Pulp Fiction

This article is about the movie. For the literature, see Pulp magazine.

Template:Infobox Movie Pulp Fiction is a 1994 film directed by Quentin Tarantino and written by Tarantino and Roger Avary. It was released to critical and public acclaim and is regarded by many as a milestone in movie history, helping to establish an ascendant independent film movement in the United States. Its fragmented storyline, eclectic dialogue, irony and camp influences, unorthodox camerawork, and numerous pop culture references have since colored countless movies.

Pulp Fiction was originally titled Black Mask.


Reception and influence

Pulp Fiction is perennially found on both critics' lists (such as the AFI's One Hundred Years, 100 Movies List) and in popular rankings, placing consistently in the top 20 on the IMDB Top 250 List. It won the 1994 Palme d'Or (Golden Palm) at the Cannes Film Festival and the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. It was named Best Picture by the L.A. Film Critics Association and the National Society of Film Critics.

The movie was moderately controversial at the time of its release, partly due to the graphic (though largely off-screen) violence and partly due to its perceived racism, as Jackson and Tarantino played moderately sympathetic characters who freely used the words "nigger" and "motherfucker". Later, in response, director Spike Lee made a point of challenging Tarantino's attitude towards race relations in his movie Bamboozled.

The success of Pulp Fiction spurred studios to release a slew of 'copycat' films soon after that tried to duplicate the film's formula of witty and offbeat dialogue, an elliptical/non-chronological plot and unconventional storyline, and gritty subject matter. Most, if not all of these films, did not fare well at the box office and were dismissed by critics as inferior and derivative, though the raver film Go received some acclaim, and Guy Ritchie's Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels was a successful transplant of the film's basic premise into the underworld of London.


Half film noir and half black comedy, Pulp Fiction weaves through the intersecting storylines of Los Angeles gangsters, fringe characters, petty thieves and a mysterious attach case. Following Quentin Tarantino's more traditional crime movie, Reservoir Dogs, the storyline is chopped up, rearranged and shown out of sequence, a technique borrowed from French nouvelle vague (New Wave) directors such as Jean Luc Godard and Franois Truffaut and from low-budget American crime films such as Stanley Kubrick's The Killing (1956) and Don Siegel's The Killers (1964). The highly stylized and fluid action sequences and deadpan dialogue were inspired by Italian neo-realist director Sergio Leone's famed spaghetti western pictures of the 1960s.

There are four main storylines in Pulp Fiction: Vincent & Jules; Mia Wallace; Butch Coolidge; and Pumpkin & Honey Bunny. All four are intertwined, though Butch never meets Jules or Mia, and Mia never meets the diner robbers.

Vincent & Jules

John Travolta (left) and Samuel L. Jackson as Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield, respectively
John Travolta (left) and Samuel L. Jackson as Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield, respectively

Hitmen Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) and Vincent Vega (John Travolta) head to a Los Angeles apartment to retrieve a stolen briefcase for their boss, gangster Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames), and to kill Brett (Frank Whaley), the leader of a gang of petty thieves who had stolen it. The case is a classic MacGuffin, whose contents are never revealed except indirectly as a glowing yellow light (a homage to the 1955 Robert Aldrich film Kiss Me Deadly and the 1984 Alex Cox project, Repo Man). There has been speculation among fans that the case contains something of supernatural origin, possibly Marsellus' soul; see The mysterious briefcase.

After a long and bizarre conversation led by the Scripture-spouting Jules, the pair shoot and kill Brett and two of his accomplices, quickly departing with the last of the gang, who in fact is Jules' informant, Marvin. Shortly afterward, while in Jules's car, Vincent accidentally shoots Marvin in the head, killing him, and the two hitmen quickly try to find a place to hide and clean up the mess in the car with the aid of snotty suburbanite Jimmie Dimmick (Quentin Tarantino) and the associate/henchman of Marsellus, the dapper and mysterious Winston Wolfe (Harvey Keitel). Jackson's and Travolta's characters had been reportedly inspired by the pair of hitmen played by Lee Marvin and Clu Gulager in Don Siegel's 1964 film The Killers and the obscure 1965 French actioner Je vous salue, Mafia! starring Henry Silva and Jack Klugman.

Mia Wallace

Missing image
Uma Thurman plays Mia Wallace.

At Marsellus' request Vincent Vega shows his wife Mia (Uma Thurman) a good time while he is out of town. They head to a (fictional) restaurant by the name of Jackrabbit Slim's, a slick 1950s-themed restaurant with lookalikes of the decade's top pop culture icons as staff (e.g., television impresario Ed Sullivan as the maitre d', and servers such as singer Buddy Holly and actress Marilyn Monroe), an option for patrons to eat at a booth or a replica of a period car, and the famous five-dollar milkshake. Vincent and Mia make small talk, and then Mia demands that Vincent dance with her in the Jackrabbit Slim's twist contest (possibly a homage to John Travolta's dancing prowess in "Saturday Night Fever"). Back at the house, she is seen carrying the trophy they won. Mia overdoses after snorting heroin, believing it to be cocaine, and a fearful Vincent tries to save her life with the aid of the small-time drug dealer (Eric Stoltz) who had previously sold him the heroin. Mia is finally revived after Vincent, at the climax of a painfully comic and suspenseful scene, stabs her in the heart with a syringeful of adrenaline.

Butch Coolidge

Missing image
Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis) in the pawnshop.

Aging prizefighter Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis) accepts a large sum of money from Marsellus, agreeing to "take a dive" (deliberately lose a fight) by allowing himself to be knocked out in the fifth round of his upcoming match. However, Butch double-crosses Marsellus, instead betting the money he received from Marsellus on himself (with, due to the fight's being fixed, presumably very favorable odds) and winning the bout, accidentally killing his opponent in the process. Although now flush with cash, Butch must quickly leave town, as a vengeful Marsellus is hot on his trail. (Butch's character and his situation appear to have been inspired by a similar character previously played by Robert Ryan in the 1949 film noir classic The Set-Up.)

There is also a flashback at the beginning of the "The Gold Watch" storyline (Butch's story), in which the child Butch Coolidge receives his watch from a buddy of his father's (Christopher Walken), his father having died in a Vietnam War prison camp. This gold watch, which has been passed down from father to son since his great-grandfather fought in World War I, is understandably of great sentimental value to Butch.

Compelled to return to his apartment to retrieve the wristwatch, which his girlfriend (Maria de Medeiros) has forgotten to pack, he comes across Vincent Vega. Butch grabs a silenced submachinegun on the kitchen counter left by Marsellus, who had left to get coffee for himself and Vince. (Although it is never shown that Marsellus was at Butch's apartment there are clues in the scene. One is that after Butch leaves his apartment he will find Marsellus walking across the street holding two cups of coffee, one for himself another for Vince. This would also explain why Marsellus is in that area at all. Also one would wonder why a professional such as Vincent would not keep his gun on him: the answer is that it was Marsellus' gun. And yet another clue is that Vince does nothing when the door to Butch's apartment opens: he thinks he knows who it is.) Butch picks up the gun just in time to encounter Vincent coming out of the bathroom. The Pop Tarts in the toaster pop up, startling Butch into firing and killing Vincent.

While driving back to the motel from the apartment complex, Butch accidentally (and literally) runs into Marsellus himself. (The scene of Marsellus crossing the path of Butch is reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho.) Following a scuffle replete with car collisions, gunplay and fisticuffs, Butch and Marsellus are captured and tied up by a couple of hicks (a pawnshop owner and a security guard) who turn out to be sexual predators and sadists. They take Marsellus into the back room and rape him; Butch escapes his bonds and in a disturbing, comic, and somewhat surreal scene, he is faced with the choice of saving himself or aiding Marsellus.

Pumpkin & Honey Bunny

Missing image
Pumpkin (Tim Roth, right) and Honey Bunny (Amanda Plummer) hold up the diner.

Over a late breakfast in a diner, a pair of petty thieves (Roth and Plummer) discuss the merits of robbing restaurants instead of their usual targets, small banks and liquor stores. After establishing that restaurants are far easier and more lucrative to rob (the employees are less invested in the business, and there are plenty of customers with fat wallets), they spontaneously decide to hold up the diner, demanding all the patrons' money and valuables. Vincent and Jules (fresh from Jimmie's house, wearing a couple of "dorky" borrowed T-shirts) happen to be among the diner patrons. When Ringo demands that Jules hand over the case, Jules holds him at gunpoint in a Mexican standoff with Yolanda (and Vincent, who emerges from the restroom with gun drawn and pointed at Yolanda). Jules explains his ambivalence toward his life of crime, takes his wallet back from Ringo, and lets the pair go free.

It is interesting to note that the Biblical quote which Jules recites does not actually appear in the Bible.

The mysterious briefcase

A number of things can be observed about the stolen attache case recovered by shooters Jules and Vincent. The most obvious is that its latch lock combination is 666, the number of the "Beast" (Satan) as given in the Biblical Book of Revelation.

Whenever asked, director Tarantino has replied that there is no explanation for the case's contents. Originally, it was to contain diamonds, but this was seen as too mundane; it is simply a MacGuffin. As noted before, it's possible Tarantino, a longtime film buff, had been influenced by Robert Aldrich's Kiss Me Deadly (1955), in which a briefcase glows because it contains a small nuclear device.

This being said, fans have offered up several theories, the most popular of which says that Brett had made a deal with Marsellus Wallace for Marsellus's soul. According to this theory, the exit point of Marsellus' soul was in the back of the neck, explaining the conspicuous band-aid on that spot. (The bandage's actual purpose was that actor Ving Rhames wanted to cover up a visible keloid scar.) When Brett is killed, a golden light similar to the briefcase's glow flares across the screen; according to the theory, the light is Brett's soul departing from his body.

Other theories involve the golden Elvis Presley jumpsuit from True Romance, the severed ear from David Lynch's Blue Velvet, or the stolen diamonds from Reservoir Dogs, also by Tarantino. Some suggest it was a would-be present from Marsellus to his "party girl" wife Mia: a stolen Academy Award. The fact that Tarantino sensed beforehand that he might be "robbed" of his Best Picture Oscar adds a tiny speck of credibility to this last theory.

A more unlikely theory suggests that it is Tinkerbell inside the briefcase, as part of a contract between Miramax and Disney that there should be recognition of something associated with Disney, however subtle or explicit, in every Miramax film. There have been Hidden Mickeys found in Kill Bill and Reservoir Dogs which backup the claim, but it seems that Tarantino would not choose to comply with the contract in this way - the briefcase is really the center of the film.

A new theory has recently been brought up when a list displaying some of Quentin's favourite movies was printed in the back of one of his scriptbooks. On the list were some of the well-known Tarantino favourites, such as The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and a brand new candidate: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. It was later brought into conversation that Quentin may have been hinting that it was the lost Sankara Stones from the second Indiana Jones chapter that were inside the case. Like the contents within, they glow when they're in touch with each other in an almost identical fashion. Of course, the stones are precious and rare and this would explain why Pumpkin reacts as he does.

Jules' Bible passage

Template:Wikisourcepar As explained by Jules in the final scene in the diner, he recites a passage from the BibleEzekiel 25:17 — every time right before he kills someone. The passage goes as follows:

The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who in the name of charity and good will shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the LORD when I lay my vengeance upon thee.

This is, in fact, not an actual passage from the King James Version of the Bible, but a collage of several passages. Ezekiel 25:17 in the King James Version reads:

And I will execute great vengeance upon them with furious rebukes; and they shall know that I am the LORD, when I shall lay my vengeance upon them.

Connections to Reservoir Dogs

In Tarantino's 1992 mainstream directorial debut Reservoir Dogs, Michael Madsen plays a character named "Vic Vega"—suspiciously close to Travolta's "Vincent Vega." Tarantino would later confirm that the two are brothers.

Tarantino's Jimmie Dimmick character in Pulp Fiction has the same last name as Harvey Keitel's Reservoir Dogs character Larry Dimmick (Mr. White); however, the two characters are apparently not related in the universe of the films, especially as Tarantino and Keitel appear in both movies, in different roles (Tarantino in Dogs as Mr. Brown and Keitel in Pulp Fiction as Winston Wolfe).

There are some who think that the briefcase contains the diamonds from Reservoir Dogs. Steve Buscemi (Mr. Pink in Dogs) in a cameo as a surly waiter at Jackrabbit Slim's is also interesting—could it actually be Mr. Pink, who escaped from the police and went to a place where no-one would look for him (in Dogs, Mr. Pink refuses to tip waiters)? Tarantino, however, confirms that Reservoir Dogs is meant to end with Mr. Pink's capture by the police.


Actor Role
John Travolta Vincent Vega
Samuel L. Jackson Jules Winnfield
Uma Thurman Mia Wallace
Harvey Keitel Winston Wolfe
Tim Roth Pumpkin (Ringo)
Amanda Plummer Honey Bunny (Yolanda)
Maria de Medeiros Fabienne
Ving Rhames Marsellus Wallace
Eric Stoltz Lance
Rosanna Arquette Jody
Christopher Walken Captain Koons
Bruce Willis Butch Coolidge
Quentin Tarantino Jimmie Dimmick
Phil LaMarr Marvin
Steve Buscemi Surly Buddy Holly Waiter
Lawrence Bender Long Hair Yuppie Scum

External links


Template:Quentin Tarantino films

bs:Pulp Fiction da:Pulp Fiction de:Pulp Fiction es:Pulp Fiction fr:Pulp Fiction it:Pulp Fiction nl:Pulp Fiction ja:パルプ・フィクション no:Pulp Fiction pl:Pulp Fiction pt:Pulp Fiction sk:Pulp Fiction: Historky z podsvetia sv:Pulp Fiction he:ספרות זולה


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