Quentin Tarantinos Gangster movie that was shot in 1994 did not only win him an Oscar but also advanced to a cult-film that raised the bar for other movie makers.
The story composes of the prologue with the first main scene and three episodes. They all are interwoven and
aren’t shown in chronological order. The entire events revolve around a suitcase that’s content isn’t revealed throughout the whole movie (a so-called MacGuffin).
Prologue and first main scene:
The movie begins in a diner where Pumpkin and Honey Bunny discuss which kind of stores is the easiest to raid while having breakfast. After they finished their coffee they pull out their guns and rob the diner.
The event is harshly interrupted by the front credits that are followed by a change of scenes: The hatchet men Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield are sitting in their car and talking. They are on their way to a job. The gangster are supposed to get their Boss, Marsellus Wallace, the before mentioned suitcase and take revenge on his former business partners. The two of them go to the apartment where it comes to a gunfight.
Vincent Vega and Marsellus Wallace’s Wife:
This scene starts out in a bar where the boxer Butch Coolidge is having a conversation with Marsellus Wallace who demands him to lose his next fight.
Just as they end their chat Jules and Vincent walk through the door. For a change they aren’t dressed in suits anymore, now they are in shorts and t-shirts.
Next we see Vincent, this time wearing his suit, on the way to his drug dealer Lance. He sells him some heroin but instead of putting it in a balloon like usual he wraps it in a bag what will later lead to some trouble.
Vincent now goes to Mia, Marsellus’ wife, whom he shall go out with. They go to a diner which is decorated in 1950s style. After dinner and participating in a Twist-contest Vincent drives Mia home. While he goes to the toilet Mia finds the little bag of heroin in his jacket. Mistaking it for cocaine she sniffs some of it resulting in an overdose. Vincent takes her to his dealer who saves her life with an adrenalin injection.
The Gold Watch:
Just before the fight starts the boxer Butch Coolidge remembers how he got his father’s gold watch from one of his army colleagues. He is told about the story of the watch, how it has been passed on in the family over several generations and how it already survived multiple wars.
In the following scene Butch climbs through a window after the fight. He didn’t stick to his promise, made bets on himself and knocked out his opponent. Butch takes a taxi to the motel where his girlfriend Fabienne is already waiting for him. The want to get away as fast as possible but Fabienne forgot to bring Butch’s watch. Therefore he has to go back to his apartment to get it. As he walks through the doors he surprises Vincent who was set on him by Marsellus and shoots him. When he escapes with the watch he runs into Marsellus whom he starts to fight with. This battle ends in a pawn shop. The owner Zed knocks them both out.
When waking up again they find themselves tied up in the basement. Butch manages to free himself and fells his assaulter and also rescues Marsellus. Now they are even.
The Bonnie Situation:
The next sequence ties in with a former scene: Jules and Vincent are in the apartment where the shooting just ended. Suddenly a forth man storms out of the bathroom firing a volley. They both remain unharmed. After shooting the forth man they take the only survivor, Marvin, to Marsellus. But in the car Vincent accidently fires a shot at Marvin’s head. To get the car off the streets as fast as possible they go to Jimmie, one of Jules’ friends. After a call Marsellus sends them Mr. Wolf to help clean up the mess. This has to happen very fast as Jimmie’s wife Bonnie is about to come home from work. Now we find out how Vincent and Jules got the shorts and t-shirts: As their suits are soaked in blood they are enforcedly clothed with Jimmie’s old stuff. After eliminating all the evidence the two decide to grab a bite to eat.
This scene also has a connection to a precedent one. Jules and Vincent are eating when Pumpkin and Honey Bunny rob the restaurant. When Pumpkin claims the suitcase they are carrying Jules also pulls out his gun. He doesn’t want to kill him because he sees the fact that he wasn’t hurt during the shooting in the apartment as God’s sign to quit his job. Jules gives Pumpkin the 1500 dollars he had in his wallet and keeps the suitcase.
Explanation of the chronology:
The temporal connection of the storylines is observable with the different motives like the suitcase or the clothes Jules and Vincent are wearing. The suitcase is picked up in the first main scene, when continuing their journey the get into “The Bonnie Situation” during which they are forced to change their clothes and then they have breakfast in the restaurant (prologue and final scene). Dressed in shorts and t-shirts they deliver they suitcase at the beginning of the scene „Vincent Vega and Marsellus Wallace’s Wife“ after Marsellus just made a deal with Butch Coolidge about him loosing at the boxing fight. This on the other hand is the basis for the episode “The Gold Watch”. Just like in the first main scene Vincent mentioned that he is supposed to take care of Marsellus’ wife Mia. That means the episode “Vincent Vega and Marsellus Wallace’s Wife” takes place one day after “The Bonnie Situation”. The episode that comes last according to chronology is “The Gold Watch” in which Vincent dies.
- John Travolta: Vincent Vega
- Samuel L. Jackson: Jules Winnfield
- Ving Rhames: Marsellus Wallace
- Bruce Willis: Butch Coolidge
- Uma Thurman: Mia Wallace
- Amanda Plummer: Honey Bunny
- Tim Roth: Pumpkin
- Harvey Keitel: Mr. Wolf
Pulp Fiction is a movie that’s amount of details only comes clear after watching it several times. For Example you can already see Jules and Vincent talking in the background in the very first scene.
Furthermore, little details in the scenes that appear twice (like the holdup in the restaurant) have been changed. These changes aren’t accidentally made, they happened on purpose to represent the different perceptions the audience has.
Just like Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction is filled with some trivial dialogues that serve more for characterizing the people instead of contributing to the actual storyline.
Moreover, the movie develops an own dynamic by changing the camera angles all the time. Despite having a running time of over two hours it never appears boring.
Although Pulp Fiction is full of violence, most of it isn’t directly shown. The people in the apartment are for example shot in the off. Tarantino also tried to keep a balance between good and evil by saving several lives (Butch saves Marsellus, Mia is reanimated).
However, some points in the movie lead to speculations:
- there are different theories about the content of the suitcase: some people believe it contains the diamonds that had been stolen in Reservoir Dogs, others are convinced it contains Marsellus Wallace’s soul
- Vincent and Mia return with a trophy from the diner. In the movie it is never mentioned that they actually won the contest. That’s why there are theories about them having only stolen the trophy.
Also in this movie Tarantino doesn’t fail to prove his feeling for details:
- A bagatelle like wrapping the heroin in a bag instead of a balloon can lead to fatal consequences.
- Butch Coolidge didn’t place one huge bet on his winning but made several smalls ones to prevent sensation.
The scene in which Mia’s life is saved by the adrenalin injection right in her heart would never work out in reality. Nevertheless Tarantino staged it so convincingly that it seems absolutely plausible, just like the “Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique” from Kill Bill.
Hints to other Tarantino movies:
The waitress who fills up Pumpkins cup plays the same role in Jackie Brown.
The car Vincent drives is the same one that was stolen in Reservoir Dogs.
I guess you already noticed that Quentin Tarantino is one of my favourite directors and I really love his movies. Pulp Fiction is one of the movies that never gets boring even after watching it the 200th time. Each time you discover new details you’ve never been aware of. The story is thrilling and brilliantly thought through. Although having a length of over two hours, Pulp Fiction never gets boring, not even for a moment. All of the actors did an amazing job and contributed to make this movie also a cult object. Once more Tarantino also put together a gorgeous soundtrack that suits the movie perfectly.
This movie is a must watch. If you haven’t already watched it you should check it out immediately! You surely won’t regret it. =)