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Pulp Fiction
1994 - R - 149 Mins.
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Producer: Lawrence Bender
Written By: Quentin Tarantino, Roger Avary
Starring: 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, Quentin Tarantino
Review by: Carl Langley
   

He's a dancing man and he just can't lose!
After peeling open eyes and slicing ears in his explosive debut, 'Reservoir Dogs,' Quentin Tarantino accomplished the unthinkable: climbing above the brilliantly written freshman work with his sophmoric effort. 'Pulp Fiction' not only is better than 'Reservoir Dogs,' but remains Tarantino's best film to date and will stand as a cinematic landmark.

'Pulp Fiction' demonstrates that Tarantino is a virtuoso of filmmaking. The film is one crazy rollercoaster ride with many corkscrews, loops, and drop-offs that rocket your stomach out your throat; you can just imagine Tarantino as the engineer, maneuvering the levers with a wide, cocky grin for every twist and turn we make. He interlocks three tales and overlaps them at odd yet vital moments in the film, constructing one magnificently woven piece of yarn.

Drenched in violence, overdosed on drugs, 'Pulp Fiction' is driven with its crisp dialogue. There are hardly any screenwriters that possess the same hard-nosed, sporadic prose that Tarantino puts forth when the screenplay is in his hands. Notice how 'Natural Born Killers' and 'Crimson Tide,' two films he contributed his pen to, have a unique taste in words. And we are dealing with two conventional storylines and themes. In 'Pulp Fiction,' and even with his later work 'Jackie Brown' and the spliced 'Kill Bill' films, the monologues are juxtaposed with a depraved sense of humor.

For instance, take the scene near the beginning of the movie between Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson), two of Marsellus Wallace's (Ving Rhames) hitmen travelling their way to a job by car. They discuss the legalization of hash in Amsterdam, what the French call a Quarterpounder with Cheese, and the importance of sensuality while giving a foot massage. Except for its wit, the conversation seems rather pointless, but pay attention to how it prepares a dramatic background in the future scenes.

And then there is Jules' ingeniously coveted Bible verse lifted from Ezekiel 25: 17:

"The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides of 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 a finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger for those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee."

When Jules cites this verse before he executes, he does so with vigor and conviction. Clearly this is brought from the Bible, but how can such a religious message squeeze itself into a hurricane of immorality? Only Tarantino could find a way.

The story is only worth discussing briefly; introductory, even repeated viewings will ultimately end in astonishment. There is always something new to leave you in wonder. The three stories all take place in Los Angeles. The first involves the paranoid and succinct Vincent Vega taking Wallace's wife Mia (Uma Thurman) out to Slim Jim's for a "bloody-as-hell" steak. The next story tells about a boxer, Butch (Bruce Willis), who has conned Wallace out of some dough, leading to an intense escape, all the while never negating the importance of his gold watch (which has passed down many generations in uncanny hiding positions). The final chapter deals with Vince and Jules cleaning up their careless mess, hoping to rid of a dead body and a brain-splattered car. Jules deals with divine intervention as well. Here we are introduced to some quirky characters such as Mr. Wolf (Harvey Keitel) and Jimmy (Tarantino himself).

The film features innovative filmmaking, clever writing, oh, and the acting isn't half bad either. Travolta turns in his best performance as the remote Vega, a man easily persuaded by heroin and intrigued by individualistic conversation. Uma Thurman is menacingly seductive. She is usually good; here she is dynamite. Christopher Walken, Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Eric Stoltz, and Bruce Willis all turn in strong supporting performances, even though their roles seem type-casted - just another miracle from Tarantino to turn them into something magical. And then there is Samuel L. Jackson, whose performance is easily the best; it is dazzling, over-the-top, and awe-inspiring. Exact to a tee, Jackson slips into his most vibrant role to date and playing it with no fear. His last scene is a memorable one.

Dominating controversy and national attention for many months after its initial release, 'Pulp Fiction' would culminate into a Miramax gold prize and Tarantino's work of art. Nothing will ever compare or live up to the sparkling folklore he has handed us. Many films have been ostensibly influenced by the techniques of this film - ranging from 'The Usual Suspects' to 'Memento.' Many say this will be his best and nothing will surpass it. I agree to an extent; they were spitting the same words out after 'Reservoir Dogs.'
 
Movie Guru Rating
A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic.
  5 out of 5 stars

 
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