The cult appeal of ‘Pulp Fiction’

Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction (1994)

Pulp Fiction (1994)

Directed by Quentin Tarantino

7.5/10  R

I see the novelty in “Pulp Fiction.” It’s definitely unlike any movie I’ve seen before—unique, fun, absurd. The script is realistic and fresh, and the acting is nothing to complain about. So I won’t complain…I promise…but just where does the “Pulp Fiction” cult obsession stem from?

Two thugs (John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson in unforgettable performances) that talk about French Big Macs, foot massages, and bacon. A boxer (Bruce Willis) who wins a fight he was paid to throw. The mob boss that they all look up to. Separate stories that interconnect in only one small, anti-climactic, non-linear scene. Three stories, a huge Venn diagram that overlaps in one tiny space.

Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer in Pulp Fiction (1994)

You may wonder why I reference IMDb’s “Top 250” list so often, but it’s very simply the only one of its kind. Users across the country (over half a million in the case of “Pulp Fiction”) rate movies on a scale of 1-10. No fancy, white, rich guy Academy. Just normal people, aged 4-104, all races, religions, genders, voting on their favorite movies. And “Pulp Fiction” is ranked #5. When you break it down, it’s the #2 movie of the 1990’s and the #1 thriller of all time (again, according to almost 600,000 users). But when you look at the votes coming only from females, it drops sharply, to #30. So what do guys see? The humor is dry and ironic, the sex appeal is minimal, and the gunfights are few and far between. The movie lags on for two and a half hours, and Quentin Tarantino ruins it halfway through by trying to act again. It takes three stories and barely connects them. Sure, it throws out the stereotypical gangsters and replaces them with real guys talking about normal guy things. The plot is minimal, complicated, and—I’ll say it—sort of boring. As far as thrillers go, I can see a few titles on that list that are far more heart-thumping—“The Dark Knight,” “Memento,” “The Silence of the Lambs,” and “Se7en” are all more exciting to watch. And in the 90’s I would take “Forrest Gump” and “Leon the Professional” long before “Pulp Fiction.”

I hate to give Quentin Tarantino any credit at all (and for the story, he won’t get any), but his realistically scripted, fresh, entertaining dialogue deserves something. Something besides the Oscar it received in 1995, one of 7 nominations it received (unfortunately for “Pulp Fiction,” “Forrest Gump” decided to be released the same year). It’s a clever screenplay, but it’s not that great. Respond, comment, and tell me what I’m missing. I’ve pointed out the pros, but none of them are so convincing for it to rank so high on any lists. Tell me I’m wrong.

6 thoughts on “The cult appeal of ‘Pulp Fiction’

  1. You’re Not Missing A Thang, Sir. I Liked Pulp Fiction…
    …Just Not As Much As Everyone Else Seemed To.
    Reservoir Dogs is My Favorite Tarantino Flick…
    …With Jackie Brown Taking Second.
    Pulp Fiction Is Cool, Sure…
    …Just Not THAT Cool.
    Nifty Review.
    Good Stuff, Sir.

  2. “It takes three stories and barely connects them.”

    But that’s the brilliance. These are three crazy stories and what holds them together and is therefore the secret to its success is the non-linear narrative.

    1. I disagree that there’s anything all that brilliant there, though. I think if anyone wanted to write and shoot three shorts with a couple overlapping characters, it wouldn’t be as tough as creating a two-hour long movie where there’s only one long, played-out plot. This had the narrative style of a soap opera, and while it was good I didn’t see the point.

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