RogerBW's Blog

Pulp Fiction (1994) 19 April 2022

1994 crime drama, dir. Quentin Tarantino, John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson: IMDb / allmovie.

It's fascinating to see this, for the first time, fairly soon after having seen Reservoir Dogs ditto. On the one hand Tarantino clearly has a lot more money to play with this time round: multiple sets, less sparse decoration, more action. On the other he's still very clearly in love with himself and his cast, and thinks his nearly-mindless violent protagonists are so intrinsically fascinating that we'll be happy to watch them chatting about nothing in particular on their way to yet another murder.

Things happen out of sequence. This is never confusing; it's all clearly signposted as far as it matters, and mostly it doesn't matter. In fact it felt to me like a lack of confidence in the story's ability to maintain the viewer's interest. All right, there is some narrative virtue, but the impression I got was that Tarantino wanted the viewer to feel clever for solving the very simple puzzle.

I'm not helped by never having liked John Travolta as an actor; I think audiences in 1994 would have remembered him from their childhoods a decade and a half earlier with Saturday Night Fever and Grease, but his face always strikes me as that of a bully, and his roles don't do much to help counter that. Samuel L. Jackson, on the other hand, does a fine job with a very cramped role, particularly in the final diner scene.

But really the problem for me is that the core element which anchored Reservoir Dogs, the relationship between Orange and White which justified everything else as throwing light onto it, isn't here; repeating it wouldn't have worked, perhaps, but at the same time nothing takes its place at the heart of the film. Many of the individual sequences are solid, well-staged, well-shot, with good acting (and then there's the "look how edgy I am" homosexual bondage rape), but they happen in isolation and often wear their inspiration too openly; this feels at times like Tarantino's highlight reel of the "good bits" from his own favourite films much more than it does like a piece with something to say in its own right.

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Tags: film reviews

See also:
Reservoir Dogs

  1. Posted by Owen Smith at 01:50pm on 20 April 2022

    I recommend Jackie Brown based on what you feel is missing from Pulp Fiction.

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