Pulp Fiction

1994, Movie, R, 154 mins

Review

PULP FICTION
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Witty, stylish, and romantic to its dark heart, PULP FICTION is a compulsively funny and strangely dreamy look at the criminals, hangers-on, and low-life scum who populate a glamorously sleazy Los Angeles of the mind.

After an introductory sequence featuring a pair of small-time holdup artists (Amanda Plummer and Tim Roth), we meet talkative hit men Jules Winfield (Samuel Jackson) and Vincent Vega (John Travolta), who are on their way to deal with some drug-dealing college kids who've made the mistake of trying to double-cross crime kingpin Marsellus (Ving Rhames). Their visit with the college boys takes a nasty turn after they find a briefcase--which emits a strange, radiant light--that Marsellus has sent them to retrieve. In the next episode, Vincent beards the boss's wife, Mia (Uma Thurman), through an evening on the town; their date turns ugly after she accidentally snorts an overdose of heroin. Lastly, we meet Butch (Bruce Willis), a nearly-washed up boxer who is being paid by Marsellus to take a dive in an upcoming fight. But Butch has other plans: he fights to win and then flees. By the end, all these seemingly disparate plot elements have been pulled together through a daring series of narrative somersaults.

Movie-mad writer-director Quentin Tarantino's second feature is a witty, violent, and unexpectedly redemptive tour-de-force. The movie skims along on a sea of lurid cliches, but these are twisted, transfigured, and given astonishingly fresh life: from the washed-up boxer and his French sex-kitten girlfriend, to the platform shoes enshrined on a hippie drug dealer's wall, to the mysterious suitcase whose glowing contents strike viewers dumb, PULP FICTION pays homage to its B-movie past while existing comfortably in its own perfectly realized world.

For all the violent action--and there's plenty--talk is paramount: the all-star cast is awash in words, endlessly debating such issues as whether a foot massage is tantamount to adultery or the relative filthiness of pigs and dogs, while beset by serial sex maniacs, contract gunmen, and bottom feeders of every stripe. No one and nothing is quite what it seems, from the billing and cooing couple of the opening sequence to the coolly professional killer who sees the light during a routine hit, to the raven-haired seductress whose evening out takes a sudden turn for the nightmarish. Yet PULP FICTION isn't all flash and chronological sleight-of-hand. It's driven by an astonishingly pure romantic impulse: it's filled with people who want to be saved, though most of them have no more idea about how to go about saving themselves than fish flopping around on the bottom of a boat. Without its commitment to an idea of salvation, PULP FICTION would be little more than a terrific parlor trick; with it, it's something far richer and more haunting. leave a comment

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