It’s not very often that a filmmaker makes a masterpiece with his second feature film, but that’s exactly what director Quentin Tarantino did with Pulp Fiction. Released in 1994, this innovative crime film hit audiences like a sledgehammer and changed what cinema was forever.
The lives of two mob hitmen, a boxer, a gangster & his wife, and a pair of diner bandits intertwine in four tales of violence and redemption.
When you witness Pulp Fiction for the first time it is a cinematic experience, unlike anything you’ve seen before. Violent, energetic and completely in-your-face, Pulp Fiction takes its audience on a wild ride and you never see what’s coming next. Exploitational in nature with a hard-edged crime noir narrative, Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction is an extremely visceral film experience and with its sensational dialogue and striking visuals it completely commands your attention for it’s 154 minutes of screen time. Through his innovative narrative framing, slickly written characters, crazy situations, stunning visuals and one hell of a cool soundtrack, Quentin Tarantino created a film masterpiece that works on every single level and it’s one hell of a fun ride.
Like Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction is a lesson in serious style and its a film that absolutely nails what it means to be cool. From the casts’ stylized wardrobe to it’s collection and use of vintage 60s and 70s cars to the way in which Tarantino uses colour and framing to capture his film, Pulp Fiction is straight crime noir cool. Anyone who watches it is instantly mesmerized by its images and no doubt tries to re-create the idea of being one of these characters through appearance, stance or strut in real life. Everything about Pulp Fiction’s visuals works here, and the film is a beautiful piece of cinema to look at it. Adding to this style is the mismatch of genres and use of narrative that Tarantino brought to Pulp Fiction, and it really amps up its entertainment value.
A large part of Pulp Fiction’s success comes down to Tarantino’s phenomenal casting, and every actor here works. First up you’ve got John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson as career hitmen Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield who experience one really bad day at the office. Then there’s Uma Thurman as the sassy Mia Wallace who takes Vincent for a really bad trip that ends at the point of a large needle. And finally, Bruce Willis plays bruising bully boxer Butch Coolidge, who decides its a good idea to double cross mob boss Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames), but who ends up with him in a situation that both of them would rather forget. All of these performers bring their A-game to the film, and it’s so much fun to watch them work.
Alongside its memorable characters, Pulp Fiction has a perfect narrative to show off and Tarantino’s masterful dialogue is really on display. This film is filled to the brim with scenes and quotes that have entered film legend with the likes of “royal with cheese”, “I think it’s a wax museum with a pulse”, “pretty please, with sugar on top, clean the fucking car”, “I’m gonna get medieval on your ass”, Jules Winnfield’s Ezekiel 25:17 speech and my personal favourite line credited to Bruce Willis’ Butch Coolidge, “Zed’s dead baby. Zed’s dead.” Dialogue like this doesn’t get much better, and Tarantino’s use of it really drives the film forward. What we see with Pulp Fiction is the director building off of the work he began within Reservoir Dogs and it’s a practice he would continue with all of his successive works.
While he first showed his talent for conjuring ultra violence up in film with his debut Reservoir Dogs, Tarantino took it one step further here. Framed through his lens for narrative and extending the reach of his story, the violence of Pulp Fiction is at times viciously brutal and exceedingly funny. Case in point the film’s third act scene revolving around The Bonnie Situation where Vincent’s gun manages to go-off somehow and absolutely ruins Jules’ car in a blood shredded mess. No matter how many times I’ve seen this scene it still sends me into fits of uncontrollable laughter with just how crazy it all is, and there’s some serious entertainment value to boot. There are plenty of scenes like this throughout Pulp Fiction and Tarantino gets a reaction out of his audience time and time again.
Tarantino also provided some serious grooves here with Pulp Fiction’s eclectic soundtrack, and I can’t think of a greater piece of film score ever. Collecting together a host of classic songs that ranged from California surfer cool tracks like Dick Dale’s “Misirlou” to soulful R&B tracks like Neil Diamond’s “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon”. Add in a good helping of “Jungle Boogie” and “Bustin’ Surfboards”, and you’ve got the ultimate mismatch soundtrack that scores one very entertaining film. It’s a soundtrack that to this day remains instantly recognizable to Tarantino’s name and is a major part of the legacy of Pulp Fiction, and it’s always fun to groove out to.
Alongside being one of the coolest, classiest and most entertaining motion pictures ever created, Pulp Fiction is also a love letter to cinema itself. Packed to the brim with delightful homages from Tarantino, Pulp Fiction is a film made by a film buff for film buffs. While there’s the very entertaining narrative that hits audiences on a surface level, packed out in the background detail are references to the long history of cinema and this is exemplified through one of the film’s most pivotal scenes at Jack Rabbit Slim’s, a retro-styled restaurant which is stuffed with classic pop culture and you can just tell that Tarantino was in his element at such a place. There’s just so much passion contained in Pulp Fiction for cinema itself and it definitely leaves an impression on audiences. That’s for sure.
To this day Pulp Fiction remains as one of the coolest films ever made, and decade after decade audiences continue to discover its greatness. The word masterpiece firmly applies to Pulp Fiction and it’s a film that needs to be watched again and again and again.