Plot: What’s it about?
As of this writing, there are almost 3,000 reviews on this site and not one of them (until now) has been titled Pulp Fiction. Well, the wait is over and we have finally received a Special Edition of one of the most talked about movies of the past decade. It’s here…again. Like most DVD’s, this is the second incarnation of the heavily-debated yet critically praised film. Writer/Director Quentin Tarantino was just a regular Joe some 15 years ago, but with his first movie, Reservoir Dogs, he entered the world of Hollywood and lucky for it (“it” being Hollywood), it will never be the same. Say what you will about the movie and Tarantino, he influenced the independent movie community with his films and really took it to a new level. While Pulp Fiction is considered his breakout success, it was both commercially successful and critically successful as well, he’s shown that he can continue to produce fresh new movies that rely on the dialogue of all things to drive the story along. Not only did this movie revitalize John Travolta’s career…again, but it introduced us to actors who had been lingering in the background for some time, but we had never really noticed. The film’s loose structure allows the viewers to get sucked into Tarantino’s world of drugs, crime and murder. Though often copied in style and dialogue, this is the one that truly started it all. Ladies and gentlemen…Pulp Fiction.
The non-linear plot is a very unique approach to the trio of stories that compose the body of the film. On one hand we have Pumpkin (Tim Roth) and Honey Bunny (Amanda Plummer) who open the film while contemplating robbing a coffee shop. Little do we know (upon a first viewing) that the coffee shop is inhabited by Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Jules Winfield (Samuel L. Jackson) who make up one third of the story. Vincent and Jules are hired hit men who work for the evil Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames). On this particular day, however, the two are discussing a miracle that they supposedly witnessed and it makes a man, even a hit man, stop and think. This brings us to the second part of the story in which we meet Butch (Bruce Willis), a down on his luck fighter who is nearing the end of his career. He has made an arrangement with Marsellus to throw the fight and to take a fall. Instead, he kills the other fighter (in the ring) and having placed several bets on himself around the city, plans to make out a winner and say goodbye to his former life. Vincent has also agreed to take out Marsellus’ wife, Mia (Uma Thurman) for a good time. Mia, accidentally finds his heroin stash and, mistakenly, overdoses.
All of these plots loosely interact, but stand very well on their own. Intermittently we are greeted by cameos from seasoned actors like Harvey Keitel and Christopher Walken (delivering a most poignant speech about a certain gold watch that composes one of the film’s five vignettes). By the day’s end, some of the cast members have their lives changed forever. Some end up dead. Perhaps the most talked about scene involves Bruce Willis, Ving Rhames and a certain “gimp”. For those first time viewers of the film, I’ll try and not ruin it; but even ten years ago the scene was quite a shock to audiences.
While Pulp Fiction might not be the best film ever made (odds are it has, is and always will be Citizen Kane) it is a picture that revolutionized how the industry thinks and makes movies. It has even garnered a place upon the American Film Institute’s list of the best American 100 films ever made (#95) and ranks as the #19 most popular movie on the IMDb.com website. With all the accolades, controversy and praise surrounding the film, you owe it to yourself to at least view the film once in its entirety. A “Love It” or “Hate It” attitude will most likely prevail, but this is the version to watch. A truly original film, Pulp Fiction has set the precedent.
Video: How does it look?
Released back in the very early days of the format, Pulp Fiction was given a less than stellar transfer onto DVD. Times and technology have changed and not only are we graced with a plethora of supplements, but it has been given a brand new 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer. While some say that this isn’t up to par, I have to say that I couldn’t disagree more. The version that I had been clinging to was the Canadian Alliance version (mostly because it contained a series of five deleted scenes that are now included on this version). The image on both versions appears to be washed out and that’s the way that Tarantino wanted it. The transfer, converted from a new High-Definition master, appears much more solid, sporting a new level of depth and clarity that wasn’t present in the previous versions. While the dreaded edge enhancement is present (as it is in all DVD’s), I feel that this is a vast improvement over the previous release. Even looking back at my old VHS tape, it’s clear (pardon the pun) to see the difference in the new release. Pulp Fiction as it was meant to be seen.
Audio: How does it sound?
Sporting a Dolby Digital 5.1 track in addition to a DTS track, Pulp Fiction has never sounded better. I compared the two side by side and did notice a distinct difference between the two. I might sound like a broken record, but the DTS has the edge here and I’d recommend it over it’s Dolby Digital counterpart every day of the week. The general ambiance of the track is cranked up a notch and while the dialogue obviously drives the movie, the surround effects kick in almost constantly not only to remind you that they’re there, but to add a new level of excitement to the film. Granted, it’s not reference-quality, but with the advent of 5.1 channels of sound, this is the way the movie was meant to be heard.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Complimenting the other films that have been released in Special Edition format, Pulp Fiction joins its counterparts Jackie Brown and Reservoir Dogs in the pantheon of Tarantino’s Special Edition DVD’s. Two discs are needed here, as the movie is a stunning 154 minutes long. Sadly, no commentary track is available from Mr. Tarantino, but we have something just as good. A text-based track (credited as an “Enhanced playback track” on the back of the box) is full of insight and facts that is displayed on the screen from beginning to end. Providing possibly more information than a human could say, the track is the highlight of the DVD and you might even have to watch it a couple of times to keep up with everything. The second disc contains the majority of the supplements and first off we find “Pulp Fiction: The Facts” which is more of a biopic on Tarantino, but it also tells of the origins of the film and how he came to be. Very interesting, though I felt a bit manufactured. Next up are some deleted scenes, five in all, hosted by the man himself. Quentin is very sure of himself, dissing the “Director’s Cuts” that are out there and telling us, quite frankly, that he made the movie he wanted to make the first time. So be it. A segment from “The Charlie Rose Show” is a rather long (almost an hour) look at Tarantino’s life. His origin into film, his vast knowledge and everything else relating to the film are all covered here. A bit long, but well worth it if you’re into the film like I am.
The late Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert have a collection of the Tarantino movies from their television program. Aptly titled “The Tarantino Generation”, this segment focuses on the film at hand, obviously garnering praise from the two critics. The various award shows each have a segment as well. Clint Eastwood chaired a jury that awarded the film the prestigious Golden Palm award at the Cannes film festival, but we’re also treated to some footage of the Independent Spirit Awards on the DVD as well. As if we haven’t heard enough praise for the film, a section is devoted to some critics’ comments about the film. We hear more of the same, but if you want some different points of view all saying the same thing, then this is your cup of tea (coffee, rather when we’re discussing this film). Some theatrical trailers “from around the world” are also included as are some TV spots. A very expansive still gallery containing hundreds of pictures is also included and some very expansive DVD-ROM content that is now “live” on the internet. Cast bios are also included. Recommending this film is a no-brainer, if you’ve never seen this film I personally envy you. This is the definitive edition and should be added to every collection.