Pulp Fiction review: Punchy and hilarious; Quentin Tarantino’s finest film.

pulp fiction stylized poster bigger

I’ve always enjoyed Tarantino’s films. Kill Bill introduced the brand of violence that would become a theme of its own, marking the stylistic brand of the auteur. I’ve seen Django and Inglourious, Reservoir Dogs and The Hateful 8, but there’s none quite like this. Pulp Fiction heralds his astounding work. I thought I loved 1994’s Forrest Gump and Shawshank Redemption but then I finally watched this punchy, bold, milkshake-lovin’, crack snortin’, theological preachin’, motherf*ckin’ movie. I’ve never enjoyed myself so much watching anything in my life. In Marsellus Wallace’s words, I found myself “one smiling motherfuc***” once the movie was done. This is the fifth addition to my Favourite Movies Ever series.

Pulp Fiction by lexical definition, was a type of magazine that was popular before WWII and featured a vast array of fiction stories. Just like these fun-to-read magazines that was cheaply sold but featured a wide array of unique perspectives given that there was low barriers to entry, Pulp Fiction’s splash of narratives pays homage to this. With its linoleum lit bars, backyard drug dealers, soundstage restaurants and a slew of colourful characters, Pulp Fiction is a noir gem whose knack for engaging dialogue is a story ripped straight from the magazine’s page. Each story is so gripping, outlandish and humourous that the deadpan murderous streak in the film is a mere sideshow. It’s non-linear time jumps are an ingenious way to link up storylines and throw us curveballs. I was slightly confused for a while, but it all linked up pretty neatly. What a way to tell a story!

Dialogue in Pulp Fiction cannot simply be brushed over. The audial quality and lyricism of many of the character’s lines are a thing of beauty. It is really because of this that I was so invested the characters. Of course, Tarantino is no stranger to praise for his skill in crafting great conversations right down to each and every line. You’ll notice that not only is it engaging and entertaining, it’s somehow also true-to-life. It’s an exercise in ‘suspension of disbelief’. We can relate to the film in general because sometimes, we witness engaging back and forth dialogue, kind of like small talk between buddies, that balances its over-the-top scenes. I realize I’m using a lot of literary jargon here, but you simply can’t watch it and not notice these things which make it great.

pulp fiction car talk

The tone of the film is set; That 1950’s L.A is as banal as it is full of life. Violence is portrayed in a merry light like business as usual, and characters instead fixate on trivialities. From Jules’ (Samuel.L.Jackson) and Vince’s (John Travolta) long conversational conversation about what a Quarter-Pounder with cheese in France is called to just about the most inappropriate talk of tv shows and pilots JUST BEFORE THEY PLAN TO KILL A FEW ASSOCIATES, you immediately get a sense of a misplaced importance to things.

“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 the 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.”

Of course, Samuel.L.Jackson says this in such a hilariously reverent tone, with such deliberate rhythm, that it makes him look like a pastor gone gangsta. I can’t even describe how funny it was. I was laughing till my stomache hurt moments when Jules slowly coaxed the associates with burger talk and then breaks down the composure of their leader with a ferocity that’s funny beyond belief. Pulp Fiction can be darkly humourous, making us all sinners who chuckle and ride along with Tarantino’s violent streak. But Tarantino isn’t a maniac, at least not here. He’s not afraid to shoot almost superfluous scenes of the mundane and put the action to a complete halt for awhile…for the purposes of making his high-tension scenes more symbolic. Indeed, less is more, because you’ll find Pulp Fiction one of his least violent films. The whole sequence involving Butch the boxer (Bruce Willis) is a prime example. Butch and Marsellus find themselves in an absolutely ridiculous aftermath after a deal gone wrong, and the ending is not very far from classic Tarantino, but a sliver of hope and redemption is found. With quite a lot of narrative skill, he weaves his blood-stained characters into situations that demand more, asking them to reflect on the iniquities of self-interest and the purpose of their existence. Scenes are filled with jazzy soundtracks that make the violence seem blithe and spirited but also wholly cathartic.

mia wallace dont be a square gif

It’s an odd film. Now I’ve said this before for other films, but this one different. It’s a film where sometimes I just don’t know why it’s so good; Only that I know it to be so. So let me try to elucidate my thoughts. One distinct characteristic is that it subverts the very notion of extremity and normalcy, by birthing hysterical havoc from the mundane and by downplaying seemingly violent acts. It’s inane comical irony. At the same time, you kind of feel like rooting for all the main characters (Jules, Vince, Butch, Marsellus), which if you think about it, is very rare. All of these guys are either hitman, gangster or killer. Mofos who don’t give the slightest damn. It could be that QT gave us a different look at crime. Instead of romanticizing the hustlings and darkness of the culture like in Goodfellas or just about every other crime film, Pulp Fiction dramatizes not the violence but the life itself; How two people who hate each other meet at a road junction coincidentally, or how having breakfast at a coffeeshop leads one to enlightenment. By completely flipping the genre around, Pulp Fiction makes the mundane the beating heart and centre of it’s comedy-drama mish mash. The outlandish cacophony of events come directly straight from the real life (which we can all relate) and not from some glamourous mafia tale. The result? Outrageously hilarious. And so personable. It kind of makes you feel like a film about you and your buddies just doin’ your thing. Gotta kill some people? Nah, that ain’t gonna stop us from yaking about our fat Samoan friend.

Jules: You remember Antoine Roccamora, half black, half Samoan, used to call him Tony Rocky Horror?

Vincent: Yeah, maybe. Fat, right?

Jules: I wouldn’t go so far as to call the brother fat, I mean he got a weight problem. What’s the n*gger gonna do? He’s Samoan.

An early scene leaves a deep impression on me. It’s between Marsellus’ wife, Mia (Uma Thurman), and Vince whose tasked to keep her company while the big boss is away – Cute. They then talk philosophically about human interaction which soon ensues into the couple ruffling their sexy moves to the groove. It might seem like a cheesy and extraneous scene. But you can never imagine how this delightful scene ringing with the Rock n Roll fervour of “Ces’t La Vie” puts the film into perspective. Alone, it gives the film a contrast to its bloodied imagery; A reluctant Vince soon let’s loose on the dancefloor finds the dance a much needed relief from all the banality. An earlier scene where she sips on a milkshake is one that has imprinted itself even more onto my mind. Do a search and type pulp fiction, look up images, and you’ll find many pictures of Mia Wallace sipping on her five dollar (!!) milkshake as John Travolta gasps in shock (but he won’t think twice when buying expensive drugs). In a flash of a moment, Mia’s introspective and completely puzzling look foreshadows the contemplation that all of Tarantino’s characters will face; A once-in-a-lifetime chance-upon provided by nature or by the divine, that will test their moral capacity for redemption. Perhaps Tarantino does have many things to say about life; Or he just wants us to have a smashing good time.

pulp-fiction dancing scene 1

Mia: Don’t you hate that?

Vincent: What?

Mia: Uncomfortable silences. Why do we feel it’s necessary to yak about bullshit in order to be comfortable?

Vincent: I don’t know. That’s a good question.

Mia: That’s when you know you’ve found somebody special. When you can just shut the f*ck up for a minute and comfortably enjoy the silence.

Rating: 10/10 Jules and Marsellus are too funny. I can’t even.

Poster by one of the most talented artists around, Flore Maquin. Merci Flore pour moi laisser utiliser votre belle affiche 🙂 *hope I got my french right haha* It’s an absolute bombshell of a poster! This is her awesome website with many more beautiful artworks, I spent hours admiring them!! And you should too.  Flore Maquin

I really want to go into more detail, but I won’t do it here for fear of spoiling it for those who haven’t yet seen. I’d love to engage in more discussion in the comments, so feel free to share your thoughts and interpretations!

Featuring: Samuel L Jackson, John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Bruce Willis, Ving Rhames, Tim Roth, Harvey Keitel and Christopher Walken.

Images credited to A Band Apart, Jersey Films, Miramax Films

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29 Comments Add yours

  1. deaconsden says:

    You’re appraisal is far more nuanced than a lot that I’ve read regarding Pulp Fiction. Perhaps I made the mistake of watching it years too late as I saw it for the first time in 2014. I never got the hype.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. deaconsden says:

      I do agree on on Sam Jackson being hilarious.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. jwforeva says:

        DOES HE LOOK LIKE A BITC*? I liked Marsellus too, that part where they were talking on the phone about the bonnie situation was epic

        Like

    2. jwforeva says:

      Thanks man! Haha I only saw this a week ago. But I can see why it’s not to everyone’s taste. It felt pretty cathartic, just being able to see how self-interested people chance upon crazy situations that help redeem them. It felt so real and was extremely funny, I thoroughly enjoyed myself 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. deaconsden says:

        It’s odd cause I love Tarrantino’s work. I just don’t love this for some reason.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. jwforeva says:

        Which is your favourite?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. deaconsden says:

        Right now a tie between Kill Bill Vol 1. And Django Unchained. I saw The Hateful 8 and loved it. I need to see it one more time to confirm its place in the top 3

        Liked by 2 people

      4. jwforeva says:

        Cool 🙂 For me though, I thought the violence in Hateful 8 didn’t mean much more than blood and gore. It kinda lacked something. For me the top three would be Pulp, Inglourious and Reservoir Dogs.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Mark Walker says:

    Great review, man. I’ve always been a huge fan of Pulp Fiction but despite my praise for it, for some reason it didn’t feature on My Top Ten favourite films list. This was always brought up by other bloggers who knew me well. Anyway, after a recent revisit, I remedied that omission. It’s always been hard for me to pick from Tarantino’s first three films but Pulp has to be the best and is now proudly included in my 10 favourites. 🙂

    Like

    1. jwforeva says:

      Really appreciate that 😀 Nice! You’re not alone, I had the same feeling as well,like I knew how much I enjoyed it but can’t really explain why its so good. I don’t know if its in my top 10 too, but definitely one of my favs.

      Like

  3. John Charet says:

    Never liked Tarantino’s films. On a semi-unrelated note, I hated Forest Gump, which won Best Picture that year. I am not bitter though, I can understand why people love those films, but I thought Ed Wood, The Hudsucker Proxy, Mrs Parker and the Vicious Circle, Little Buddha and Ready to Wear were far superior films. While Tim Burton (he directed Ed Wood), The Coen Brothers, Alan Rudolph, Bernardo Bertolucci and Robert Altman still remain all-time master filmmakers though Altman died back in 2006 😦 I am rambling on though, you wrote great post regardless of how one feels about Pulp Fiction or not 🙂

    P.S. have you ever heard of director Brian De Palma? I think he is a fantastic filmmaker 🙂 Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. jwforeva says:

      Woo, it’s always so nice to see your comments and support!!!! Haha his style is polarizing. I loved Forrest Gump! I thought the story was great, and Tom Hanks was so engaging as well. I haven’t heard of them, but I’ll check them out. I have to get in touch with the greats! Man it seems like I don’t know alot about the cinematic greats 😦 AND I definitely have to check out your blog posts on so many of these film-makers.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Dan O. says:

    Good review. Yes. Most definitely Tarantino’s best and perhaps my favorite of all-time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. jwforeva says:

      Thanks Dan! Pulp really showed the guy’s narrative and dialogue skill, and it’s the least violent of his films. But it had all the more meaning.

      Like

  5. I’ve been a Tarantino fan since Reservoir Dogs. His movies always excite. Glad you finally discovered Pulp Fiction, it is a cinematic tour de force.
    “Bring out the gimp!”

    Like

  6. The Vern says:

    One of my favorite movies of all time. Great insight into the scene between Mia and Vincent. I got more details with what VIncent was feeling with your post. Well done

    Liked by 1 person

    1. jwforeva says:

      Sorry for the late reply! Great minds think alike 🙂 I’m glad you liked my interpretation, it just felt like such a different scene to the rest of the movie. Thanks 🙂

      Like

  7. Raney Simmon says:

    I unfortunately haven’t seen Pulp Fiction, though I’ve definitely heard of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. jwforeva says:

      No way. You GOTTA watch it!!!

      Like

      1. Raney Simmon says:

        Yeah, it sounds amazing. I’ll definitely have to find a way to watch it.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. vinnieh says:

    I loved the description of your review. You did this outstanding film a whole lot of justice.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. jwforeva says:

      Thanks Vinny 🙂 It means alot hearing that from you. How are you? I haven’t been reading some of your review, I’ll get to it now!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. vinnieh says:

        I am very good, thanks for checking out my Vicky Cristina Barcelona review.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Brendan says:

    Great article man! This is my favorite movie of all time, so it’s great to read what other people think about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. jwforeva says:

      Thanks man!! Mmhmm, that’s a fine choice 😉 Hopefully my review did it justice haha 🙂 Are u a big tarantino fan in general?

      Like

      1. Yes!! He’s one of my all time favorites. I have seen all his movies except death proof lol..btw i nominated you for a liebster award. I really like your blog. Keep it up!

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Matt says:

    I’m glad you liked it. I was curious what someone’s reaction would be seeing it for the first time. It’s a great film and uses music as well as any movie I’ve ever seen (especially in the scenes with Uma).

    Like

  11. cinephile says:

    Great Review!!! Fell in love with this movie!

    btw I write blogs and reviews on films.Please spare some time and check it out.Need Support.Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

    1. jwforeva says:

      Hey thanks so much! I will definitely :))

      Like

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