March 1, 2010
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Grade: 84/100

Director: Quentin Tarantino
Stars: John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis

What it's about. This plot summary is in chronological order, although the movie jumbles them about, possibly simply to mess with our heads. Captain Christopher Walken delivers a family heirloom watch to a boy who later grows up to be Bruce Willis.

Two hip hitmen, John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson, work for volatile gangster boss Ving Rhames. They are dispatched to knock off two corrupt business associates of Rhames', but also accidentally shoot Phil LaMarr in the head, making a mess of their car. They take it to the garage of Quentin Tarantino, who is irate since his nurse wife will soon be home to see the bloody body. Hip gangster adviser Harvey Keitel is brought in to defuse the situation.

Travolta and Jackson then have breakfast at a diner, which is held up by robbers Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer. That evening, Travolta has a date with Rhames' hottie free-spirited wife, Uma Thurman. She snorts too much heroin or something and goes into a coma. A frantic Travolta takes her to the house of drug dealer Eric Stoltz and his multi-pierced wife Rosanna Arquette.

Meanwhile, aging boxer Bruce Willis wins a fight he was supposed to lose, as he was paid to take a fall by Rhames. Willis flees with his cutsy wootsie French girlfriend Maria de Medeiros, but has to make a dangerous return to his apartment to fetch the heirloom watch forgotten by Medeiros. There, he encounters hitman Travolta. The eventful day continues for him, since he also has a chance meeting with Rhames, whom he runs over with his car, then rescues (it's a long, grisly story) from sadistic homosexuals Peter Greene and Duane Whitaker.

How others will see it. Due to the unexpected great success of Tarantino's previous movie, Reservoir Dogs, there was considerable buzz for Pulp Fiction even before it was released. Pulp Fiction was immediately embraced by both critics and cinema fans. It eventually earned hundreds of times its 8 million dollar budget, and received seven Oscar nominations, winning for its R-rated screenplay.

It is (at the time of writing) at #5 on the Top 250, and therefore has extremely high user ratings at that website, although there is a significant spread between the ratings given by males under 18 (9.5/10) and women 45+ (7.5/10). This gender and age spread is typical for a slick, violent, and offensive (to some) film.

Pulp Fiction personifies the word 'cool', and the film resurrected (yet again) the fading movie career of John Travolta. It also helped out Bruce Willis, then best known for the Die Hard franchise, and Uma Thurman, who would later star in the cartoonish Kill Bill series.

How I felt about it. It's an excellent movie. The casting is inspired, the characters are memorable, and the dialogue is entertaining. The excesses are generally in style: hitman don't wear spiffy suits and ties, they wear ordinary clothes to blend in. Similarly, a car with a dead man in the trunk will not be driven at speeds likely to elicit traffic stops. Travolta must tire of hearing Jackson recite his favorite mock Bible verse each time before pulling the trigger, when a professional hitman would get 'er done. Travolta is also unlikely to know who Mamie van Doren is, and of course the famous "adrenaline shot in the heart" scene is Hollywood dramatics.

What are the odds that a female cab driver (Angela Jones) would listen to a radio broadcast of Willis' fight, then recognize him when he spills into her cab? Minimal, but much greater than the odds that Wills would later run into (then over) Rhames at a street intersection. Which, in turn, is much greater than the odds that Willis and Rhames would end up in a store owned by Deliverance-type serial killers. And the glowing briefcase was done forty years prior, re Kiss Me Deadly.