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USA 1994
Directed by
Quentin Tarantino
165 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Pulp Fiction

Quentin Tarantino’s second film after his cult hit debut, Reservoir Dogs. 1992, is a clever mash-up of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler style noir crime fiction and the modern gangster movie. The former is evident in the L.A. setting,  the crackling dialogue and the gallows humour, the latter in the excessive violence and expletive-laden language.

Energetic and often blackly humorous the film opens with a scene which typifies these qualities with Tim Roth (who had been in Reservoir Dogs) and Amanda Plummer as a pair of small-time thieves, Pumpkin and Honey Bunney, holding up a diner. The film opens with obliquely casual conversation between the two which erupts into the hold-up, at which point we immediately cut to Vincent (John Travolta) and Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) as a couple of enforcers out on an early morning hit for Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames). Tarantino's flair with dialogue comes into full swing here with the pair bantering on various topics, not least of which is Vincent’s up-coming job of squiring Marsellus' new young wife, Mia (Uma Thurman). Once again this sequence is cut as it climaxes  and we move onto the story of Vincent’s evening with Mia. This part of the film features the inexplicably popular scene of Thurman and Travolta dancing before their evening tales a turn for the worse.  We then take up a story about a boxer, Butch (Bruce Willis), who has been paid by Marsellus to throw a fight.  He double-crosses Marsellus but things go very wrong for him. We then return to Vincent and Jules post-hit in a sequence that includes both Harvey Keitel as a mob fixer and Tarantino himself as Jim, a former colleague of Jules now gone straight, before we go back to the opening sequence in the diner.

If this sounds like complicated plotting it is and the non-linear structure recalls Godard’s famous witticism, “I like a film to have a beginning. a middle and an end, but not necessarily in that order” (as Tarantino’s production company is called A Band Apart in homage to the Godard film of the same sounding name this is no coincidence). 

For my money the whole Butch story could have been omitted and the result would have been a much stronger film as not only is its only connection to the rest of the proceedings a short scene involving Vincent that is in no way necessary to main story but it ill-advisedly reveal the director's tackier side. His tendency to a juvenile indulgence in gratuitous violence and crassness aside, there is no doubting Tarantino's cleverness and Pulp Fiction guarantees his standing as one of the voices of his generation. Take that how you will. The film was responsible for reviving Travolta’s career and understandably so as the scenes between he and Jackson are magic. The latter's declamation of Ezekiel 25:17 is one of Tarantino's more inspired moments of scripting.

"The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who in the name of charity and goodwill shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and a finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee."

DVD ExtrasPulp Fiction, Jackie Brown and True Romance trailers

Available from: Village Roadshow




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