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Pulp Fiction

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Pulp Fiction

Starring: John Travolta, Bruce Willis
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Rated: R
RunTime: 154 Minutes
Release Date: October 1994
Genres: Action, Drama, Suspense, Independent

Review by Walter Frith
No Rating Supplied

A retrospective movie review by Walter Frith

The most brilliantly written film of the 1990's so far and likely will be all around is director and co-writer Quentin Tarantino's 1994 shock filled masterpiece 'Pulp Fiction'. Hilarious, violent, sexy, vibrant, hip and many other adjectives can be used to describe this complex character study set in Los Angeles but reflective of society everywhere.

What probably turned off a lot of people from the film was its attitude that it was acceptable to celebrate the behaviour of lowlifes by making the two main characters, a couple of hit men (John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson), a pair of unconscionable verbal trash cans who hold philosophical debates throughout the course of killing people. In reality, the film is more about what backfires from that lifestyle when one of the hit men goes down for the dirt nap at an untimely point in the film with little sympathy.

The film tells basically two stories with sub-text thrown in for good measure among some of the supporting players, although some have argued that everyone in the film is a supporting player.

The first tale, about the hit men (Travolta and Jackson) details their quest on a bright and pleasant morning to confront, recover stolen property from and kill four small time thieves in a run down apartment complex where hamburgers are the main breakfast. There is a command of character on the part of Jackson, who solidifies his authority with quotes from the Bible and some sarcastic poking at his targets of prey, complete with an automatic pistol. Both Jackson and Travolta have a hilarious exchange of words regarding the subject of foot massages and it's only one of many scenes the film has where comic mockery of mayhem is the norm. The first twenty minutes of the film focuses on this occasion and the consequences of it when they settle business and director Tarantino returns to this messy farce for the film's final scenes.

The second tale is that of a third rate boxer, Bruce Willis, and his wishy-washy girlfriend and how the two of them try and take it on the lam after Willis successfully double crosses his boss in a fight he is supposed to throw. Willis provides some the best work of his career as a character with integrity shining through at the wrong time. His past is mirrored through an affection for his father from whom he inherited a very special wrist watch. Upon trying to recover the watch, he encounters a frightening amount of nightmarish characters who want to do him in. The basement of a used appliance shop is the setting for the film's most unpleasant scenes of bad taste and this is the film's only weak spot. The scenes involving Willis' conflict and confrontation of the film's most unpleasant characters drags somewhat but not too much and was the main reason, I believe, for Tarantino's return to the the film's opening story towards the end of the film. In case you haven't seen 'Pulp Fiction', it's told in a very appealing and non-sequential fashion, adding to its impact as a pulsating and stunning piece of very American cinema.

Another piece of dialogue filled scenery is a business date between (Travolta) and his boss' wife, (Uma Thurman). Not romantically linked but strangely attracted to each other in a competitive way, the two of them burn up the screen with their personalities, indicative of the film's most basic scenes of good taste. The scene is filmed at a 1950's nostalgia bar where the art direction, waiters and waitresses are decked out in everything reminiscent of the film's opposite tone. Travolta and Thurman enter a dance contest at the restaurant and take home first prize for their efforts, marred by an overdose of powerful drugs that almost kills one of them and results in getting and antidote from the drug's main supplier. This is the film's most heart pounding scene that makes light of it all and that in and of itself is repellent or hilarious, depending on your point of view.

A very important scene in 'Pulp Fiction' is the opening montage, in which two losers (Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer), plot their next heist and decide to rob the diner they're currently having breakfast in, not worrying about the unexpected danger they're about to encounter which they think is unlikely, after describing the relatively low amount of security associated with a diner in contrast to a bank.

'Pulp Fiction' harbours many thrashing scenes of vibrant energy that it not only found a place as the critic's darling of the year in which it was released, but it earned Tarantino and his writing partner Roger Avery an Oscar and made a healthy return at the box office for its studio. With public acceptance as strong as that of the critic's, 'Pulp Fiction' is perhaps smarter than any film of its generation. It's a motion picture which is timeless not because of its controversy but because of the enduring nature of criminals bent on self destruction which everyone loves to see.

Copyright 1997 Walter Frith

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