FAVE CRIME FILM – Pulp Fiction (1994)
An antihero or antiheroine is a main character in a story who lacks conventional heroic qualities and attributes such as idealism, courage, and morality.
Why do we all, me included, love crime movies where we find ourselves on the side of the bad guys? Quentin Tarantino’s films serve as prime examples, especially his 1994 classic Pulp Fiction. The closing scene of this film even finds us rooting for the Bible-quoting bad guy played by Samuel Jackson over the hapless bad guy played by Tim Roth.
The film takes its title from the cheap (in both price and content) fiction magazines that were popular in the first half of the last century. Written and directed by Tarantino, it’s a dark comedic crime film composed of three interrelated stories that certainly is not for the weak. (Although it is tame when compared to Q’s previous flick, Reservoir Dogs.) In fact, I got a flavor for Pulp Fiction’s effect on viewers when I saw it on its first run in the movie theater.
I was in Chicago on business and went to see it at a theater with an actual place in crime history, the Biograph. It was there where the notorious John Dillinger was shot dead by the FBI after being tipped off by the “Lady in Red” after he ironically watched a gangster movie. On my night there, it didn’t take long for about a dozen or so patrons to abruptly walk out of the theater after Pulp Fiction’s first violent scene.
But it seems that with Tarantino’s work, most of us are willing to put up with some gruesomeness in exchange for savoring some classic black humor and clever witty dialog from his usual all-star cast.
The Samuel Jackson part is brilliant in contrasting his God-fearing righteousness with his profession as a hitman. His partner-in-crime is played by John Travolta whose career-rebounding role presents as interesting a contrast through his self-perceived worldliness. I’d give this pair the award for the best antihero duo since Bonnie and Clyde. Their conversations with one another are perhaps the movie’s most memorable feature.
The segment featuring Bruce Willis (at the time, a big Hollywood calling card) as a devious low-class boxer is also classic. And as far as outstanding cameo roles, there are just far too many to mention although the top prize must go to Harvey Keitel’s “Winston Wolfe” character with Uma Thurman’s mobster girlfriend role in a close second place.
Another attraction to Tarantino’s films is of course the musical soundtrack and he once again puts together a fine assortment of somewhat obscure older Rock songs, some of which, like Dick Dale’s rendition of “Misirlou” which plays during the opening credits, becoming forever linked to the film.
Like I said, there are some violent parts that are tough to take. But in the end, there’s so much great acting and clever scenes to enjoy, that after seeing this film, you will forever find yourself revisiting your favorites on YouTube. For me, it will always be watching the “problem-solving” Winston Wolfe in action. For their efforts on the film, Tarantino and his co-writer Roger Avary shared the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. I guess I will always be somewhat perplexed about how Hollywood portrays violence and antiheroes. Nonetheless, I find myself watching and stand guilty as charged.