Film Noir | Pulp Fiction (1994)

I had never seen the film noir Pulp Fiction until this week and let me just say that I am blown away. Truth be told, the hype level for this film has been through the roof for the last several years, but I had never gotten around to watching it. Now I feel like a fool. Quentin Tarantino’s snappy dialogue and witty banter is as hilarious as it is entertaining, and he seems to break cleanly with the cliches of film noir history. I don’t wish to do a typical review where I dissect the plot-line and events of the film because there is already such a wealth of reviews out there. Instead, I will just highlight some of the features of this film noir that stuck out to me in phenomenal ways.

1) No Cops
One aspect of Pulp Fiction that was most refreshing to me was the fact that a police officer never makes an appearance. This may seem small, but it seems that in every crime film noir there is always a bevy of cops to thwart the robbers, and this is a tapped-out plot device. By removing the police from the plot, a host of different issues crop up and keep the action fully centered on the characters of the criminal underworld and how they relate to one another.

Film Noir Pulp Fiction Vincent and Jules

Text Book Anti-Heroes from our noir definition

2) Jules and Vincent
The banter between Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) and Vincent (John Travolta) is nearly perfect in its execution. There is a chemistry between the two that is akin to a buddy cop film gone wrong. I couldn’t stop laughing at their argumentative debates and harrowing scenarios. Royale Burgers, foot massages, and cleaning up bits of brain matter, three cheers for their dialogue; it was the slow burning diesel that lit up this film noir.

3) What cliche?
I sensed a purposeful rebellion against the cliches of film noir in Pulp Fiction. One the the most obvious has already been mentioned: No Cops. But another that sharply stands out is during Vincent’s play-date with his boss’ wife Mia (Uma Thurman). During their entire date, I fully expected them to sleep together. The drama and tension between the two seems to build steadily in that direction to the point that we find Vincent in Mia’s bathroom giving himself a pep talk to just leave and not have sex with her. And then the lightning fast plot-shift when she overdoses on some drugs that she finds in his coat. Their night changes from untapped sexual tension to desperation and preservation as Vincent rushes to save her life. Potent film noir drama.

Film Noir Pulp Fiction Poster

perfect femme fatale for this film noir

4) Humor
“The Bonnie Situation” was one of the funniest sequences in any film noir that I have ever seen. Simply because the whole plot revolved around a bloody mishap and helping a friend avoid a divorce. It was a great change of pace in the film, and it injected an element of humor in an otherwise grim scenario. I also thought that the very first scene was magical, simply because it went so quickly from pledges of love and devotion between a couple to a violent language dripping robbery. It’s in the contrasts that this film becomes a classic.

5) Dislikes
Yuck. There were only two parts of the film that I didn’t enjoy. Although no nudity is shown, the rape scene was really hard to stomach. I think this is because the scene was so dark and depraved, and the whole time you want so badly to deny that any human being could do such a thing. Also, this is really minor, but Quentin Tarantino actually plays a role in the film, and I felt that his character was the least believable. I mean, there was a scene where he was yelling the “N-word” dozens of times at Samuel L. Jackson and I had a hard time believing that Jules would put up with that. I don’t know, maybe I’m being nit-picky but the scene felt strange.

All in all, this film noir was amazing. Easily in my top five favorite crime films. Everything was so stylized and dramatic from the camera angles to the soundtrack. And any film that can pull off extended dance scenes in a natural and memorable way is solid. Cheers to the cast and crew. Pulp Fiction will go down in the annals of history as one of the greatest films ever made.

Won the Oscar for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (Quentin Taratino & Roger Avary)

Rotten Tomatoes gives it: 94%

264 “F” words.

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Filed under Crime Movies, Film Noir

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