An Analysis and Review of Pulp Fiction (1994)

The meaning and impetus of Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 Gangster/Black Comedy "Pulp Fiction" is so unique that it is difficult to describe. The film has no fitting way for a synopsis as there is no structure, no overarching conflict, no main antagonists, and no stakes to the world around the characters which we come to love over the course of the picture. It is our love for the characters in "Pulp Fiction" that propels the film into being quite possibly the most dissected film ever made. At its release, it was more than just the “flavor of the month.” Tarantino managed to strike while the iron was hot, leaping from the success of his first film “Reservoir Dogs” (1992) to worldwide acclaim, creating both a New Wave Cinema ripple which we still see in independent films and generations of teenagers and adults who are keen on witty remarks, pop culture references, and love to exercise style over convention.

The difference between the dialogues in "Reservoir Dogs" and "Pulp Fiction" is that the latter has humor and also has it lead the plot, rather than just having these conversational pieces that exist just to exist. For example, you could completely remove the nine minute diner introduction scene of "Reservoir Dogs" and still have the film work out the same way it does while "Pulp Fiction" plays on its own diner introduction scene as it becomes the staging ground for the very end of the picture. In fact, the way the chronology is skewed into non-linearity gives the storyline of "Pulp Fiction" a message to the audience. Every major event’s characters: Ringo and Honey Bunny, Vincent and Jules, Butch and Marcellus, and Mia Wallace are all saved in some way or another, all within 48 hours, all due to some intervention that ties their stories together. When Vincent and Jules are unharmed by magic bullets, or when the chair Butch is tied to in Zed’s shop completely breaks to free him, there is a curiosity brewing within the audience and the characters of whether there is a higher power acting out some plan. Jules references this as God, while Butch keeps it to himself and both of them move out of the life of crime. Vincent is saved alongside Jules, but disregards the warning, only to die the very next morning. The film points to some higher plan that it will culminate to, but chooses to leave the audience without a definitive answer nor to many of its small curiosities, like what was the mesmerizing glowing item in the briefcase? It is this which fulfills the pulpy namesake of the film.

The film is sloppy in direction. Scenes go on far longer than is typical, just to let the characters talk to each other, racking up a seriously lengthy runtime of almost three hours. Yet the entire plot, edited to be linear and traditional, is possibly less than 100 minutes of worthy final product. That is not to say that it is a negative aspect of the picture. The sloppiness of the movie gives it its cult classic status. Dialogue is utterly useless in some sections of the picture, but this type of talk substitutes serious dialogue that would otherwise build up to the violent crime they are about commit. This gives every character their charm, and a lot of charm at that.

"Pulp Fiction" is not without its detractors. The film’s violence, foul language, and drug usage infamously brought to question whether or not it was safe for impressionable 17-year olds to view it, with some people lobbying for the film to be given an NC-17 rating. The violence of the film is not half as bad as the gratuitous exhibitionism of “Reservoir Dogs.” In that film, most violence happens off-screen. When it is on-screen, nothing is so disgraceful that it causes viewers to look away. Drug use was another major drawback to "Pulp Fiction" for some. We watch a detailed montage of Vincent shooting up horse before taking a crack addict on a date. Nothing regarding narcotics is cast in a negative light, with Lance the drug dealer being a dopy flimsy sleaze rather than a dangerous guy meaning business, and despite drugs coursing through everyone’s systems in the film, all characters seem to function as normally as ever. This is, like all things in the movie, intentional.

No normal films would choose such murderous, drug-addicted, terrible people, whom if we met on the street we would believe to have no moral compass, to be the main protagonists, but it is through their interwoven stories that we learn that redemption is possible. It shows that everyone has the potential to become a peacemaker, just as Jules becomes one at the very end of the movie. Humanity and meaning is present in "Pulp Fiction," if you look underneath the surface, and that is what gives the film its purpose, rather than the actual happenings of the film itself. That's why it doesn’t ever give us that straight answer: it’s suggesting that all of that doesn’t matter to its true significance.