Dave and Rachel's movie reviews.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Pulp Fiction

Year: 1994
Running time: 154 minutes
Certificate: 18
Language: English
Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, Bruce Willis, Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer, Ving Rhames, Eric Stoltz, Rosanna Arquette, Christopher Walken, Maria de Medeiros, Harvey Keitel

Jules and Vincent get to work.
Still recognised as Tarantino’s high water mark, Pulp Fiction is a brilliantly crafted piece of writing and directing. Telling three separate stories in a jumbled timeline and with overlapping characters, this could easily have been a bit of a mess, but in QT’s assured hands the pieces fit together perfectly.

Set in LA, we open with a brief intro spent with Pumpkin (Tim Roth) and Honey Bunny (Amanda Plummer), a couple in love discussing giving up robbing liquor stores and moving onto restaurants. (Unsurprisingly, 'Pumpkin' and 'Honey Bunny' are their pet names for each other, rather than their actual character's names. We eventually learn that Honey Bunny's real name is Yolanda, while Pumpkin is referred to either as Pumpkin or Ringo, neither of which appear to be his real name.) Leaving Pumpkin and Honey Bunny behind for now, we're introduced to a couple of two-bit hoods Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) and Vincent (John Travolta), who while on a job to murder an apartment full of young men on behalf of their employer, gang boss Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames), spend time bickering over the finer points of extra marital foot massages as excuses for throwing people out of windows. This serves as another extended intro, and the first of the three stories starts proper as Vincent takes Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman), wife of Marsellus, out for dinner, on Marsellus's order.

Later, for the second story, following a brief appearance earlier on, we spend some more time with Butch (Bruce Willis), a boxer nearing the end of his career having failed to set the world alight, being paid to throw a fight for Wallace. When he double-crosses the gangster and runs with the money, an ill-advised trip back to his apartment to pick up a treasured watch leads to some, to put it mildly, unexpected twists and turns. For the third and final story we catch up with Pumpkin and Honey Bunny, who happen to be robbing a restaurant that Vincent and Jules are eating in following a particularly rough morning. Characters pop in and out of each other's stories and by the end you can see how the pieces fit together.

Mia Wallace, comfortably sharing a silence with Vincent.
The film is an absolute masterstroke of casting; the part of Vincent Vega single-handedly saved the career of John Travolta, and the inspired casting choices run right through the film even down to the minor characters, such as Christopher Walken’s glorious five minute monologue as Captain Koons, telling a young Butch (Chandler Lindauer) the history of the watch that would come to mean so much to him. The only blip here is Tarantino’s decision to cast himself as Jimmie, Jules' associate who reacts badly to being put on the spot, but it doesn’t detract from the otherwise tremendous acting, which is helped along greatly by the inspired dialogue. Tarantino’s writing has a recognisable and unique style all its own, appearing to sound naturalistic on first listen but shown to be meticulously crafted when studied in any depth.

The soundtrack choices are also perfectly judged and another Tarantino trademark – for two great examples see the long, one-take, dialogue-free shot in Jack Rabbit Slims as Vincent stumbles around in search of a table or the scene set to Girl, You’ll be a Woman Soon in which Mia Wallace loses herself in the music before overdosing.

Equal parts violence, comedy and thrilling tension, Pulp Fiction confirms what Reservoir Dogs suggested: that Tarantino was a man born to write and direct movies.

Score: 9/10

Peter at the Guardian is also a fan, but Sam at the New Statesman appears to assume that writing characters that use racist or other offensive terms means the writer is racist, which is a problem that has beset Tarantino throughout much of his career.

No comments:

Post a Comment