I don’t want to colour the rest of the review with this statement but I’d like to say that Pulp Fiction is a cinematic gem that certainly wouldn’t need a visit from Winston Wolf to fix. Now it’s hard to cover new ground with a movie that’s been out for twenty years but I’ll at least try to be entertaining if not original.
Quentin Tarantino is an influential director, although there are arguments to be made that he’s done nothing that Martin Scorsese hasn’t done before him. But no matter where he draws his sources it’s an undeniable fact that Tarantino is in his own right a talented director.
I think perhaps my favourite thing about Tarantino is that he’s really a fan like the rest of us but he made it big and got to make movies, and that’s perhaps one of the best things about him and the way he makes his films; they are made by someone who loves what they do and really enjoys the movie making process.
Pulp Fiction follows the lives of two mob hit men, a boxer, a gangster’s wife and a pair of diner bandits that intertwine in four tales of violence and redemption.
I mentioned above that Tarantino is influential but he is by no means original, a lot like this review funnily enough, and he’s certainly not above borrowing, stealing or making homage to other people’s work. The scene that comes to mind which best demonstrates this is the dance scene in Jack Rabbit Slims which Tarantino took shot for shot from the Jean-Luc Godard film ‘Bande a Part’ and he wasn’t even ashamed because he named his production company after that movie. He also took a portion of then biblical quote Jules is fond of saying from the Sonny Chiba film ‘Karate Kiba’ as the quote is almost word for word from the opening scene.
I don’t know how many other people didn’t catch the reference about the milkshakes but it always bugged me. Now I admit that a quick google search could have cleared things up but I am by nature lazy so It was only when I was doing research for this film that I found out that in the dinner when Mia orders her $5 shake the waiter played by Steve Buscemi asks her if she wants it “Martin and Lewis or Amos and Andy?” He is referring to two comedy duos – Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis who are two white men and Amos and Andy who are two black men. Basically, he is asking her if she wants a vanilla shake or a chocolate shake.
Now to some things which might have changed the movie, we almost missed out on Uma Thurman as Mia Wallace. She initially turned down the role, but Quentin Tarantino was so desperate for her to take the part that he ended up reading her the script over the phone and finally convinced her to take the role.
Another casting choice which might have changed the entire movie and one I had no idea about until I was told by my fellow reviewer Grant was that the role of Butch Coolidge was supposed to be played by Mickey Rourke but he passed on the part to pursue his boxing career. He later said that he regretted that choice but in all honesty I can’t say I regret it that much because I just can’t see that grizzled hog of a man make spoons with the cute woman who played Butch’s girlfriend. In addition Bruce Willis played the role adeptly, something that I’m not certain Rourke might have managed. I do think that it set off some sick self fulfilling prophecy because Bruce Willis, after more Die Hard movies than it should take to kill a normal man or even someone who’s ‘Unbreakable’, has morphed from a man who was once a believable handsome male lead into a hunk of clay that they should consider using as a model for The Thing in the next Fantastic Four Movie.
Now I’d like to address some behind the scenes theories, the first of which was debunked while the other one was more or less confirmed, although they have left it open to interpretation. The first theory is that the band aid on the back of Marcellus’s neck is alluding to a story about how the Devil claims souls. As the story goes the devil removes a soul via the back of the head in just the same spot as the band aid. According to Tarantino the Band-Aid on the back of Marcellus Wallace’s neck had nothing to do with an allusion to the Devil stealing Marcellus’s soul instead the more mundane explanation was that the actor Ving Rhames had a scar on the back of his neck he wanted to cover up. The second theory has more support, at least in the sense that it’s the most concrete answer we’re every likely to get. According to Roger Avery, who co-wrote the script with Quentin Tarantino, the original plan was to have the briefcase contain diamonds (urban legend has it that they were the diamonds from Reservoir Dogs). However the standard line provided by Tarantino is that the actual contents of the briefcase are whatever you want them to be because diamonds were neither exciting or original.
While we’re talking about theories,I have my own theory of sorts. Tarantino’s foot fetish is a well documented event, it’s why we’re treated to more than one shot of the camera eye fucking a woman’s feet, but this movie has demonstrated another aspect of Tarantino’s psyche. I think something awful happened to Tarantino when he was in a bathroom, perhaps someone ate his food (Something his characters make a point of doing including Jules in this very movie) or maybe someone forgot to tip (God I love reservoir dogs) but either way I think something bad happened because he clearly thinks a visit to the bathroom spells disaster. Now I could leave it at that but to back up that argument think about each time Vincent (John Travolta) goes to the bathroom (always with a “pulp fiction” book to read) something bad happens (i.e. Mia overdosing, Pumpkin and Honey Bunny robbing the restaurant, Butch picking up the gun)
Now I’m not sure how to finish this so I’ll simply say that Pulp Fiction is entertaining, lively, well written and even after twenty years is still a great film.
- The word “fuck” is used 265 times.
- The combination to open the briefcase is 666
- The movie’s line, “You know what they call a Quarter Pounder with Cheese in Paris? They call it a Royale with cheese.” was voted as the #81 of “The 100 Greatest Movie Lines” by Premiere in 2007.
- Vincent Vega is the only character who is present in every segment of the film: “Vincent Vega and Marcellus Wallace’s Wife”, “The Gold Watch”, “The Bonnie Situation” and “The Diner”.