Monday, August 27, 2012

My Favorite Era: Pulp Fiction (1994)

It can be said, quite accurately, that if Jaws kicked off the blockbuster era of filmmaking for the next twenty years, Pulp Fiction helped kicked off the more indie spirited films in the nineties.  Like Jaws, much has been written about the movie to the point where a simple analysis of the thing is redundant.  Quentin Tarantino really his one out of the ballpark here, making a ghoulishly funny dark comedy (look at how many laughs come out of the situations that in any other movie would be deadly serious) that somehow, some way manages to make two and a half hours feel like ninety.

I saw this beauty twice in the theater in 1994, here are some thoughts...
  • The opening scene with Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer is a wonderfully plain and simple introduction to the wild world of the movie.  Roth is always good and Plummer is her usual eccentric self.  An amusing side note: I've noticed from watching her in a few other things that no matter what the role, her accent is a cross between Cockney and Irish...and she's a born and bred New Yorker.  Odd.  Even stranger is towards the end where is goes from her normal voice (relatively) to Cockney to Southern and back to her regular voice.  Like I said, she's a tad on the eccentric side as a performer.
  • The fifteen minute sequence with Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta is an impeccably built scenes of tension with the amusing conversation in the car leading to a double homicide (for the moment).
  • The nonlinear way the story unfolds is great as the juxtaposition between the first Travolta/Jackson scene where they're in nice suits and the less than cool attire they're seen in next is a great laugh as well as a nice hook for the audience.  The intro of Bruce Willis into the piece is also a nice piece of lean storytelling.
  • The long segment that follows is a nice showcase for John Travolta that helps remind the viewer why the hell he became popular in the first place.  It also gives us a nice look at Uma Thurman's talents.
  • The chemistry between Travolta and Thurman is quite amusing as Uma plays it casually sexy and Travolta, in an amusing change of pace is subtly nervous...especially after the story he;s heard from Jackson in the first scene.
  • The Jack Rabbit Slim's sequence is a marvel of detailed set design.  Tarantino generally fills the locations to the brim but here he really outdoes himself.
  • I get a kick out of Steve Buscemi's cameo.  This may be one of the few times in film where he hasn't had to be either sleazy, creepy or psychotic.
  • The adrenaline needle scene is still one of the tensest, uncomfortable moments I have ever seen.  Even when you know its coming, it's still a guaranteed "Squirm till you look impaired" moment.
  • The Christopher Walken monologue coming right after the OD sequence is a great tension relieving laugh riot as Walken starts off with a touching story a bout a watch that turns into an amazingly inappropriate tale about the journey it has been on.  Only Walken could sustain something this out there and not lose the audience.
  • Bruce Willis is great in this film.  Coming off the failure (though I still dig it) of Hudson Hawk he was in dire need of something good and he certainly delivers the goods.  He's tough, cool and just a little bit vulnerable.  It's a real tour de force.
  • Travolta getting shot 93 minutes in is still one of the best surprises in the movie.  Both times I saw it in the theater there were audible moans of disappointment.
  • Ving Rhames is also great, giving his crime lord a wonderfully intimidating demeanor.
  • Four words you never want to hear any place, any time: Bring out the gimp.  Man, that scene is still one of the most twisted things I have ever witnessed!  I don't know why the hell two rednecks have a pawn shop in Los Angeles, I don't want to know...some things are best left secret.
  •  Butch considering which weapon to use before he goes in to kill the rednecks is ghoulishly funny in the best way.
  • I love the little Twilight Zone riff that plays at the end of the Bruce Willis sequence.  Talk about the music fitting the moment!
  • The last forty minutes of the movie are a great blend of dark comedy, philosophical soul searching and some great scenery chewing from Harvey Keitel.  In only a few minutes of screen time, Keitel damn near walks off with the entire movie with one of the most hilariously deadpan bits of character comedy I have ever seen.
  •  Samuel L. Jackson truly owns the last scene of the movie.  As great as he is when he's losing his temper and shouting like a maniac, he's equally great when he is calm and calculating.  And yes, the reveal of his wallet is frigging hilarious.
  • The way the first scene and last scene dovetail into each other is a very satisfying moment.
1994 was a hell of a great year for movies and this is the best of the year.  Tarantino improved on his 1992 effort Reservoir Dogs by a wide margin with a fast, darkly funny, gloriously energetic piece of filmmaking that stands as one of the best movies ever made.

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About Me

I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.