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PULP FICTION

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer, Maria De Medeiros, Ving Rhames, Eric Stoltz, Rosanna Arquette, Christopher Walken, Bruce Willis
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Miramax
Features: See Review
Length: 154 Minutes
Release Date: August 20, 2002

“You see that, young lady? Respect. Respect for one's elders shows character.”

“I have character.”

"Just because you ARE a character doesn't mean that you HAVE character.”

Film ****

Pulp (pulp) n. 1. A soft, moist, shapeless mass of matter.

2. A book containing lurid subject matter, and being characteristically printed on rough, unfinished paper.

To understand my great love for Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, we have to go back to the beginning, when the film first came to theaters in the fall of 1994. I was with a group of friends attending the last show of the evening. Having already seen Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs numerous times, as well as True Romance, which he wrote, I was sure I was in for something unique. Prior to the film's release, there was already talk that the movie had indeed revamped the sagging career of its lead star, John Travolta, and I more than anyone was dying to watch him make a comeback. I couldn't get over the fact that Tarantino, who was only 30 at the time, had made only one small movie, and followed that up by assembling one of the most electrifying ensemble casts ever.

Soon, the lights went down in the theater, and during the two hour and thirty five minute presentation, I was experiencing a rare feeling of joy that I had hardly got out of any single movie I had seen at a multiplex. I knew I was seeing something original and incomparable to any single other movie, even that of the gangster genre. I was hearing a rhythm of words and dialogue I had no idea existed in the movies. Not even the power displayed in both True Romance and Reservoir Dogs could've prepared me for the bold and striking piece of moviemaking that was presented before my eyes. This lead to many repeat viewings in the theater. How many other movies can honestly blend in moments of shock, humor, and violence that can leave an audience gasping for more after 154 minutes the fly by like the wind? Not too many, which is one of the many reasons why Pulp Fiction is an American cinematic classic, and will be for years to come.

The screenplay by Tarantino and Roger Avary is a work of blazing originality and pacing. Prior to last year's Memento, I can't recall any other film which played around with the narrative style of storytelling in the movies better than this. Tarantino structured the film in a non-chronological order and separated the events into three separate stories, each carrying its own personal distinction, covering a specific group of characters, and yet coming together to form one piece in the end.

VINCENT VEGA AND MARSELLUS WALLACE'S WIFE

“Don't you hate that?”

“Hate what?”

“Uncomfortable silences.”

The first piece deals with a professional hitman's much eccentric evening, as he is doing a favor for his boss. Vincent Vega (John Travolta, in his big career re-defining performance), who has just come back to the States after spending some time in Amsterdam (where the Quarter Pounder with Cheese differs from ours), is asked by his boss, Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames), to take his wife, Mia (Uma Thurman), out for a good time to prevent her from being too lonely.

They get to know one another while enjoying the food and scenery at Jack Rabbit Slim's, a nostalgic 50's diner to end all nostalgic 50's diners. After enjoying the food, and engaging in a lively twist dancing contest (a scene that proves Mr. Travolta still has the moves), they go back to her place, where moments later she inhales what she thinks is cocaine, and goes critically comatose. What then follows is one of the most controversial scenes in movie history, as Vincent rushes her over to the drug dealer who sold him the product, Lance (Eric Stoltz), and attempts to administer a shot of adrenaline to the heart. It's both a scary and funny moment, as Vincent and Lance are yelling at each other because neither of them knows how to give a shot. If you've never seen this movie before, your jaw will hit the floor at the end of this scene, as it will many times in the film.

THE GOLD WATCH

“YOU HEAR ME TALKING, HILLBILLY BOY?  I AIN'T THROUGH WITH YOU BY A DAMN SIGHT!  I'M GONNA GET MEDIEVAL ON YOUR ASS!”

The second tale tells of down on his luck boxer Butch, played by Bruce Willis in a role that I think opened many doors for him. Butch has been paid big bucks by Marsellus to throw an upcoming fight. On fight night, Butch betrays Marsellus, and goes on the run, hoping that money he's come into possession of will help in starting a new life for himself and his girlfriend, Fabienne (Maria Dedeiros). Having relocated to a new apartment in order to hide away from Marsellus' hitmen, Butch is stunned when discovering that Fabienne left his gold watch at the old apartment.

Why is the watch so important to him? We find out in a flashback segment that precedes this story. A Vietnam vet (Christopher Waken), who was a close friend of Butch's dad, gave the watch to a young Butch after explaining how important the watch meant to him (a very funny moment). Against his will, Butch makes a daring trip back to his old residence in order to retrieve what is his. It's a moment that offers a big surprise or two by the end. It leads to him coming face to face with Marsellus, and the two then find themselves in a much compromising situation.

THE BONNIE SITUATION

“If I'm curt with you, it's because time is a factor here. I think fast, I talk fast, and I need you guys to act fast if you wanna get through this. So pretty please, with sugar on top, clean the f--king car.”

Finally, there is the third story, which is the funniest of the three and my personal favorite. It centers in on Vincent and his partner in crime, Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson, in a role that should've won him the Oscar), who are on a hit for Marsellus. They complete their task, which is retrieving a stolen briefcase, from a group of college kids, but following an unintended bloody incident in their car, Jules and Vincent find themselves in a big messy predicament. They hide off at a friend of Jules', who wants them out before his wife comes home from work. Marsellus then phones in an acquaintance, known simply as The Wolf, played with brilliant masterful timing by Harvey Keitel. Wolf specializes in fixing big problems, and the task here is to rid the two hitmen of their blood soaked clothes and car, all in thirty minutes time.

It's at this point in the movie where the word original comes to mind. After all of the intensity and violence displayed in the last two stories, there is still room for some laughs, even though the comedy does come as a result of violence, which I personally think is a masterstroke of genius.

I haven't even mentioned the importance of the opening and closing of the film, which both take place at a coffee shop, where a would-be husband and wife bank robbing team (Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer) plot a massive robbery. It is in this scene where the entire structure of the movie is pulled together. It also provides Samuel L. Jackson with some of the most riveting dialogue ever spoken on film.

Whenever I am asked what my favorite all time movie is, I am repeatedly stuck between this film and Martin Scorsese's GoodFellas. While being awestruck by Tarantino's style of narrative, I am strongly convinced that Scorsese is a big inspiration, and therefore if there hadn't been a GoodFellas, there may have never been a Pulp Fiction, but I maybe wrong. However, Pulp Fiction is an American masterpiece of enormous, unexpected proportions, and its brilliance holds true to this day, eight years after its initial release.

BONUS TRIVIA: Tarantino appears in the film as Jimmie, Jules' stubborn, coffee making acquaintance.

Video ****

Had Disney/Miramax applied the anamorphic use to the first DVD release of Pulp Fiction, they would've had something of a disc, since it was near pitch perfect in regular widescreen. Thankfully, Miramax has gone back, applied the appropriate touch, and BAM!! This Collector's Edition transfer ranks among the best looking discs to ever come from Miramax. The film carries a style all its own, and the flawless image quality. Everything from the color appearance to perfected sharp imaging, and absolutely no image flaw detected. Wonderfully done!

Audio ****

The sound in Pulp Fiction is an important key element in the distinctiveness of the movie. Miramax delivers a most exuberant 5.l Dolby digital mix that results in a terrifically bravura sounding disc. The array of classic 70s music, ranging from rock to funk help in delivering pure sound excellence. Some settings provide unique sound display, such as the famous opening of the briefcase scene, which is quiet and yet enormously effective, and such other areas, like the Jack Rabbit Slim's restaurant provide knockout surround sound quality.

Features ****

Gosh…where to begin. It's safe to say that I, along with other Pulp fans, have been awaiting the day a features-loaded edition would arrive and that day has come. Miramax delivers their all time best load of extras in this terrifically crafted release. Disc one includes the film presentation, as well as a sneak peek at the Jackie Brown DVD and the newly remastered Pulp Fiction soundtrack.

Disc two includes a dynamite list of features, starting off with a new documentary titled “Pulp Fiction: The Facts”, which is totally in depth every step of the way. Also included is a behind the scenes montage, a production design featurette, a deleted scenes compilation, interviews from the Independent Spirit Awards, Quentin Tarantino's Palme d'Or acceptance speech at the Cannes Film Festival, The Charlie Rose Show interview with Tarantino, and a Siskel & Ebert special archive titled “The Tarantino Generation”.

Disc two also includes several reviews from critics, 8 still galleries, theatrical trailers and TV spots, and plentiful DVD Rom content.

Summary:

One of the ULTIMATE DVD releases of the year, or maybe even the decade, Pulp Fiction is an exhilarating roller coaster masterpiece that should hold up to years of repeated viewings, thanks to this glorious package.