“Royal with cheese.” Thus begins one of the most memorable, quotable and stylish movies of our modern times. Quentin Tarantino directs this film with flair, elegance and care. The film has a non-linear timeline, but never feels muddled and it is one of the Pulp Fiction’s greatest strengths as half of the fun is figuring out what takes place when after you’re done watching.
The film stars an all star cast which includes, John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer, Maria de Medeiros, Ving Rhams, Eric Stoltz, Rosanna Arquette, Christopher Walken and Bruce Willis. That is one stacked cast and everyone in the film plays their roles perfectly. Everyone bounces off with one another so well and the chemistry between the actors, especially John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson, is one of the best part of the film. Their dialogue is so well written and so enjoyable too watch that they alone make this movie. Their scenes are what drives Pulp Fiction. This was a career-defining role for Travolta and he has never been better or ever will be than in this film as Vincent Vega. Samuel L. Jackson is flat out amazing as Jules, which might just be his best performance of all time. He is fantastic in this movie and he undergoes a great character arc as he is a cold blooded killer as the movie begins, but that all changes when he Vincent survive what Jules believes to be “divine intervention” after a man unloads his gun on them but misses every bullet. Jules then decides to be a preacher and retire despite Vincent’s protests. “You’ve decided to be a bum!”
Uma Thurman plays Mia, Marcellus Wallis’s wife. Marcellus asks Vincent to take Mia out for diner one night when he is out of town so that she isn’t lonely. The two go out at a 1950’s themed diner full of Marlyn Monroe’s that serve five-dollar milkshakes. They participate at a twist contest (which provides one of the funniest and most entertaining sequences of the entire film as both of their dancing techniques are ridiculous) and return to Mia’s house with the trophy. Mia then overdoses after taking a puff of Vince’s heroin and Vince takes her to his drug dealer. They are able to revive Mia by using adrenaline.
Bruce Willis plays Dutch, a boxer who was paid by mob boss Marcellus to loose a fight but decides to double cross him and wins the fight instead. He encounters both John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson throughout the film and his fate is interconnected with the two mobsters. This is one of Bruce Willis’s best roles, even though his storyline is the least interesting in the film. It’s serves it’s purpose and it needs to be there for the story to progress, but the dialogue isn’t as sharp or as memorable as the rest of the film. This would be my only complaint with the film—while it is vital to the overall story structure of the movie, it is the least entertaining aspect of the picture. The story of Dutch getting his watch seems sort of unimportant with everything else going on and his girlfriend Fabienne is a pain in the ass. Let me retort this chapter of the film is not horrible, far from it. It is just not as interesting as the others.
The soundtrack to this movie is one of the best soundtracks ever made. Every song fits the scene perfectly and while there are a lot of classic pop songs, they are never distracting. All of the songs are catchy and you’ll want to buy and listen to them over and over again.
And then there’s the briefcase. We never know what’s inside it (I’m not even sure Tarantino himself knows) although it glows every times someone opens it and we’re left to theorize what’s in it. Is it drugs? Is it money? Is it the diamonds from Reserve Dogs? Is it Marcellus’s soul? The code for to open it is 666 and a lot of people has theorized that Marcellus has sold his soul to the devil and is trying to get it back. That would be a plausible theory but not one I necessarily believe. A lot of people that see the case stare at it in complete awe as if it was the Holy Grail itself. Pumpkin’s reaction when he sees the case: “Is that what I think it is?” does throw me off, since there are no
The order of this film is non-linear. It’s one of Pulp Fiction’s greatest strengths. The film is divided in 7 parts and all of the chapters are out of order.
- Prologue- I love you “Pumpkin. I love you Hunny Bunny.”
- Prelude to Vincent Vega and Marcellus Wallis’s Wife
- Vincent Vega and Marcellus Wallis’s wife
- Prelude to The Gold Watch (Flashback sequence)
- The Gold Watch
- The Bonnie Situation
- Epilogue “The Diner”
Here is what the film would be like chronically. The entire film takes place in three days.
- (Day 1) Prelude to Vincent Vega and Marcellus Wallis’s Wife
The movie actually starts in the morning, with Vincent and Jules in the vehicle discussing the metric system after Vincent returns from his trip to Amsterdam. They then head to Brett’s apartment, in order to retrieve Marcellus’s briefcase and Jules shoots one of Brett’s associate and interrogates him in one of the film’s best quotes “Does he look like a bitch?!” He then delivers a passage from the bible (which is one of the best monologues in film history) before he shoots Brett.
- (Day 1 later that morning) The Bonnie Situation
Soon after, a man bursts out of the bathroom and shoots Vince and Jules but misses every time. The two look at each other and shoot the guy numerous times. Jules believes that they have just witnessed define intervention. “Did you see the size of that gun? It was bigger than him.” They bring Marvin along for the ride and bring the briefcase. Vince, while talking to Jules about divine intervention, accidently shoots Marvin in the face in the back of the vehicle in broad daylight. They decide to hide the vehicle at Jimmy’s (Quentin Tarantino) home, who is one of their associates. They get the help of Mr. Wolf (Harvey Keitel) sent by Marcellus Wallis to clean up the mess before Jimmy’s wife Bonnie comes home. They get rid of the body at a junkyard and get clean pair of clothes after being washed by a hose by Mr. Wolf.
- Epilogue: The Diner
At a diner, Jules tells Vincent that he plans to retire, taking their divine intervention as a sign of fate. Vincent tries to plea with Jules in order to change his mind. When he sees that it is useless, he decides to get up and go to the bathroom. Soon after, two robbers, a man and a woman, named Yolanda and Ringo, rob the restaurant, and steal everyone’s wallet. The man comes face to face with Jules and orders him to put his wallet in the bag. Jules takes out his gun and points it at the man as the woman screams and points her gun at Jules, creating a Mexican standoff similar too Reservoir Dogs.
Jules recites the passage from the bible, contemplates his life of crime just as Vincent returns from the bathroom, gun on Yolanda. Jules gives all of his cash to Ringo (indicating that he is buying the man’s soul in return for doing so) and let’s them leave the diner. The two then decide to leave the diner with the briefcase.
Day 1 (Continued) Vincent and Jules (still dressed in the same clothes they put on at Jimmy’s place) go to Marcellus’s bar and give him his briefcase. They have to wait because Marcellus is talking to a boxer named Butch (Bruce Willis). Vincent insults Butch as he leaves. Vincent and the bartender exchange funny remarks about Vincent’s assignment for the evening, which is to take out Marcellus’ s wife Mia for diner.
Thus concludes Jules’s storyline, which only takes place over half a day since he decides to quit being a mobster and retire. Vincent’s storyline however, is far from done.
- (Day 2 Early that evening) Vincent Vega and Marcellus’s Wallace Wife
Vincent is shown driving his car in a fancy black outfit that he chose to put on for the night as he drives to his drug dealer’s place to buy heroin. He takes a puff at his dealer’s place and leaves to pick up Mia who awaits him at her house with camera surveillance. She spies on him while he waits and snorts coke before making her appearance. The two head to diner at a 50’s themed diner. They participate in the Jack Rabbit slims twist contest. They dance, awkwardly, but in the next scene they are seen with the trophy that they stole from the restaurant, which is later reported on the news in Butch’s apartment while Vincent is on the toilet. They go back to Mia’s place, but while Vincent goes to the bathroom as he tries to contemplate a way out of their night together, Mia takes a puff of Vincent’s heroin stash and overdoses. Vincent finds her lying on the floor, passed out.
He brings her to his drug dealer’s place and they are able to reanimate her by shooting adrenaline in her heart. Vince brings Mia back home and the two promise not to say anything to Marcellus. Before he leaves, Mia decides to tell him her joke “Fox Force Five” (which is a direct reference to the death squad she is a part of at the beginning of Kill Bill).
4.Prelude to The Gold Watch (Flashback)
This scene is where we are first introduced to Butch when he is a child, as his father (played superbly by Christopher Walken) gives him his watch. This scene isn’t long, but it demonstrates why this watch is so important to Butch and how he will do anything to get it back.
5.(Day 3) The Gold Watch
Butch double crosses Marcellus Wallis and wins the match. He leaves the fight in a hurry and takes a cab. He exchanges a few lines of dialogue with the taxi driver and while this happens, we can clearly see that the background of the vehicle has suddenly turned into black and white. Butch even throws his gloves out the window, and “a plop” can even be heard indicating no vehicle movement. This always perplexed me while watching the movie, since this is the only scene that he does this. Does it take place in Bruce Willis’s head, like some claim? Or is it just homage to black and white films, where the background of vehicles always looked fake? Either way, this is a very unique technique that not a lot of directors have replicated.
Dutch goes to the hotel and meets with his girlfriend Fabienne and they spend the night together. This section is probably the most uneventful of the film and the dialogue isn’t particularly interesting. It’s cheesy and a bit tongue and cheek, which is completely different from the rest of the film. Nevertheless, in the morning Butch realizes that Fabienne has forgotten his watch and completely goes mad and goes back to his apartment to retrieve it. He drives there, furious, and goes by the backyard and enters his apartment. At first, it seems as if no one is there waiting for him. He then finds a gun on the counter and hears the toilet flush. He grabs the weapon and waits for the man to come out. It is none other than Vincent, who had heard that somebody had returned to the apartment believed that it was Marcellus who went out to buy donuts and left his gun on the counter, which is brilliant writing since none of this is actually explained to the audience. Vincent walks out of the bathroom and sees Butch. Butch fires and kills Vincent, which is ironic because every time Vincent goes to the bathroom something bad happens. At Marcellus’s house he comes back and sees finds that Mia had an overdose. At the diner he comes out and the restaurant is being robbed. Bad things happen when Vincent goes to the bathroom, that’s just the way off life.
Butch then leaves his apartment with his watch and takes his car back into town, listening to “Flowers on the Wall” one of the film’s best tracks and sees Marcellus Wallis, walking down the street with a box of donuts, clearly heading back to Butch’s apartment. Butch speeds up and hits Marcellus and gets into a car crash.
He wakes up a few minutes later unconscious as Marcellus runs after him and shoots a lady nearby. Butch runs into a pawnshop and fights with Marcellus, before they are stopped by the owners that pull a gun on them. The owners, Zed and Maynard kidnap and tie them both to a chair.
They then bring out a gimp that is locked inside a box and bring Marcellus in another room to rape him. Butch manages to get free and knocks the gimp out cold. He almost leaves, but decides to stay and help Marcellus and kills Maynard with a Samurai blade. Marcellus grabs Maynard’s shotgun and shoots Zed in the balls, letting him bleed to death.
Marcellus tells Butch that they are even lets Butch leaves Los Angeles forever with Fabienne. He goes to get her back at the hotel and worried, she asks him how he got the motorcycle.
“Whose motorcycle is this?”
“It’s a chopper babe.”
“Whose chopper is this?”
“Zed’s dead, baby. Zed’s dead.”
Thus ends Pulp Fiction as Butch rides of in the sunset with his lover. This scene happens around the halfway mark of the film but chronologically this is where the story ends.
Overall, Pulp Fiction is a magnificent tour de force with great performances, terrific dialogue, great humor, wonderful characters, a unique story and an amazing soundtrack. It is one of my favorite movies and it’s unique narrative structure is what makes it so fun to talk about after. Pulp Fiction is in my opinion Tarantino’s best film as well as his most unique.