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'Pulp Fiction'

After 20 years, film continues to amaze with masterfully crafted dialogue, intricate storyline and b

By Brian Boyle, news editor
On March 6, 2014

  • Engineering majors Diego Garica (left) and Yosimy Cortes (right) work on a circuitry problem for their Engineering 230 class in PS-109 on Monday. Christian Urrutia / The Advocate

Not many movies can make someone worry about a drug dealer's wife as she snorts a fat line of heroin. It's truly rare that a movie's soundtrack can paint a clear picture of a character's history in the mind of the audience. And very few movies can make an audience chuckle about a man being accidentally shot in the face.
But 20 years ago, in 1994, director Quentin Tarantino released a movie titled "Pulp Fiction," that, somehow, was capable of all of this.
"Pulp Fiction," at its heart, is a black comedy over the backdrop of a gangster crime thriller. "Pulp Fiction" is presented in a completely nonlinear fashion. The story repeatedly doubles back on itself, twisting the timeline in a way that reveals something new every time one sits down to watch it.
Tarantino was inspired by a genre of old magazines, aptly called pulp fiction for the cheap, pulpy paper on which they were printed. The pages of the magazine were filled with wonderful stories of dangerous criminals and crooked detectives, of a world filled with dangerous leaps over rooftops and harrowing plunges into dumpsters on the sides of buildings
John Travolta plays a rather inept hitman named Vincent Vega, who works for the local mob boss Marsellus Wallace, played by Ving Rhames. The audience is first introduced to the character as Vega is on his way to carry out a contract killing with his partner Jules (Samuel L. Jackson).
The duo are to kill a group of young, white drug dealers who were foolish enough to rip off their boss. On their way, the two discuss the differences between McDonald's in France and in the States, as well as exactly how intimate a foot massage truly can be. Jackson maintains that a foot massage is meaningless, but becomes offended when Vega asks him, "Would you give a man a foot massage?"
Vega is, simply put, bad at his job. Vega does not know how to properly clean up after himself. He also has a penchant for accidentally shooting business associates in the face because the car "hit a bump."
He is saved repeatedly simply by the fact that he is friends with people who are far more competent than him, such as The Wolf, played by actor Harvey Keitel, who is famous for his ability to clean up a murder scene.
Vega has a truly amazing sequence with Uma Thurman, who plays Mia Wallace, the young and dangerously beautiful wife of Vega's drug dealing boss. Vega has been ordered to show her a good time while his boss is away, and in true Vega fashion, he shows up smack dab in the middle of a heroin trip. His showing up stoned works out perfectly, as Wallace cannot leave before bumping a few more lines of cocaine.
The two go to Jack Rabbit Slim's, a 1950s themed restaurant staffed by Marilyn Monroe and Buddy Holly look-alikes. The two share multiple silences that betray the ever-growing sexual tension between them.
When they return from their date, Wallace dances to Urge Overkill's "Girl, you'll be a woman soon," while Vega talks himself down in the bathroom. Wallace sings along, dancing to the song by herself in the living room. She loses herself completely, collapsing on the couch. The scene leaves the audience wondering exactly why she seems to identify so much with the song, and it paints a vivid picture of who she is.
Bruce Willis and Maria de Medeiros play yet another couple in the film. Willis plays the aged boxer Butch Coolidge, who is paid to throw his final fight. Coolidge spits in the face of a dangerous criminal when he decides instead to beat his opponent to death in the ring, escaping with the money. Medeiros plays his naive French girlfriend, Fabienne, who is oblivious to the danger the pair is in.
When Coolidge returns from his fight, he finds Fabienne sleeping. Where most thrillers would use the moment to have the characters discuss their motivations for ripping off the drug dealer, or detailing their plans for the future, the two simply share a discussion of how Fabienne wants "a pot belly." The love between the characters is visible on screen. They speak to one another with such tenderness that it leaves audiences feeling like Butch and Fabienne are real, and out there together somewhere.
Tarantino has his characters bumble from one terrible situation to the next. Each time a character gets out of the frying pan, they find themselves in the fire.
The actors who open the film, stickup artists played by Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer, find themselves robbing the two dangerous hitmen. The aging boxer and the drug dealer who want him dead both end up at the mercy of three leather bondage freaks. After a pleasant date, Wallace rails a thick line of heroin and overdoses. The scenes are fantastic, but by sheer virtue of the characters and the authenticity of their dialogue, these fantastic situations become totally believable.
Tarantino creates a truly disturbing version of 1990s Los Angeles and runs with it. His characters elicit as many gasps as they can laughs, while leaving audiences disturbed at what they find funny.
"Pulp Fiction" is violent. The characters in the film are almost all detestable people. The situations they find themselves in are deplorable. And anyone who has yet to see "Pulp Fiction" is denying himself or herself a truly fantastic movie experience. 

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