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 pair up to enter a dance contest, yet, despite his 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 Mr. Wallace and himself 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 dialogue. Almost every conversation 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 during which Vincent asks Mia why anyone would pay $5 for a milkshake. The coup de grâce, however, is a flashback sequence, where we see Butch as a young boy (played by Chandler Lindauer) receiving 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 lad a special wristwatch, one that’s 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 on the scene, Pulp Fiction was the movie that 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.

1 comment:

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.