Saturday, May 29, 2004

Pulp Fiction: A Retrospective

Was PULP FICTION ever really "all that"? Looking at all the KILL BILL reviews seems to indicate it was some kind of breakthrough masterpiece , but here's my review from the time, giving a dissenting voice...


Don't believe the hype. Quentin Tarantino's loud, brash and supercool crime pic is certainly entertaining and a real crowd-pleaser, but no way is the cult reputatation that has built up around it deserved.

Tarantino is now being hailed as the catalyst of a new wave of motion picture director: cine-literate, streetwise and able to meld the best elements of popular culture with the film-making craft of the auteurs. Erm, excuse me, but hasn't his been said about every new "shining star" whenever a debut feature is critically acclaimed? Making entertaining, violent films is certainly not a monopoly for Tarantino: the Joel Silver bandwagon has been doing exactly that throughout the eighties. Having a grip on popular culture is also hardly a great achievement. Is there some reason why mentioning McDonalds and Pop Tarts in a script makes it suddenly profound? Worst of all, a band of pseudo-intellectuals obviously weened on the MODERN REVIEW, Julie Burchill and Tony Parsons, have acclaimed it as a masterpiece. Hypocritically, they heap abuse on FORREST GUMP for being too populist, yet PULP FICTION only exists to please a slightly-more-cynical market segment.

Right from the start, Tarantino throws every movie trick in the book at you. Hey, let's start with a scene from the end of the film, and muddle up the time sequence of the stories--the senile film reviewers love all that stuff! Let's have nice, slow camera movements and an anally retentive ultra-detailed look at everything our two hitmen protagonists get up to. They spend seemingly hours in the car on the way to their first job, spouting their supposedly brilliantly witty dialogue. It seems to have been overlooked that half this dialogue is muffled and is barely audible, and the other half is not particularly amusing or interesting anyway. One particularly dull sequence involves boxer Butch (Bruce Willis) dressing, talking to his partner. So what? Why should the audience be in the slightest bit interested in the boring chatter of Butch and Fabienne, or in Butch's dress sense? The film is peppered with these long, drawn-out showcases for Mr Tarantino's god-like gift for dialogue....

There *is* fun to be had however. Tarantino's overblown pretentious directing style is extremely annoying, he seems to believe the press he has been receiving, which as we all know signals the death of talent. The essential storylines are good, simple tales with plenty of black humour for those with sick minds. The entire cast performs well, signifying one of Tarantino's rare strengths, coaxing good performances from everyone on set. Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta shine as Jules and Vince. There are enough gunshots, fights and blood to please all action-lovers, and a supreme scene of humiliation and then revenge involving Butch and Mr. Big Marsellus in a hee-haw gunshop. The final sequence is not as powerful as Tarantino would want, but there is certainly plenty of fun on the way.

So no way is this An Artistic Triumph, or indeed, one of the best films of the 90's. It is simply an entertainment that provides its fair share of laughs, groans and cheers, but has ideas above it's station: a "pulp" film as the title suggests that thinks it can become a "classic." Sadly, it can't, and Quentin Tarantino's attempts to hide its flaws through quirkiness and a 90's feel, while fooling many people, left me unsatisfied.

Overall Rating: 70 %

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