Pulp Fiction, written and directed by Quentin Tarantino (co-written by Roger Avery), signaled the arrival of a new cinematic voice. Sure, Tarantino had made s splash with his well-received Reservoir Dogs, but Pulp Fiction was a striking follow-up, inventive, refreshing, violent, and a hyper-cool expression of Tarantino’s cinematic influences. Arriving from Paramount on Ultra High-Definition for the first time, its hard to believe this film could ever possibly look better at home than this. Highly Recommended.
The Production: 5/5
“It’s 30 minutes away. I’ll be there in 10.”
The lives of a boxer looking for redemption, hitmen doing their work, their mob boss employer, his wife, and two professional robbers looking for a new approach, intersect and overlap with violence and bizarre coincidence in sunny Los Angeles.
Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction is a landmark film. He assembles a fascinating celluloid exclamation of plotting and dialogue, with visual assuredness, a style brimming with filmmaker wit, and a joyful boldness in putting it all together according to the way he sees (and loves) movies. He imbues scenes with tension, with lessons learned from Hitchcock it seems, and wraps it all in a construct that explores choices, decision points, and the resultant repercussions of those choices.
Pulp Fiction, the 3rd Tarantino directorial effort, is an important film in his continuing evolution as a filmmaker. He once again displays a mastery of dialogue as the central compelling element for significant stretches of film, with spirited wit, observation, casual and effective. And again, he’s created interesting, unique characters who, whether you like them or not or find them compelling or evil, command your attention. He builds scenes that lure you with innocuous dialogue of the kind we don’t tend to hear in film then often take us to violent bursts that surprise or make us wince.
Performances are confident and memorable in a film that swims happily between warm moments of human connection and furious bursts of human violence. Its episodic and non-chronological narrative structure creates an enticing dance of characters in and out of moments, intersecting, ending, reappearing, and capping in important ways. To say Pulp Fiction was one of the most important American films of the 90s would be a limiting description. It was an important, influential, defining, and lasting piece of impressive cinema that stands of Tarantino’s full arrival as a filmmaker. While Tarantino would go on to make perhaps better films (Inglorious Basterds certainly makes a case for the title as his best film with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood knocking at that door, too), none are as sincere or refreshing a statement of an important cinematic voice as Pulp.
Good actors love good lines. They yearn for scripts with dialogue they can tear their teeth into, scenes they can inhabit, and other actors they can do verbal dances under the keen skills of a filmmaker who knows what they’re doing and what they want. In that, Tarantino is a gift. Actors cast in his films tend to give some of their best performances. Uma Thurman’s absorbing performance as Mia is one of her finest (she’s staggering in Tarantino’s Kill Bill films, though), Bruce Willis is understated, familiar, but entirely compelling as Butch, the boxer who prods the ire of the mob boss, Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames). Willis was struggling at the box office following a string of cinematic disappointments to his name and Pulp Fiction gave him a hit and a second wind. Rhames’s Wallace isn’t a complicated character, but the way he delivers commands with menacing certainty stands out. Eric Stoltz as the drug dealer, Rosanna Arquette as his wife, and Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer as the robbers at the diner, are prizes. Christopher Walken’s soliloquy about Butch’s father’s watch is the stuff of legend because its great dialogue in the mouth of a great actor.
The real standout performances in the picture come from John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson as Wallace’s hitmen, Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield. Jackson, armed with fierce and memorable dialogue, owns every moment he’s on screen. He’s frightening and furious but disarming and likable, often mere sentences from each other. Travolta is brilliant as Vega. He’s not a cool hitman, but an affable, ordinary type of man who happens to be a kill on demand. Harvey Keitel also has a memorable role as the Wolf, the man you call to clean up a serious situation, and he’s a delight.
This is a film that stands out. It rippled through pop-culture with impressive tenacity and still holds sway as an influential piece of cinema. It helps to love the film, but even its detractors recognize the importance of this film and its impact on film and filmmaking.
3D Rating: NA
Paramount’s 4K release of Pulp Fiction, framed in 2.35:1, has never looked better. Pulp has always been a quite bright, natural looking film, particularly in the diner scene, but with the uptick in resolution and the Dolby Vision grading, that brightness is pronounced and is extraordinarily crisp. The glistens on Jules’ Jheri curl, the pores on actors’ skin in close-up, the effects of direct in-frame light on characters and fabric and the bits of dust that float around everything in this world, are on display here and it is glorious. Various fabrics get a showcase with the extra detail, blacks are deeper and more defined, sweat and blood are more evident, and the mess on the interior or Jules’ car has never been as clear and disgusting as it is here.
Paramount doesn’t have the best record bringing great films to 4K. If you had trepidation about this release, I wouldn’t blame you. But this is the real deal. This has been shown care and respect and it’s a winner.
While the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio track is the same as the previous Blu-ray release, it’s solid. A dialogue heavy film, the center channel gets more to do than normal, but the film comes alive during the use of song, and the bursts of action. The opening, especially when the music changes like a radio dial turning, the songs fill the audio space, nicely in the surrounds. Bullets, in the few moments where they’re fired, punctuate, and the chaos that ensues during the diner robbery, as Tim Roth rousts the patrons and rumbles through the kitchen rousting the staff into the dining area, is filled with sounds.
Tarantino uses sound well in this film, and the balance of sounds, adjusting to support the action, becomes another lever being pulled to drive the audience through the intersecting lives of these interesting characters.
Special Features: 3.5/5
Previously available special features here are a good bunch, with the cast in interviews (Not the Usual Mindless Boring Getting to Know You Chit Chat) is particularly good.
This version also comes housed in a handsome Steelbook case featuring fine artwork from the Jack Rabbit Slim’s sequence, where Mia and Vincent twist with abandon.
4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc
- Not the Usual Mindless Boring Getting to Know You Chit Chat
- Here are Some Facts on the Fiction
- Enhanced Trivia Track (subtitle file)
- Not the Usual Mindless Boring Getting to Know You Chit Chat
- Here Are Some Facts on the Fiction
- Pulp Fiction: The Facts – Documentary
- Deleted Scenes
- Behind the Scenes Montages
- Production Design Featurette
- Siskel & Ebert “At the Movies”- The Tarantino Generation
- Independent Spirit Awards
- Cannes Film Festival – Palme d’Or Acceptance Speech
- Charlie Rose Show
- Marketing Gallery
- Still Galleries
- Enhanced Trivia Track (text on feature)
- Soundtrack Chapters (index points in feature)
Pulp Fiction, written and directed by Quentin Tarantino (co-written by Roger Avery), signaled the arrival of a new cinematic voice. Sure, Tarantino had made a splash with his well-received Reservoir Dogs, but Pulp Fiction was a striking follow-up, inventive, refreshing, violent, and a hyper-cool expression of Tarantino’s cinematic influences. Arriving from Paramount on Ultra High-Definition for the first time, it’s hard to believe this film could ever possibly look better at home than this. Highly Recommended.
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