Why Pulp Fiction is a masterpiece without a message…

 A series of intertwining crime stories from the Los Angeles underworld.

Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) and Vincent Vega (John Travolta) are two hit men who work for mobster Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames). Marsellus is currently dealing with boxer Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis) who failed to throw a fight after taking money off of Marsellus to do so. As a result he is now on the run, but is delayed when his girlfriend forgets to pack the watch his father handed down to him and he has to go back and retrieve it. Vincent faces his own problems when Marsellus asks him to show his wife, Mia (Uma Thurman), a good time whilst he’s out of town, and the evening doesn’t quite go to plan. The long and short of it all is some people manage to redeem themselves and some don’t, but they all meet endings appropriate to their choices.

Two years after exploding onto the scene with Reservoir Dogs, Quentin Tarantino returned with what millions world-wide claim to be his tour-de-force; Pulp Fiction. It was the 1994 Palme d’Or winner at Cannes, and went on to be nominated for seven awards at the 1995 Oscars, however only won one. In its twenty-one year existence, Pulp Fiction has won over legions of fans and has joined films such as The Shawshank Redemption, The Godfather and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly as one of the greatest films of all-time.

For me, there are three stand-out features of Pulp Fiction – one of them is the razor-sharp dialogue that was expertly written for the people delivering it. One person in particular had a knack for their character’s way with words, and clearly the director thought so as well as they have since returned for every other Tarantino film since. Who on this blessed earth could I possibly be talking about? Samuel L. Jackson in case anyone was struggling, that’s who. His turn as Jules marked the beginning of a beautiful partnership between himself and Tarantino, and it’s not hard to see why. Jackson was mesmerising as the philosophical mobster whose whole story reached a climax when he had what alcoholics refer to as a moment of clarity, and he decided through witnessing a miracle that the gangster life was no longer for him. He just knows how to say the stuff that Tarantino pens, and you can’t help but find yourself laughing at him with the way he says some of his lines – that dry wit is always there and I love it.

I think this was also the big breakthrough role for another of Tarantino’s favourites, Uma Thurman, who whilst filming Pulp Fiction was also reportedly working on the bare bones of Kill Bill with QT. Again, their collaboration on this film marked the early days of a wonderful friendship and an exclusive glimpse of the magic that was to come. Her character, Mia Wallace, is the product of a woman marrying a big-time gangster – an overgrown wild child with a lot of time and even more money to do with as she pleases. Thurman played her brilliantly, and, once more, it’s not too difficult to figure out why she has since teamed up with Tarantino on two more films, with a third not yet having been completely ruled out.

Another stand-out feature of Pulp Fiction was the addition of one of my favourites to the cast. Bruce Willis played Butch Coolidge who, for me, sort of paid homage to the character that gave Willis his career; the good guy with the odds stacked against him who still manages to come out on top. There was the usual wit in his performance and his characteristic charm shone through as well, and when it came to the basement scene with Marsellus, God, I nearly cried! He was very funny, but at the same time you could take him seriously enough in order to want him to come through the other side all alright.

Pulp Fiction also featured the same non-chronological structure as Reservoir Dogs, as does every other Tarantino film. The storyline was very, very well put together, but the best thing about it is, throughout the course of the whole film (which is three hours long), not a fat lot actually happens. That’s where the magic of Pulp Fiction lies – there is no real plot line and therefore there is no natural objective to be achieved. It’s just a masterpiece without a message, and it is magnificent.

Now, I know near enough the whole world has seen Pulp Fiction, and those of you who haven’t seen it probably don’t need me to try and persuade you to do so, but if you do, I’ll just say that it’s definitely a must-see that everyone should watch at some point during their life – it didn’t win the Palme d’Or at Cannes 1994 for nothing.


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Kira Comerford

Film and TV lover with hopes to one day make my own projects for everyone to enjoy. Until then, I'm giving my thoughts on what I watch for inspiration.

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