Monday, March 01, 2010

“Hamburgers! The cornerstone of any nutritious breakfast.”

Might as well make it a double feature of Tarantino films that I get weird looks for not having seen before. Here’s 1994’s Pulp Fiction, which is considered one of Tarantino’s best.

So…its complicated. We’ve got the interlacing stories that all connect to a crime boss. One story involves the misadventures of a pair of loquacious hitmen trying to get a MacGuffin in a briefcase to their boss. Another involves one of the hitmen taking the boss’s wife out on the town, and finally we get the story of a boxer who tries to cheat the crime lord by not throwing a fight and then trying to get away with it. Now take those three main storylines, and just mix them up out of order into several chapters that you have to piece together like a jigsaw.

Vincent Vega: John Travolta became a respectable actor again after this. The not-coincidentally named Vega is a pretty dumb lug who’s just back from Europe. Vincent is a (mostly) competent hitman, but he’s also incredibly sloppy, a heroin user, and has absolutely terrible trigger discipline that causes more problems.

Jules Winnfield: Samuel L. Jackson in the movie that made Samuel L. Jackson the badass he is today. Jules is the jheri curl wearing, eloquent and smarter member of the hitman duo (and its fun watching him act circles around Travolta). Jules is awesome and everything he says is awesome too. He has a religious experience that convinces him to give up his murderin’ ways.

Marsellus Wallace: Ving Rhames is our crime boss. He’s got a hot wife, a strip club, and would like to make it very clear that he does not like being treated like a bitch.

Butch Coolidge: Bruce Willis is a boxer in the twilight of his career who agreed to throw a fight for Wallace, didn’t and gets into quite a bit of trouble because of it (and because he wanted to get his watch back)

Mia Wallace: Uma Thurman is Wallace’s sexy actress wife who likes to party. Ultimately a minor character in the grand scheme of things, she and Vincent have a night out that ends badly.

Winston “The Wolf” Wolfe: Harvey Keitel is a “cleaner” who gets called in to clean up a mess Vincent made in the backseat of Jules’ car. Manages he is the badass of the film (even out-badassing Jules).

Captain Koons: Christopher Walken plays an army veteran in a flashback that brings Butch’s father’s watch back home. Is it really necessary to the story? Not really. BUT its Christopher Walken going off on a truly insane monologue, so who cares?

Ringo/Pumpkin & Yolanda/Honey Bunny: Tim Roth & Amanda Plummer are two small time crooks who try to rob a restaurant that Jules & Vincent happened to stop into.

Marvin: Phil LaMarr (a guy who’s done a TON of voice work, including Samurai Jack and Green Lantern on Justice League) is Marsellus Wallace’s inside man that Jules & Vincent meet up with. Vincent’s trigger discipline leads to the "Bonnie Situation." Tarantino must have a thing against guys named Marvin.

Quentin Tarantino had more of a budget here, and the presentation is incredibly slick with lots of great colors and scenes. Editing is outstanding too, since it maintains coherence throughout the breaks and stops in narrative.

Quentin Tarantino (with some help from Roger Avary) keeps going with the snappy dialog and sudden twists and turns. He juggles a lot of plots in this, and succeeds in keeping them all in the air and interesting. And for those counting F-bombs, its used 265 times.

No score, but plenty of music. This time most of it is drawn from the 1950s, including some surf guitar. Everything is better with surf guitar.

Pulp Fiction, while it doesn’t really have much of anything to do with the pulp serial novels of the 1930s, is a hell of a ride. Slick, stylish and eminently quotable, at times it feels a little too slick for its own good, but never gets bogged down in how cool it is. It’s a great movie, though I do like Reservoir Dogs better.

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