Tuesday, September 18, 2012

#764. Pulp Fiction (1994)

Directed By: Quentin Tarantino

Starring: John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Samuel L. Jackson

Tag line: "Just because you are a character doesn't mean you have character"

Trivia: Tri-Star Pictures passed on producing this film because their studio chief found the script "too demented"

Pulp Fiction, Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 masterpiece, consists of three interlocking stories that follow a select group of characters in modern-day Los Angeles. 

Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) and Vincent (John Travolta) are hit men working for crime boss Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames). One morning, Marsellus sends them to retrieve a stolen briefcase, a simple assignment for these two professionals, yet one that leads Jules to a life-altering realization. 

When Marsellus leaves town on business, he asks Vincent to keep an eye on his erratic wife, Mia (Uma Thurman). Vincent takes the alluring Mrs. Wallace out to dinner, and they even enter a dance contest. Still, despite Vincent's best efforts, the evening is destined to end badly. 

Then we have Butch (Bruce Willis), a boxer in the twilight of his career. Marsellus offers Butch a large sum of money to throw his next bout, but when the aging fighter instead pulls a double-cross, he ignites a personal feud between himself and Mr. Wallace that, before it’s over, will put the two men at the mercy of a sadistic security guard named Zed (Peter Greene).

There are some great, great scenes in Pulp Fiction, providing equal doses of shocks and laughs, but the film owes the majority of its success to Tarantino’s sharp, snappy dialogue. Almost every give-and-take in Pulp Fiction is a classic. Aside from the now-famous ‘Royale with cheese’ exchange, where Vincent explains to Jules why the McDonald’s in France don’t sell Quarter Pounders, there’s the dinner discussion that begins with Vincent asking Mia why anyone would pay $5 for a milkshake. 

Each and every character gets in on the fun, but Samuel L. Jackson's Jules stands above them all. From his showdown with Brett (Frank Whaley) to the final scene with two would-be thieves (Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer), Jackson is a force to be reckoned with, and his performance earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor (Travolta was also nominated for Best Actor, while Thurman was up for Best Actress)  

As great as Samuel L. Jackson is, however, Pulp Fiction's finest sequence is actually a flashback, where a young Butch (played by Chandler Lindauer) receives a visit from Capt. Koons (Christopher Walken), a soldier who spent time with Butch’s late father in a Vietnamese Prisoner of War camp. Capt. Koons is there to give the boy a special wristwatch, one that has been in Butch's family for generations. The watch’s colorful history, as related by Capt. Koons, is both tender and riveting, yet you can’t help but chuckle at the incredible lengths to which the Captain went to hide this prized possession from the enemy. Walken is superb in this brief cameo, and despite his limited contribution, he leaves his mark on the picture… just like everybody else.

If Reservoir Dogs trumpeted Tarantino’s arrival, Pulp Fiction proved he was here to stay, winning the prestigious Palme d’Or at that year’s Cannes Film Festival and landing the writer/director his first Academy Award (for Best Original Screenplay, which he shared with Roger Avery). Not since Martin Scorsese in the ‘70s had a young filmmaker generated such excitement in the global cinematic community.

Perhaps most impressive of all, he was still just getting started.


Anthony Lee Collins said...

A lot of things changed after Pulp Fiction. The combination of violence, sharp dialogue, and giddy did-they-just-do-that? laughs can be seen in movies as recent as Kick-Ass.

And, more than any other picture, it launched the indie studios into the center of the film business, as opposed to just being on the fringes.

Jake Moore AKA: @RiverCityOtter said...

"Pulp Fiction" as you pointed out Dave is a true film masterpiece! The film that mainstream everyone put #QuentinTarantino on our collective cinematic maps! This is one of the few films I rate as a 10 of 10! I often say "Pulp Fiction" is in a tie for my favorite film with "Citizen Kane" #OrsonWelles timeless tale of ruthless obsession! Welles let the viewer know rosebud was that obsession but Tarantino will seemingly go to his grave without reveling what was in the stolen Marsellus's briefcase! Both are genius in approach both 10's on my @IMDb ratings!