Pulp Fiction Review

17 years later and Pulp Fiction proves a near impossible film to overcome for all that it achieves with its ensemble cast and interwoven tales of crime and indulgence. Quentin Tarantino has since gone on to make a heist caper, a war epic, a vampire action flick, a revenge tale, and a tribute to the good ol’ days of grindhouse cinema, but not since Pulp Fiction has he made a film with such cultural staying power. The conversations between John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction are cinema gold at its finest, and the frenzied moments with Bruce Willis, Tim Roth, and Ving Rhames are as close as most people get to injecting adrenaline straight into their visual cortex. It has survived the test of time so far, and to add to the cinematic experience of the film itself, the Blu-ray release includes hours and hours of extra features. God willing, this is what all Blu-ray releases would be like for all blockbusters and cult classics.

The story of two mob hitmen (Jackson and Travolta) intersect with those of a bored mob housewife (Uma Thurman), two robbers at a diner (Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer), and a boxer (Bruce Willis) who just double-crossed their boss by not throwing the fight and betting on himself instead. Through it all, they have damn good milkshakes, interrogate people as to the appearance of Marcellus Wallace, blow a guy’s face off, and disarm a tense situation in a diner. When the stories collide, the characters come face to face with certain, inevitable truths about the frailty of the human condition, both physically and morally.

As good as the film is in terms of acting and writing, one of the truly standout achievements is the real-life rendering of the pulp comic aesthetic (the inspiration for the film). Tarantino’s vision for the film comes to life with a number of eccentric characters and locations meticulously designed to evoke memories of that era when things were no longer perfect, but still hadn’t gone to shit. Pulp Fiction survives as Tarantino’s best because it’s not just a showcase for his trademark writing style, but it also delivers a beautifully realized world of criminals and old-fashioned good times.

Blu-ray Bonus Features

Few Blu-rays, if any, seem to take the concept of extra features seriously. However, considering how much of a pop culture nut Quentin Tarantino is and his propensity to guest star on the audio commentaries for other films and TV series, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the “Director Approved” Blu-ray goes to such lengths to please. But it does, because far too often studios see extras as code for “extra work we can’t charge for”. Not this time, though, because Pulp Fiction is loaded.

For fans who have bought Pulp Fiction’s every DVD iteration since the 90s and onward, the Blu-ray has two new featurettes that could pass as the sole extras unto themselves. New cast interviews have lots of great retrospective laughs and the critic commentary piece about Pulp Fiction’s assured place as a fixture of pop culture. It can feel like idolatry at times, but Tarantino’s film deserves most of the praise it gets here. After all, the film has been parodied countless times and the dialogue model for just about every conversation here is what every aspiring screenwriter aims for (okay, that or Aaron Sorkin’s style).

The rest of the extras might feel like retreads or direct ports from previous DVD releases if you’re a diehard Pulp Fiction fan, but for most these will feel pretty fresh. Either way, who wouldn’t want as loaded a Pulp Fiction Blu-ray disc as they can get?

Two production featurettes, one centered on the specific style of the film and the other on a more general behind the scenes look, feel like flashbacks and it’s odd to see everyone involved looking as young as they were. Next up are two festival featurettes with footage from the film’s reception at Cannes and the Independent Spirit Awards, which have less substance but offer a little to the nostalgia value.

The real meat of the older extras comes in the form of three featurettes. The first is an in-depth look into the world of Pulp Fiction that helps to clarify a few of the more twisted stories. The second piece is the superb episode from Siskel & Ebert “At the Movies” wherein they discuss the legacy of Tarantino’s films and they impact they’ve had on the new generation of filmgoers growing up in their wake. There’s no banter like Siskel & Ebert banter, and hearing them battle on the finer points of exactly what the long-term effects of Tarantino’s work will be is endlessly entertaining. The last of the great featurettes is the Tarantino interview on the Charlie Rose Show. With so many Tarantino interviews out there, the Charlie Rose one is decent, but it’s not the most interesting.

The disc is rounded out with the basics like deleted scenes, a trivia track (no surprise considering Tarantino’s encyclopedic knowledge of film and all the films he honors with his own), a gallery of photos.

The Blu-ray package of Pulp Fiction is fantastic, and if there’s one shortcoming, it’s the lack of an audio commentary. How did that not happen? Imagine how epic it would be to have Tarantino, Jackson, Roth, Willis, Thurman, and Keitel sitting around dishing on the film. It would blow minds.

"Pulp Fiction" is on sale October 4, 2011 and is rated R. Crime, Thriller. Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. Starring Amanda Plummer, Bruce Willis, John Travolta, Phil LaMarr, Samuel L Jackson, Tim Roth, Uma Thurman, Ving Rhames.

Lex Walker • Editor

He's a TV junkie with a penchant for watching the same movie six times in one sitting. If you really want to understand him you need to have grown up on Sgt. Bilko, Alien, Jurassic Park and Five Easy Pieces playing in an infinite loop. Recommend something to him - he'll watch it.


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