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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 Brian Koller
3½ stars out of 4

"Pulp Fiction" was the follow-up to Quentin Tarantino's second film as both Director and Screenwriter, "Reservoir Dogs". Although "Dogs" is an even better film, "Pulp Fiction" benefitted from the momentum of "Dogs", a cast with greater name recognition, and less graphic (although still shocking to the innocents) violence.

"Pulp Fiction" has an ensemble cast with multiple overlapping storylines. Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta are well-dressed hitmen, working for kingpin Ving Rhames. Travolta also plays a dubious escort to Rhames' wife Uma Thurman. Bruce Willis is a boxer who renegs on an argreement with Rhames to fix a fight. Willis' girlfriend is childlike Maria de Medeiros.

Christopher Walken has a great cameo as Willis' father. Harvey Keitel gets Jackson and Travolta out of a fix, Eric Stoltz is a jaded drug dealer, Roseanna Arquette his multiply-pierced wife. Finally, Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer are plotting to rob a restaurant, whose patrons include Jackson and Travolta.

"Pulp Fiction" is a terrific film. The script is loaded with clever dialogue (it drags only during Willis' bathroom conversation with de Medeiros). There is much action. The direction is original. The cast (except for Tarantino, who should stay behind the camera) is excellent. Samuel L. Jackson probably gives the best performance, but it was Travolta who revived his career and received a Best Actor nomination.

"Pulp Fiction" uses obscenities freely, has much violence, and glamorizes criminal lifestyles. But it is wrong to downgrade a film because one disagrees with its values. The film takes the viewer on a wild ride, and the action is not offensive, but unpredictable and cartoonish. The characters aren't credible, but they become real through the outstanding dialogue. There is much comic relief to break the tension, which is most intense during Thurman's overdose.

Some of the cast from "Dogs" reappears here, including Keitel, Roth and Tarantino. The Tarantino trademarks of using forgotten pop oldies as a soundtrack, shuffling scenes out of chronological order, and inserting plot-unrelated conversations about pop culture, are also repeated.

Although "Pulp Fiction" was too controversial for the staid Academy, it won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay (Tarantino and Roger Avary). Tarantino was nominated for Best Director and Best Picture, while Jackson and Thurman picked up Supporting nominations.

Copyright 1994 Brian Koller

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