Stranger than Fiction
Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction’ is an all-out, rockin’ verbal and
visual onslaught of violence, comedy and Travolta
By Mike Horowitz
Daily Bruin Senior Staff
There are about a million interviews, advertisements, and late
night star plugs for "Pulp Fiction" out there at the moment.
Don’t read or watch any of it. Don’t look at the pictures and
don’t just listen to the dialogue. Put the magazines aside, flip
the channel, and perhaps you should even skip this review for now.
There are too many cats being let out of the bag too early, and the
only way you can save yourself is to run to the theatre. Now.
"Pulp Fiction" has been heralded as an artistic and spiritual
triumph. This may be looking a little too hard to justify its
victory in Cannes. It obviously won because it’s a rockin’,
bad-ass, adrenaline-charged, surf-music-scored, blood-covered,
dialogue-mastered, Travolta-possessed, continuously-engrossing,
geniusly-conceived fuckin’ cool movie from beginning to end and
after which Tarantino should be elected God.
John Travolta and Samuel Jackson lead one of the most talented
casts in recent memory. They play two constantly conversing hit men
for an L.A. mob lord who lead everyday, ordinary, albeit incredibly
Jackson is good, but Travolta is superb. And while a revisionist
movement is quickly converting him into the underrated performer of
the 80s, it has to be said that he’s never been this great before.
De Palma’s "Blowout," Tarantino’s pick as Travolta’s best, is
decent fare, but Travolta never gets as in sync as he stays in
"Pulp." As nice guy Vincent Vega, who must take his boss’ wife Uma
Thurman out for a night on the town, he is the perfect mix of cool
and cautious. With Tarantino’s trademark dialogue, these characters
can say no wrong, but it’s what’s never said that makes the night
memorable. That, and the twists that send the story careening off
mainstream moviemaking thoroughfares and into irreverence and
Three separate stories in "Pulp Fiction" overlap with their
characters and situations. All of the tales support the others
while taking on a unique predicament of their own, big on laughs
and shock value.
Bruce Willis is at his most intense as well. As a boxer paid by
the mob to take a fall in the big fight, his storyline veers even
farther into Tarantino’s bizarre underworld than Travolta’s.
If the dialogue wasn’t constantly hilarious and the characters
less than perfectly-sketched, you would still be entertained by the
basic plot of "Pulp." As Tarantino plays with the chronology as
well, the two and a half hour film bends for maximum effect.
Samuel Jackson, Harvey Keitel, Christopher Walken, Eric Stoltz,
Roseanna Arquette, Amanda Plummer, Ving Rhames, Tim Roth and
Tarantino himself all have integral roles in this film, giving it a
depth nothing since "True Romance" has possessed. The message to
filmmakers is simple: if you write all of your roles, even your
most minimal of parts, with this level of relish and humor,
everyone wants on board. The ability of Tarantino scripts to lure
top talent has already been magnificent.
Upon the release of his biggest triumph yet, it’s almost too
early to start criticizing Tarantino. But this film continues a
trend in evidence in everything Tarantino’s touched (with the
possible exception of "It’s Pat: The Movie"). Quite simply, he’s
racist. He defends his pictures with two arguments: one, that’s the
way he’s comfortable talking, and two, Spike Lee likes ’em. But
it’s hard to overlook the sheer numbers of epithets on-screen. And
Tarantino, Shakespeare of the four-letter word, doesn’t need racial
slurs to be shocking. He’s one of the most exciting and innovative
filmmakers working today, but for him to perpetuate bigotry in a
film that celebrates traditional lowlifes is demeaning, not to
mention less than intelligent.
Tarantino, in the end, escapes most charges of being too
violent, too racist, too anything Â by being too funny for
anyone to care. Whether that’s a flaw with the critical community
or his underlying motive is difficult to establish. It’s a sick
thing to get away with racism just because you make a great movie
like "Pulp Fiction."
FILM: "Pulp Fiction." Directed by Quentin Tarantino. Opens