(United States, 1994)
After the passage of eight years, the hype surrounding Pulp Fiction has faded away. But the level of hype does not define a film's greatness, and, with or without the media attention, this is one helluva good movie. If I was to go back and re-rank the Top 10 movies of 1994 (with nearly a decade of hindsight to help out), Pulp Fiction might no longer be at the top, but it would be close. What Quentin Tarantino accomplished with this movie has not been duplicated, neither by him nor by any of his followers or wannabes. He took a familiar genre with all the expected cliches and infused it with enough energy to fuel a small star. A sensation in 1994-95, when it rode its great word-of-mouth all the way to a Best Picture Oscar nomination, Pulp Fiction remains a solid favorite of hip movie-lovers world 'round. Really, though, it's neither the action nor the twisty, non-linear plot that makes Pulp Fiction such a delicious cinematic entrée. Instead, it's the dialogue. The ease with which the words spill out of Tarantino's pen are matched only by the smoothness with which the actors deliver them. Watching Pulp Fiction again makes me long for the next time when Tarantino gets behind a camera, which, if rumor is correct, won't be long in coming. Pulp Fiction's star may have dimmed a little since 1994, but, on home video in the cinematic wasteland of the early 2000s, it shines like a beacon.
Plot Summary (Spoilers Possible):
Pulp Fiction's three tales are structured to intersect and overlap at key points, even though they are not presented in chronological order. "Vincent Vega and Marsellus Wallace's Wife" is the first story. It opens with Vincent (John Travolta) and Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) out on a hit for their boss, Marsellus (Ving Rhames). Along the way, Vincent confesses that he's uneasy about an upcoming job - taking out Marsellus' young wife Mia (Uma Thurman) while the main man is out of town. The source of the nervousness lies in a story circulating that Marsellus had a man thrown out a fourth story window for giving Mia a foot massage. One wrong step and Vincent could find himself in deep trouble. "The Gold Watch" is about a boxer, Butch (Bruce Willis), who is handsomely paid by Marsellus to throw a fight. Only at the last moment does it become more profitable to renege on the deal. So, along with his French girlfriend, Fabienne (Maria de Medeiros), Butch goes on the run, hoping to live long enough to spend some of the fortune he has suddenly gained. "The Bonnie Situation" ties together a few loose threads. It also introduces Harvey Keitel as a suave problem-solver named Wolf and Quentin Tarantino as Jim, a man worried that his wife will come home from work to find a dead body in a blood-spattered car in his garage. Sometimes, it appears, helping out Marsellus is not without its complications.
This film is one wild ride. An anthology of three interconnected stories that take place in a modern-day Los Angeles tinted by echoes of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, the movie impresses in every possible way. Writer/director Quentin Tarantino has merged film noir with the gangster tale and pulled them both into the '90s. Relentless in its pace, Pulp Fiction is as exhausting as it is exhilarating. In between all the shootings, Mexican standoffs, and other violent confrontations exist opportunities to explore various facets of the human experience, including rebirth and redemption. With this film, every layer that you peel away leads to something deeper and richer. Tarantino makes pictures for movie-lovers, and Pulp Fiction is a near-masterpiece.
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