Movie Review: Pulp Fiction
Rating: R (strong graphic violence, drug use, pervasive strong language, and some sexuality)
Length: 154 min or 168 min (special edition)
Release date: Oct. 14, 1994
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Genre: Crime and Thriller
Stars: 4.5 out of 5
Often praised as Quentin's Tarantino's greatest achievement, "Pulp Fiction" certainly deserves its reputation as a true cult classic. With witty dialogue, excellent casting, highly developed characters, an engaging plot, and nonlinear storytelling, "Pulp Fiction" appeals to even the pickiest moviegoers, as long as they are comfortable with mature subject matter and some intense scenes.
While the film has multiple main characters and lead actors, John Travolta is generally considered its shining star. "Pulp Fiction" took John Travolta from waning celebrity to Academy Award nominee. As the only character to appear in each of the movie's various stories, Travolta's Vincent Vega is likely the most recognizable character. The brother of Vic Vega, a character from Tarantino's widely successful "Reservoir Dogs," Vincent Vega is a hit man working for a mob boss. In spite of his career, Vincent still has some humanity and genuinely cares for the few people he is close to.
Working alongside Vincent Vega is Samuel L. Jackson's famous hit man, Jules Winnfield. Tarantino actually created the character with Jackson in mind, but the actor nearly lost the part when he auditioned, believing at first that the audition was simply a reading. Unlike Vincent, Jules sees his career as a hit man as a way of life instead of just another job. Jules' redemption is a major part of the film, and Jackson's portrayal of Jules Winnfield is still considered one of the greatest performances of his career. One little-known fact is that Jules Winnfield was originally meant to sport a huge afro, but when the wardrobe assistant accidentally brought the wrong wig to the set, Tarantino decided to keep it.
One of three cast members to receive an Academy Award nomination, Uma Thurman played the role of Mia Wallace. Mia Wallace was a failed actress and the wife of the very wealthy mob boss, Marsellus Wallace, who hired Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield to kill for him. Mia Wallace dominated the majority of "Pulp Fiction's" promotional material. One iconic image features her character stretched out on a bed with a cigarette in her hand. In spite of the massive attention Uma Thurman received for her performance, she did not choose any roles in big-budget films for three years after "Pulp Fiction." Uma Thurman actually turned down the role at first, but Tarantino was so intent on having her play Mia that he read the script to her over the phone in a successful attempt to convince her to take the role.
While John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, and Uma Thurman are often considered the three main actors in "Pulp Fiction," the rest of the cast is just as important to the film's unconventional plot structure. However, the brilliant cast and characters of "Pulp Fiction" are certainly not the film's only reason for success. Even if the casting had not been as remarkable, the unusual way the film presents its plot is engaging enough on its own. The most iconic storyline revolves around Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield searching for a briefcase stolen from their boss, but because "Pulp Fiction" has so many interwoven stories, it is impossible to name one as the most important and equally impossible to explain the others without spoiling the rest. Tarantino presents the film in somewhat nonchronological order, but even the most easily confused moviegoer should have no trouble following the film. Each storyline is carefully connected to the others. While many directors would have trouble making a movie like this easy to understand, Tarantino excels at it.
A powerful score strengthens the film's intense plot and strong characters. In spite of having no original songs, the soundtrack for "Pulp Fiction" is often considered one of the greatest collections of songs ever chosen for a movie. The soundtrack is equal parts rock and roll, surf rock, pop, and soul. Several songs featured on the soundtrack became international hits after the exposure they received in the film. The soundtrack even revived the popularity of the entire genre of surf rock, which was used in a number of product commercials after "Pulp Fiction" made it popular again.
Because every part of "Pulp Fiction" is so well developed and carefully planned, all the way down to the subtle details in set design, it is no wonder why "Pulp Fiction" achieved such massive popularity and became a cult classic.