Should I see it?
Film Students/Geeks: Yes.
Real Humans: No.
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Written by: Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avary
Starring: John Travolta, Samuel L Jackson, Uma Thurman, Bruce Willis, Ving Rhames, Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer, Quinten Tarantino and Christopher Walken
Rated R for detailed depiction of drug use, brutal violence, rape, sexual content and harsh language throughout.
Rent or Buy This Movie Here
Quentin Tarantino is blessed with a genius for language. He also has a talent for wielding his encyclopedic knowledge of cinema and pop culture. Unfortunately, he is also a master at squandering his gifts on self-indulgent pap.
There are good reasons why Pulp Fiction will be the film Tarantino shall be remembered for. It will consistently be placed as one of the most important films of the 1990’s. The film is a knot of four stories, each centering on underground characters in Los Angeles. The stories mingle with one another in narratives, characters, and timelines in such a way that a character killed in a scene will reappear in a later one. The disorienting ordering of scenes combined with the rapid fire dialog makes this film a unique presentation. Tarantino's masterful dialog also makes his script a textbook for aspiring screenwriters.
From a technical point of view, the film is quite remarkable. Tarantino has masterful dialog, carefully crafted scenes, and memorable performances from the cast. All these things make Pulp Fiction a film worth noting. If I can so easily offer it such praise, how can I honestly turn around and tell you not to see it?
Tarantino paints a brilliant picture, but fails to infuse it with any purpose. Art without purpose is design. While design is fun, it doesn’t hold anything for the soul – it is made for the eyes. This is a very “cool” movie but it is hardly fulfilling. There are plenty of thrills, as there are numerous striking scenes of violence, sexual depravity and drug use. There are scenes which will stick in your mind, including a male rape scene, a detailed how-to scene on shooting heroin; and even worse, Bruce Willis naked. Again, Tarantino paints of brilliant picture, but his subject is truly ugly.
For the extent of the run-time you are watching hideous people doing horrendous things to other hideous people. Everyone is an amoral beast carelessly drifting through the world causing mayhem and bloodshed along the way. Instead of pulling the various plots together into a decisive moral point, Tarantino is comfortable letting the loose ends float in the wind without resolution – therefore there is ultimately no point.
No one in the film matters, because in the universe Tarantino presents, life has no meaning. If life is meaningless, so is death. As an example: Marvin, a young black man, is shot in the face while riding in a car with a pair of hit men. Marvin’s head explodes all over the backseat. The moment his brains splatter, Tarantino has him referred to as “dead nigger” for the remainder of the scene (and often uses the term as a joke). Marvin is no longer a man, he not an individual, he's not respected. He’s just a "dead nigger" who needs to be mopped up. If it were clear that Tarantino were trying to show the world as an amoral jungle this may be forgivable, but he never delves that deep into his own philosophy.
What is very frustrating is that there is actually a hint of depth in the film’s prologue and epilogue. Two petty thieves, known by their intimate nicknames Pumpkin and Honey Bunny, hastily plan to rob the crowded diner where they are drinking coffee. The film opens with them plotting the caper. In the film’s closing scene we return to the couple as they rob the shocked diner patrons. Unfortunately, one of the patrons is a career criminal who refuses to be robbed. In this final scene of the movie the pair of petty thieves is actually cast in the role of the sinful Adam and Eve. The professional criminal who is turning from his wickedness becomes a de facto Christ figure (who spews a made up extended version of Ezekiel 25:17). I understand it sounds bizarre, but Tarantino manages to shoehorn this into the film. Just like the nihilistic aspects of his script, he fails to focus long on this spiritual aspect, leaving the audience with the sense something was expounded while really skirting the whole issue.
The movie was made simply to consume, and that is all. There is no overriding reason to see the film other than it's "cool". This is fine if you're a simpleton who has no expectation from cinema other than titillation. If you break this film down and look at it, it is hollow.
Yes, many critics and cinephiles rave about this film. Their excitement is understandable, but I believe it is misplaced. This is a memorable and invigorating film to be certain. Under close inspection, there is little going on beyond popping dialog and flashy moments of grotesque evil. Ultimately, this is a vile trip through the imagination of a man who is stuck in his corrupted adolescence. As I have stated on this site before, Tarantino is a legitimate talent, but he has the instincts and mentality of an abused twelve-year-old boy left alone with a box of frogs and firecrackers.