In May of 1994, a movie came out in theaters that would have a profound impact on pop culture, as well as several of the stars featured in the movie. Quentin Tarantino’s second movie was probably what made him a house hold name to most people. This movie also revitalized the career of John Travolta while launching Samuel L Jackson and Uma Thurman into super stardom. When I first saw this movie, I wasn’t sure what to expect out of it because I hadn’t seen Tarantino’s previous movie. When I finally did see it, I knew that this was something that I was going to have to buy because I would probably be renting it many, many times otherwise. So let’s dive right into today’s movie, Pulp Fiction.
The plot: Pumpkin and Honey Buney are sitting in a booth at a diner discussing the differences between robbing banks, robbing liquor stores, and robbing restaurants like they do. After finishing their conversation, they share a kiss before pulling out their guns and proceeding to hold up the diner. Some time earlier, two hitmen, Vincent and Jules, are driving towards an assignment and Vincent is telling Jules about his trip to Amsterdam. When they arrive at the apartment, Vincent brings up the fact that their boss, Marsellus, has asked him to take his wife Mia out while he is out of town and Jules warns him not to fool around with Mia, as Marsellus had the last person that hung around Mia was tossed off of his balcony for giving her a foot massage. As the two men argue over how much meaning a foot massage has, they realize they are earlier than expected and walk down the hall to continue their conversation before heading back to the door. After being let in the door, Jules begins talking to the men and starts questioning them about a briefcase that one of them, Brett, had stolen from Marsellus. One of the men tells them where it is and Vincent grabs and opens it to confirm it is the right briefcase. When Brett tries to explain himself, Jules shoots the man that told him where the briefcase was and after quoting a passage from the bible, Jules and Vincent kill Brett. Some time later, Marsellus is at a club talking with a boxer named Butch Coolidge and paying him to throw his next fight. As they are finishing their deal, Jules and Vincent, wearing different clothes, show up to deliver the briefcase and wait up at the bar. When Butch approaches the bartender to buy some cigarettes, he and Vincent have a few words before Marsellus calls Vincent over to him. Later, Vincent goes to see Lance, his drug dealer, and buys some heroin off of him and proceeds to shoot up before he goes to pick up Mia. After picking her up, Mia directs Vincent to a themed restaurant called Jackrabbit Slim’s and they talk for a while before Mia goes to the bathroom, where she ends up doing some cocaine. When she returns to the table, they talk some more, with Vincent asking her about the guy that was supposedly thrown off a balcony for giving her a foot massage and Mia neither confirms or denies what happens. When they announce a dance contest, Mia raises her hand to compete and tells Vincent she wants to win the trophy and he agrees to do it. Returning to Mia’s house, Mia talks about having a drink and Vincent goes to the bathroom. While he is gone, Mia goes through the pockets of Vincent’s coat and finds his heroin. Mistaking it for cocaine, Mia snorts some of it and ends up OD’ing. When Vincent finds her, he freaks out and puts her in his car and drives over to Lance’s house, arguing with Lance over the phone as he does. When he gets there, Lance continues arguing with Vincent about bringing her here but reluctantly helps bring her inside to help save her life by having Vincent inject her with some adrenaline. After returning to her home, they discuss what to say to Marsellus and Mia tells Vincent a joke she used in the television pilot she was in and he leaves. Butch is preparing for his boxing match and remembering a time when he was a kid and Captain Koons, a man that was in a Vietnamese P.O.W. camp with Butch’s father, showed up to bring him his father’s watch. After the fight, Butch sneaks out of the arena and hails a cab, trying to get away before Marsellus sends his men after him because he won the fight. As they are driving off, the cab driver tells him that the other boxer died after the fight. Butch heads to the hotel that his girlfriend where his girlfriend Fabienne is waiting for him and as they are talking, Butch asks if she packed everything, as they plan to leave town in the morning and she says she did. The next morning, Butch is getting dressed but when he can’t find his father’s watch, he gets angry and heads back to his apartment to grab it. Sneaking into the apartment, he goes into the bedroom to get his watch, then decides to get some breakfast real quick but as he does, he sees a gun sitting on the kitchen counter and he picks it up. Just then, Vincent walks out of the bathroom and sees Butch holding the gun and Butch, recognizing Vincent, quickly shoots him, then wipes down the gun and leaves. Getting back in his car, Butch starts driving back to the hotel but he sees Marsellus crossing an intersection when he is stopped at a light and Marsellus recognizes him as well. Butch drives forward and slams into Marsellus but then crashes into a car. When the both recover, Marsellus tries to shoot Butch and chases after him and they both end up fighting in a pawn shop. When Butch goes to shoot Marsellus, the owner, Maynard, pulls a shotgun on them, then knocks out Butch and calls a friend as Marsellus passes out. Maynard ties them up and gags them before waking them up just as his friend Zed, a police officer, shows up and after speaking with Maynard for a bit, Zed tells Maynard to get the gimp. Zed then picks Marsellus and drags him into another room and Maynard ties the gimp up and tells him to watch Butch before joining Zed. Hearing the noises coming from the other room, Butch is able to break free from his restraints and knocks out the gimp, then starts to run but changes his mind and starts looking for a weapon. Grabbing a katana off the shelf, Butch heads back downstairs and finds Zed raping Marsellus while Maynard watches. Butch kills Maynard and frees Marsellus, who shoots Zed but doesn’t kill him. When Butch asks what’s now, Marsellus says that he plans on calling some friends to help deal with Zed, but when Butch asks if they are cool, Marsellus says they are cool provided that Butch never tells anyone about what happened and that he leaves town. Butch agrees and grabbing Zed’s keys, heads outside and rides off on Zed’s bike. Heading back to the hotel, Zed goes to get Fabienne and when she questions what happened and whose bike he is riding tells her it’s Zed’s and when she asks who Zed is, he says, “Zed’s dead baby. Zed’s dead.” Back when Vincent and Jules killed Brett, a fourth man was hiding in the bathroom and bursts out and shoots at them but misses and they immediately kill them. As Vincent questions Marvin, the surviving member of Brett’s gang, Jules believes that this is a sign of divine intervention and decides that he is going to quit being a hitman. Taking Marvin with them, they drive off but as Vincent turns to talk to Marvin, he accidentally shoots Marvin, blowing his head off. Trying to figure out what to do, Jules calls his friend Jimmie and heads to his house. Jimmie is upset about their bringing a bloody car with a dead body in it when his wife is due home in 90 minutes so Jules calls Marsellus, who sends a problem solver named The Wolf to help them. When The Wolf shows up, he instructs Jules and Vincent to clean out the car while he and Jimmie get some blankets and quilts to help disguise the stains, then has Jules and Vincent strip down and toss their clothes in a trash bag, wash off the blood, and change clothes. They head over to a junk yard, where The Wolf is friends with the owner Raquel and they leave the car there to be disposed of and takes off with Raquel, leaving Jules and Vincent to fend for themselves. Deciding to get some breakfast, they call a cab and head over to a diner, where they continue their conversation about Jules quitting. Vincent gets up to go to the bathroom and while he is gone, Pumpkin and Honey Bunny hold up the diner (showing this is the same scene at the beginning of the movie) and as Honey Bunny starts herding the people over to one side of the diner, Pumpkin heads over to Jules to get his wallet. When Pumpkin questions Jules about the briefcase, Jules opens it for him but he quickly grabs him and points his gun at his face. Honey Bunny heads over and threatens Jules but Jules manages to calm her down. When Vincent shows up and threatens Honey Bunny, Jules calms him down as well and proceeds to talk to Pumpkin before having him take the money out of Jules’ wallet and leaving with Honey Bunny. Vincent approaches him and says they should probably leave too and Jules agrees, grabs the briefcase, and they both walk out of the diner.
Pulp Fiction was well received by the critics, holding a certified fresh rating of 94% on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “One of the most influential films of the 1990’s, Pulp Fiction is a delirious post-modern mix of neo-noir thrills, pitch-black humor, and pop-culture touchstones.” Though the movie would be nominated for 7 Academy Awards, it would only walk away with the one for Best Original Screenplay, but many critics have called it one of the best written films in the last 3 decades. The movie was a box office smash, earning $213.9 million off of an $8.5 million soundtrack, and would be selected for preservation in the National Film Registry in 2013.
This is a fantastic movie to watch. The acting was really good, with John Travolta, Samuel Jackson, Uma Thurman, and Bruce Willis did a great job with their roles. While it did take some getting used to regarding the out of order sequencing, the overall story was really good. One little side plot I liked was how they never tell you what is in the briefcase, and while Tarantino never says what it is, many people feel like it is Marsellus’ soul, pointing out the band-aid on the back of his neck and the combination to the briefcase as evidence. The action scenes were relatively short but well done and the special effects and camera work made for a great drama with a couple of good surprises to make you jump. Great movie and definitely one worth watching.
Rating: 5 out of 5