had been tasked by Marcellus Wallace to take Mrs. Wallace (Mia) out for dinner while he was out of town. I won’t say any more about it for fear of spoiling what happens, but it ended up making for some of the more iconic and memorable moments of the movie, particularly during their dancing during “The Twist” competition at Jack Rabbit Slims restaurant.
Almost a sub-plot involves a husband and wife, small time robbery team. The movie opens with them having a conversation in a coffee shop about the dangers they expose themselves to because of the types of establishments they target. The movie comes full circle to their conversation and some amazing events that follow involving the two hit men who happened to be in the restaurant at the time.
There is little to not like in Pulp Fiction. Tarantino’s genius shines brightest in this movie, in my opinion, over anything else he has done, including Reservoir Dogs. One theme that I noticed in this movie as compared to Reservoir Dogs was his playing of bit parts in the movies, and his repeated use of similar names. In particular, Reservoir Dogs featured a character named Victor Vega, while Pulp Fiction featured a character named Vincent Vega. Our instructor’s mention of the film shots from a trunk was also evident, and now I want to watch and re-watch other Tarantino movies to see those as well.