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Pulp Fiction (1994): Tarantino’s Mesmeric Thriller Essay (Movie Review)

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Updated: Jun 15th, 2022


Film noir is an expression used in cinematic expressions primarily to express trendy Hollywood crime dramas and in particular those that put emphasis on pessimistic approaches in addition to sexual motivations represented in the movies. The era of conventional Hollywood’s noir movies is well known as stretching over a long period of time since the beginning of the early 1940’s up until the late 50’s. Film noirs that were produced around this particular era are openly linked to modest, mostly black-and-white image pictures that bear their roots all the way back to the German Expressionist and cinematography period. Many classical tales and more of these outlooks of classic crime films draw ideas from the hard-edged pool of crime fiction that later on invaded the film industry in the farther side of the United States at some point during the Depression. After watching and conducting extensive discussions about the film ‘Pulp Fiction,’ it can be deduced that it bears a persuasive and distinctive nature in the Hollywood film industry. Whereas attempts have been made to view the film as complying with a conservative path of standard evolution, it is in fact precise to testify that the record of this film is composite and indeed does not conform to stringent historical development. On the contrary, noir has undergone a series of cycles and different phases.

Legacy of ‘Pulp Fiction’

Pulp Fiction is a felony film directed by accomplished Hollywood director Quentin Tarantino and set in the US. It was released in1994. He also helped write the film’s screenplay together with Roger Avary. Pulp Fiction ended up gaining fame because of its rich, diverse conversations, its sarcastic mix of humour and hostility, non-sequential plot and a host of filming insinuation in addition to references of pop culture (Gallafent 100). The movie was elected for a compilation of seven Oscar awards which included the honour for Best Picture (Simon National Review: Pulp Fiction).

At the end of the awards show, Avary and Tarantino won the title for the Best Original Screenplay. The silver screen was also rewarded the grace of the title of the Palme d’Or. Moreover, during the Cannes Film Celebrations held in 1994 the film received an important significant commercial accomplishment in addition to its restoration of the career of the lead star, John Travolta. Travolta later received a recommendation for the Academy Awards beside co-stars Uma Thurman and Samuel L. Jackson.


In the film, Roth Timothy, “Pumpkin” and Amanda Plummer, “Honey Bunny” are seen having a relaxed time enjoying breakfast at a local diner. They later on make a decision to steal from it subsequent to their realizing that they could make quick riches off the clientele present at the restaurant in addition to the enterprise just like they had done in a previous heist. A short while following this decision, they commence the hitch. This scene is followed by the rolling of the title credits and then scene breaking off (Tinknell 132).

As Samuel L. Jackson (Jules) drives by, John Travolta, played by Vincent Vega gives an account about his familiarity of Europe, somewhere he had just come back from. He talks about ‘the messy bars of Amsterdam, the MacDonald in France in addition to France’s ‘Royal treatment of Cheese’ (Tinknell 132). The pair of dress-suited individuals is enroute to recover a briefcase from Brett, played by Frank Whaley. He is disobedient against the boss who is played by gangster Wallace Marsellus.

Jules uncovers to Vincent the information that Marsellus had caused the death of a man by being thrown off the fourth-floor balcony of a building because he allegedly gave a foot massage to his beautiful wife. Vincent goes ahead to mention that Marsellus had earlier on requested him to accompany his wife wherever she goes during the period he is not in town. They terminate their small talk and get back to serious business which almost immediately details the execution of Brett in a theatrical manner. This incident occurs after Jules declaims a vindictive “biblical” assertion.

The scene involving Vincent and Jules eating breakfast at a coffee store and the subsequent discussions causes Jules’s resolution to retire. In a succinct cutaway, we observe “Pumpkin” in the company of “Honey Bunny” a short while before they commence the hold-up leading to the movie’s very first scene. At the point when Vincent is still in the restroom, the hold-up begins. “Pumpkin” orders all of the consumers’ valued possession, including Jules’s strange case. Jules astonishes “Pumpkin” (whom he refers to as “Ringo”), and holds him at gunpoint. Honey Bunny hysterically, uses her weapon on Jules.

Emerging from the bathrooms, Vincent finds his gun being used to hold hostages which generates a feel of a Mexican Standoff. Revisiting his pseudo-biblical reading, Jules put across his ambivalence in relation to his life of crime. As an initial act of deliverance, he permits the two thieves to take the money they had stolen and flee contemplative of how they were let go and in return leaving the case to be taken back to Marsellus, hence finishing his final assignment for his employer as a hit man (Fraiman 1950).

How it has been influenced and shaped by the generic attributes of noir

This film conforms to the attributes of a noir as it is about crime drama revolving around good law abiding citizens and criminals. The circle is completed by the availability of cops who hunt down the bad guys in an effort to combat crime (Tinknell 132). In addition, there as sexual scenes that creates the theme of romance, love and also sexual inspiration for certain actions. In the film, Marsellus orders the execution of an individual who had given his wife a foot massage.

This attracted the reason for sexual intention that did not go well with Marsellus. Other sexual scenes in the film are purely motivated by seduction, emotional and sexual motivation. Quentin Tarantino’s film ‘Pulp Fiction’ is commonly regarded to be one out of a few successful neo-noirs. It is a movie that encompasses most if not all of the inclusions of noir and defies and reinvents each one of them in all manner of innovative and confrontational ways (Fraiman 1950). Compared to the movie ‘Chinatown,’ the film is special as it is a retro type of noir that addresses the mythology of confidential crime investigation archetype as it appears in life (Hirsch & Clarens 101).

Representations in the Film

Publications in the Los Angeles Times were one out of the small number of main news channels to distribute negative reviews about the film during its opening weekend. Writer Turan Kenneth wrote, “The director –cum writer appears to be struggling for his artistic prowess. Some themes, especially those concerning bondage, binding and homosexual rape, create the uneasy emotion of imaginative desperation, of a person who is terrified of tainting his reputation while scrambling for a probable way to go against sensibilities” (Turan, ‘The LA Times: Pulp Fiction’). Individuals who reviewed the film in the subsequent weeks took more omission to the leading critical response of the film than they did to Pulp Fiction itself.

Claiming that he had no predetermined intention of tainting the image of the movie, Stanley Kauffman, a writer with The New Republic maintained that the mode in which the film had been widely hyped up hence causing anxiousness was on the verge of being considered disgusting (Kauffman, The New Republic: ‘Shooting Up’). The director’s intention of the film Pulp Fiction was to abet and nourish cultural slumming. In response to the comparisons made between Tarantino’s show and the exertions of the newly celebrated French producer named Jean-Luc Godard, and more so, his first and most famous feature saw critics give better accreditation to Pulp Fiction. Jonathan Rosenbaum from the Chicago Reader alleged that the reality that Pulp Fiction collected better reviews than Breathless did, says plenty about the type of cultural positions that are considered more productive. He adds that this includes the ones we have by now and those that we wish to develop in future (Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader: ‘Allusion Profusion; Ed Wood, Pulp Fiction’). Observations that were made on the National Review maintained that no other film had ever premiered with such advance hype. Writer John Simon was unmoved by this situation of the film since he claims that titillation has the ability to heal neither shallowness nor hollowness (Simon: National Review: Pulp Fiction).

Debates about the movie go far beyond the evaluation by different critics. Violence was more represented as a theme in the film (Fulwood 100). Britt, a writer with the Washington Post maintains that she was not amused by the movie and that she was openly avoiding talks about a particular scene in which a person is killed by a gunshot that dismembers his head hence exposing his brains inside a car (Britt, The Washington Post: ‘Let’s Lose the Gory ‘Gulp’ Fiction’). Some critics however chose to ignore the extensive use of the word ‘nigger’ in the movie. Boyd, a writer of the Chicago Tribune however argues that obvious presence of the word in the film connotes the idea of a high level of hipness that was indicated by historical white males who openly used it to refer to the masculine nature of black males. He claims that the word is not used in a vulgar nature but as a genuine tool of personification (Todd, Chicago Tribune: ‘Tarantino’s Mantra’).

Tarantino signifies the final victory of postmodernism that brings forth the emptying of the artwork from all substance. As a result this limits its capacity to do anything other than helplessly representing our grievances. It is only in this period of time that a critic as brilliant as Tarantino create works of art that are clearly oblivious of reason, neglecting any form of constructive politics, metaphysics, or any degree of moral interest.


Irrespective of the different views reviewers had about the film, it was an immense success to both the cast and viewers. Pulp Fiction managed to be a remarkable success in its conveyance of social-cultural issues that occur within society. The film was fearless enough to address problems that would otherwise be shunned by society as being too shrewd to be laid in public platform. The designed ideas were presented through the brave approach of the directors. As a result, the movie succeeded in becoming a source of entertainment to its viewers while at the same time educating them on socio-cultural matters.

Works Cited:

Boyd, Todd. “Tarantinos Mantra?” Chicago Tribune, 1994.

Britt, Donna. “Let’s Lose the Gory ‘Gulp’ Fiction,” Washington Post, 1994.

Fraiman, Susan. Cool Men and the Second Sex. New York: Columbia University Press, 2003.

Fulwood, Neil. One Hundred Violent Films that Change Cinema. London and New York: Batsford/Sterling, 2003.

Gallafent, Edward. One Quentin Tarantino. London : Pearson Longman, 2006.

Hirsch, Forester & Carlos Clarens. “Afterwards” in Crime Movies. Cambridge: Da Capo, 1997.

Kauffman, Stanley. “Shooting Up”, New Republic, 1994.

Rosenbaum, Jonathan. “Allusion Profusion; Ed Wood, Pulp Fiction, Chicago Reader, 1994.

Simon, John. 1994.

Tincknell, Estella.”The Soundtrack Movie: Nostalgia and Consumption of Film’s Musical Moments.” Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2006.

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