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Revisiting Quentin Tarantino classic 'Pulp Fiction'


Pulp – 1) A soft, moist, shapeless mass of matter.

2) A magazine or book containing lurid subject matter and being characteristically printed on rough, unfinished paper.

Brutal yet sensitive, intelligent yet graphic, tense yet easy-viewing, there is not a moment you would want to miss.

In 1994, Quentin Tarantino bought us Pulp Fiction. A film so well received and so highly praised, it enabled the director to achieve the task of exceeding his debut film, Reservoir Dogs—something many thought was impossible.

To be honest, it’s hard to know where to begin with a film of this calibre – the script, the plot, the cast, the music, the director? Pulp Fiction is a work of art that swept the world, cementing the credit Tarantino gets as a director whose multiple storyline keeps the viewer intrigued, captured and on edge, whilst ensuring their interest doesn’t flag at any time.

The film is constructed in three parts, with L.A. mobster Vincent Vega (played by a surprisingly sensitive John Travolta) appearing in all three ‘episodes’ of the film.

Now I am not going to explain what happens in the whole film, not only because the storyline is so extensive, but also for the fear of doing it an injustice—so I would recommend you go out and buy this film (if it is not in your collection already) and watch it for yourself. However, there are some unforgettable scenes that cannot be overlooked.

The film begins in a downtown coffee shop, with the ‘innocent’ “Honey Bunny” and “Pumpkin” discussing their plans to rob liquor stores and restaurants – a particular plot that is not returned to until the end, but is fully explained by the film’s final line.  Tarantino then shoots to a car, being driven by good friends Vincent and Jules (Samuel L. Jackson). Unsuspectingly on their way to a ‘job’ as local gangsters, they innocently begin to talk about Vincent’s recent stay in Europe, how a cheeseburger is so elegantly called a “Royale with cheese” – due to the metric system, of course.

Tarantino’s tasteful style of directing portrays these gangsters as ‘normal’, everyday men. In fact we as the audience also believe them to be innocents, until Jules’ key yet relaxed script, “come on, let’s get in character”, prepares them for the killing spree they are about to embark on.

The following story involves Travolta again, as he is asked by the boss of all bosses, Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames) to take his wife on a night out – an alarmingly innocent, puppy-dogged eyed Uma Therman. As we fear for Vincent’s life the minute a slight bit of flirting takes places, matters get worse as he is forced to partake in the restaurant’s dance competition – a scene constantly fresh in the mind of all cinema lovers. As he dusts off his shoes from ‘Saturday Night Fever’, Travolta and Therman dazzle the audience with the twist – kicking off a night that ends rather differently from the way Vega had anticipated…

Like I said, so much happens in this film that it is impossible to do it justice, however the jam-packed 2 hours 34 flies by in what seems a matter of minutes. Without even mentioning the story of Butch (Bruce Willis), a retiring boxer who can’t seem to stay out of trouble, along with an extremely messy car and an ever so intriguing suitcase, it is near on impossible to reiterate the cinematic quality of this film in a matter of words.

Whilst this film is down as one of the greats however, I can see where to some viewers it may have all gone wrong. Overlooking the all-star cast accompanied by the memorable soundtrack, viewers may find the excessive violence and numerous storylines extensive and tedious. It may be such aspects of this film that hinders its performance in the leader board, preventing it from leap-frogging the likes of ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ and ‘The Godfather’ (s), to that ultimate number one spot.

However for the majority, this film is faultless. It re-set the benchmark for Tarantino’s work, with following films such as ‘Kill Bill’, ‘Inglorious Basterds’ and ‘Django Unchained’ not failing to impress. Pulp Fiction is unlike any other film, capturing moments and emotions from all aspects of cinema that will forever struggle to be improved upon – a timeless classic.

Charlie Elgar.