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Pulp Fiction

You won't know the facts until you've seen the fiction. 

Year: 1994 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 (Scope) 
Certificate: BBFC 18 Cert – Not suitable for under 18s 
Subtitles: This film is not expected to be subtitled, though this cannot be guaranteed. 
Directed by Quentin Tarantino 
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, John Travolta, Bruce Willis, Uma Thurman, Harvey Keitel 
An image from Pulp Fiction

Review:

Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, Pulp Fiction is one of the greatest films of all time.

It tells the stories of two hitmen (John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson), their boss’s wife (Uma Thurman), an aging boxer (Bruce Willis) and other players in the Los Angeles criminal underworld as their paths cross and lives intersect in pursuit of a mysterious briefcase and a gold watch.

Tarantino’s screenplay is a masterpiece, with much of the joy of the film coming from the perfectly written characters interacting with each other in iconic scene after iconic scene, each featuring the rich and memorable dialogue that is typical of his writing. Even minor characters such as Harvey Keitel’s Winston Wolfe become highlights of the film from the few minutes of screen time they receive. Samuel L. Jackson’s performance stands out as one of the finest in his career, as he brings to life a fascinating character through a number of both tense and comedic moments, including some spellbinding monologues.

Equally brilliant is the film’s direction. The soundtrack is impeccably chosen for any given moment, while the use of title cards, colour and a non-linear narrative enhances the film’s mood, giving it a certain uniqueness that, alongside the brilliant acting and writing, has earned it a cult following and impacted popular culture more than perhaps any other modern film.

So, now you’ve heard the facts, come and see the Fiction – projected in glorious 35 mm at the Warwick Student Cinema. You won’t regret it.

Iain Walker

Archive

It’s hard to believe that Quentin Tarantino’s seminal second feature film turned eighteen years old this year. It remains as blistering, compelling and undeniably slick as it must have seemed on its cinematic release. After the blood-splattered entrée of Reservoir Dogs in 1991, Tarantino cemented his place in cinematic history by serving up Pulp Fiction: a potent cocktail of hard-edged characters, comically explosive situations, and dialogue punchier than Bruce Willis’ defiant boxer.

The multi-tiered narrative shifts between various perspectives and timeframes as the film unfolds. Two jittery small-time thieves choose an unfortunate time to spontaneously rob a restaurant. The aforementioned boxer chooses a life on the run when he defies the mob, but finds himself in hot water when he must return home to retrieve a precious possession. Crime lord Marsellus Wallace sends two supercool trigger-happy henchmen on a mission to retrieve a mysterious briefcase. And when one of them is given further orders to treat Mrs Wallace to a night out, the evening holds more than smooth moves on the dance floor. And on top of all this, there’s a car in desperate need of a clean…

It all coalesces perfectly in a display of Tarantino’s masterful film-making skills. His pin-sharp editing keeps the pace vigorous as he refuses to compromise an ounce of his audience’s attention for the film’s entire duration. Equally as comfortable handling action beats as he is with juggling his now-infamous dialogue sequences, Tarantino’s film is, quite simply, one of the coolest of all time. Endlessly quotable, hilarious and heart-racing, Pulp Fiction is packed with a plethora of classic scenes. From Christopher Walken’s solemn speech about the origin of a pocket watch to the most tense discussion about hamburgers you’ll ever witness, it’s a riotous, intelligent thrill-ride, which goes down smoother than a five-dollar ‘shake.

Michael Perry

Two henchmen on the job, a boxer that disobeys the mob by refusing to throw a fight, and a couple that fancy themselves as the modern Bonnie and Clyde spontaneously holding up a diner; the basic ingredients of what is arguably the jewel in Quentin Tarantino’s filmmaking crown.

The opening scenes are enough to convince any viewer that all the charm and gusto introduced in Reservoir Dogs is retained and the scenes that follow raise the bar in Tarantino’s second feature. The two henchmen (Travolta and Jackson) are relentlessly compelling, whether they’re just shooting the breeze or shooting anyone that gets in their way (or doesn’t) as they strive to deliver a mysterious briefcase to their boss Marsellus Wallace. Aging boxer Butch (Willis) is both gripping and comical as he is torn between fleeing crime-lord Wallace and returning home to retrieve a pocket watch with an interesting history, somehow encountering a latex-clad gimp along the way. Daring couple “Pumpkin” and “Honey Bunny” find that they have bitten off a bit more than they can chew in their robbery after coming across a couple of tough customers that are strikingly familiar. Throw in the enchanting Mrs Mia Wallace (Thurman) whose likes include retro themed diners, $5 ‘shakes and hypodermic needles, and the exceptionally suave problem solver Winston Wolfe (Keitel) and you’ve got one of the best films of a generation.

Featuring some of Tarantino’s sharpest dialogue and most absorbing characters, and a stellar cast on the top of their game, Pulp Fiction remains a breath of fresh air and a must-see movie for any viewer.

James Cook

As the modern classic that redefined cinematic cool and truly established Quentin Tarantino as one of the most idiosyncratic filmmakers of his generation, Pulp Fiction is a film that many are undoubtedly already familiar with. However, it remains a multi-layered film that rewards - in fact, almost requires - repeat viewings.

The film connects, via a nonlinear and overlapping narrative, four separate storylines. Hit men Jules (Jackson) and Vincent (Travolta) must retrieve a stolen briefcase belonging to their boss Marcellus Wallace, who has also entrusted Vincent with the task of taking his wife Mia (Thurman) out for the night. Ageing boxer Butch (Willis), paid by Wallace to throw his latest fight, attempts to flee town after killing his opponent. Small-time criminals Pumpkin (Tim Roth) and Honey Bunny (Amanda Plummer) spontaneously decide to hold up the diner they are eating at. Seemingly unrelated storylines intertwine as the narrative takes ever more unexpected twists and turns.

It remains impossible to fully describe the sheer number of unforgettable characters, pop culture references and witty exchanges of dialogue provided by Tarantino and Roger Avary’s Oscar-winning screenplay. The way the seemingly unconnected storylines overlap is often ingenious and Tarantino’s trademark blend of humour and shocking violence is at its most effective here.

Although Tarantino’s films are often criticised for lacking emotional depth, Pulp Fiction’s characters are never lost beneath the smart dialogue. The theme of redemption pervades the film, and the screenplay and performances imbue the potentially despicable characters with wit, charm and humanity. John Travolta’s role as Vincent revived his career and the rest of the cast, especially Jackson, are on superb form.

The numerous imitations the film has spawned since its release makes it easy to forget just how groundbreaking and refreshing Pulp Fiction remains. It is an exhilarating, supremely entertaining movie well deserving of its acclaim.

Patrick Pilkington

Revered by many as the epitome of modern cinema, Tarantino’s second blockbuster defined a decade in film, rejuvenated the careers of several fading actors, and firmly established the ambitious filmmaker on the map as a master of the trade.

In typical QT fashion, we are presented with several intertwining plot strands out of sequence, left to piece the chronology together ourselves. Hitmen Vincent (Travolta) and Jules (Jackson) are sent to recover a valuable suitcase – a seemingly typical day in the office that becomes complicated by a ‘tainted’ getaway car, a diner heist and a miracle in the face of death. Later, Vincent must entertain the boss’s wife Mia (Thurman) for an evening, without overstepping his bounds and paying the ultimate price like the man before him. Finally, boxer Butch (Willis) is bribed to take a dive in the last fight of his career, but has a change of heart, wins the fight and runs off with the money and his lover, Fabienne – life is as sweet as blueberry pie until he returns to town to retrieve his father’s invaluable gold watch and bumps into the man he cheated…

The multi-strand approach would be a challenge in the hands of any other director, yet in Tarantino’s it is a yarn weaved so graciously that the product is utterly seamless, exhibiting his deftness for the art form.

The cast are magnificent, with many turning in the best performances of their career. Travolta and Jackson make an especially entertaining double act, delivering timeless exchanges about Big Macs, the proper procedure for washing one’s hands, and the meaning of life itself. Combine this with a spectacular supporting cast including Tim Roth, Ving Rhames and Harvey Keitel, and the outcome is a series of unforgettable performances.

A true modern classic; an absolute must for all.

Owen Rye

Pulp Fiction’s multi-plot story is too difficult to outline. The lives of two mob hit men, a boxer, and a gangster’s wife intertwine and are connected by violence and redemption. They are structured to overlap at key points but follow no chronological order before coming together in a highly ironic Tarantino trance.

The witty writing, pop culture-referencing, gleeful amorality and energy of Pulp Fiction have redefined the crime genre forever, and produced some of the most beloved movie-characters of all time. Jackson is unforgettable as a philosophical, Ezekiel-quoting killer, Thurman is marvellous as a zoned-out drug abuser, Willis exerts an incredible pug-faced charm, and Travolta may have given the sweetest performance of his career as a good-natured criminal.

When all characters are criminals, and the movie itself falls under a crime genre, it takes a director of rare talent to make killing, stealing and finger-breaking mere occupational banalities, and find humour in gruesome situations. Relentless in its pace, it is as exhausting as it is exhilarating. Between all the shootings and violence, the characters explore aspects of human experience, everything from Big Macs and foot massages to rebirth and redemption. The crispy dialogue takes what seem like minor conversational themes and develops them into well thought-out ideas with comic effects.

Filled with people who want to be saved, the movie is driven by an astonishingly pure romantic impulse. The commitment to an idea of salvation makes Pulp Fiction far richer and more haunting than any other movie in its genre. The telling of the story seems more important than the story itself, details are executed to perfection, ironies abound in the smallest situation and Tarantino’s choice to credit his audience with intelligence, inspired a whole generation to fall back in love with movies.

An amazing ensemble delivers the brilliantly written script and sells the brutally witty dialogue. Coupled with great music and superb cinematography, the combination seals the deal, and the delightfully clever conclusion is the cherry on top.

After the incredibly successful Reservoir Dogs, Tarantino set unrealistically high expectations for himself. Pulp Fiction achieved the near-impossible: improving upon the extraordinary. Refreshingly different, it is the kind of moment that does not strike twice; a smart and wildly entertaining movie that will continue to be imitated but never duplicated. This film is one wild ride and impresses in every possible way.

Nika Lukovic

From Mr Cool Tarantino (Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill) comes the film of the 90s, responsible for a whole generation of wannabe filmmakers and independent films. Pulp Fiction heralded a new era of nonlinear narratives by featuring several intertwining stories including bible-quoting Jules (Jackson) and his partner Vincent (Travolta) as hit-men on various jobs for their gangster boss Marsellus Wallace (Rhames), Pumpkin and Honey Bunny holding up a restaurant for cash, a night out for Mrs Mia Wallace (Thurman), and Bruce Willis as a boxer on the run after sabotaging a fixed fight. Throw into this a gimp, the best dance scene in a film, a cameo from Tarantino and cool, funny dialogue any filmmaker would be proud of and it's no wonder why so many people love this film.

Travolta and Jackson turn in career redefining performances and are perfect as the leads, personifying coolness itself. Thurman almost manages to steal the show, cementing herself as Tarantino's future muse for Kill Bill, with her turn as a quirky moll with a habit. In fact the whole cast are brilliant, including Tarantino's cameo which provides one of the film's funniest scenes.

Tarantino, himself obviously a film buff, has produced a completely original piece in which his extraordinary characters and their lives seem so plausible you can't help but go with the flow and root for them. As a pure entertainer, Tarantino could make a pile of bricks interesting; as usual he provides a brilliant soundtrack and a story so jam- packed there's something new to be discovered every time. Unashamedly robbed of an Oscar-win this really is a fantastic film and if you have never seen it, there is no excuse not to go and watch; if you have seen it, then surely you want to see it another 100 times.

Hannah Upton

Everyone wondered after "Reservoir Dogs" whether or not Quentin Tarantino could do it again; whether or not having a halfway-decent budget, a fistful of stars and a reputation would spoil his ability to make a brilliant film. The answers turned out to be yes, and no respectively!

Pulp Fiction is made up of four stories, centring around seven or eight characters, which all happen on the same two or three days in Los Angeles. They're all crime stories, the kind of stories that Raymond Chandler might have written, the same kind of stories that sold for a few cents back in the fifties. Maybe the genre wasn't all that memorable, but Pulp Fiction certainly is. Like Reservoir Dogs, you won't find the story to be particularly linear; but, where Dogs used flashbacks that led on from each other, the chronological jumping about in Pulp Fiction is done purely for effect, and it's an effect that works well.

Pulp Fiction is packed full of stars, and what's most amazing is that even those that we wouldn't normally expect to act brilliantly turn in not just good performances, but possibly the best performances of their careers. John Travolta rediscovers how to act as the hitman who has to look after the boss's wife for an evening, a worrying task since the last guy that did the job ended up very dead. Bruce Willis plays an aging boxer being paid by Travolta's boss to take a dive; he doesn't, and proceeds to go on the run, shortly before running, accidentally, into the last people both we and he expected him to meet.

There's also Samuel L. Jackson, trying (with Travolta) to dispose of the body of an accidental killing, and having a spiritual experience along the way. Throw in Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer deciding to hold up the restaurant they're eating breakfast in, and you're probably wondering what the hell I'm talking about. Don't worry about it. Take deep breaths. See the movie. Laugh your head off, for it is, sometimes unexpectedly, very funny. And even more unexpectedly, it's got some very serious things to say.

Paul Hardy

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Screenings of this film:

1994/1995 Spring Term (35mm)
1994/1995 Spring Term (35mm)
1994/1995 Spring Term (35mm)
1994/1995 Spring Term (35mm)
1995/1996 Spring Term (35mm)
1995/1996 Spring Term (35mm)
1997/1998 Autumn Term (35mm)
1997/1998 Autumn Term (35mm)
2002/2003 Autumn Term (35mm)
2005/2006 Autumn Term (35mm)
2005/2006 Autumn Term (35mm)
2006/2007 Spring Term (35mm)
2008/2009 Autumn Term (35mm)
2008/2009 Autumn Term (35mm)
2008/2009 Autumn Term (35mm)
2009/2010 Autumn Term (35mm)
2009/2010 Autumn Term (35mm)
2010/2011 Autumn Term (35mm)
2010/2011 Autumn Term (35mm)
2011/2012 Autumn Term (35mm)
2011/2012 Autumn Term (35mm)
2012/2013 Autumn Term (35mm)
2012/2013 Autumn Term (35mm)
2013/2014 Autumn Term (digital)
2013/2014 Autumn Term (digital)
2014/2015 Autumn Term (35mm)
2014/2015 Autumn Term (35mm)
2015/2016 Autumn Term (digital)
2015/2016 Autumn Term (digital)
2016/2017 Autumn Term (35mm)
2016/2017 Autumn Term (35mm)
2017/2018 Autumn Term (35mm)
2017/2018 Autumn Term (35mm)