Proving that Reservoir Dogs was no flash in the pan, Tarantino’s terrific second feature won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and went on to great critical and commercial success. Although working here with a much larger budget and major stars, the writer-director nevertheless remains faithful to his pulp sourcesowhich include American blaxploitation flicks of the seventiesoand concocts a sizzling piece of pop culture that’s crammed with verbal wit, outlandish set pieces and bloody mayhem. Like Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction opens with an amusing scene in a diner, where two small-time criminals (Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer) debate a career move and decide that hitting restaurants may be a better bet than holding up liquor stores and banks. As they put their plan into action, the film switches to two other hoods (John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson) who are in the employ of black crime boss Marsellus (Ving Rhames). A third plot strand emerges when the focus shifts to a moody boxer (Bruce Willis) who finds himself in all kinds of zany and terrifying situations after killing an opponent instead of throwing the fight as ordered by Marsellus.
Building on the use of flashbacks and multiple perspectives as developed in Reservoir Dogs, Tarantino is even bolder here in the way he elaborates three stories at length, taking two hours before pulling all the strands together for another killer climax. His chief talents lie in an ability to breathe new life into cliched plot lines and a skill with dialogue that is almost unparalleled in contemporary American cinema. This hip, post-modernist gloss on hard-boiled crime stories is filled with references to the past (the music, the use of seventies’ icon Travolta, etc.) but could only have been made in the 90s. Pulp Fiction turned Tarantino himself into a movie icon, another manifestation of the director as superstar, and one who seemed in danger of being consumed by the hype before vindicating himself with the mature and reflective Jackie Brown.
Dolby SR stereo.