Pulp Fiction

Pulp Fiction (1994)
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Cast: John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis, Uma Thurman, Tim Roth

The lives of two mob hitmen, a boxer, a gangster's wife, and two small-time diner bandits intertwine in four tales of violence and redemption. "Pulp Fiction" is all of this, and so much more. And now it's deliciously available on the PSP UMD disc.

The prologue begins with two robbers (Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer) discussing a plan to change from bagging liquor stores to diners. The film shock-cuts to the opening credits. Then two well-dressed hitmen, Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson), prepare to retrieve a briefcase for the boss. The briefcase contains an unidentifed valuable. The mobsters find the briefcase in the apartment of four young hoods eating breakfast(hamburgers, in fact). The mobsters casually open fire, eventually killing them all with 45 automatics. Later, Vincent and Jules appear at their employer's bar wearing T-shirts and shorts.

The boss, Marsellus (Ving Rhames), is pressuring boxer Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis) to throw a fight. Three main stories unfold from here. In the first, Vincent escorts Marsellus's pretty wife Mia (Uma Thurman) on a so-called platonic date. The evening includes Jac Rabbit Slim's, a wild dance number, and a drug overdose.

In the second tale, sometime later, Butch is fleeing for his life. He failed to throw the fight, he bet on himself, and he killed his opponent. Not good. And he plans to take the money and run.

The last segment is a flashback. Here Jules and Vincent clean their car and dispose of a dead body; all in hopes of not upsetting Jimmy's wife Bonnie. Vincent is killed about half-way through the movie, but this "Bonnie Situation" episode (a flashback) allows Vincent to return for the finale. What's in the briefcase? One theory says that it's Marsellus' soul. Another is that it's gold. Another is that it's the diamonds from "Reservoir Dogs". Samuel L. Jackson has always said it was "three flashlights and six big-ass batteries."

Quentin Tarantino's ground-breaking, non-linear "Pulp Fiction" is taut, gritty, realistic film noir. And there's no extra charge for the black humor. The actors curse, smoke cigarettes, drink whiskey, snort cocaine, and shoot heroin. Playing against type, Jules the mobster recites passages from the Bible. The women characters here are secondary. Whining housewives and simpleton girlfriends become annoying and unnecessary. Even Uma Thurman's beautiful Mia character over-doses on cocaine, and becomes nothing more than a pasty-faced zombie.

The misogynist Tarantino continued his "macho-man" theme in later films like "Dusk Until Dawn" and "Kill Bill," but only "Pulp Fiction" is nostalgia-driven. The Jack Rabbit Slim's drive-in features actors impersonating Marilyn Monroe, Buddy Holly, and Ed Sullivan. There's no score, but the soundtrack be-bops with 50's stars Ricky Nelson, Chuck Berry, Tommy Dorsey, and Al Green. Tarantino's affection for the past is genuine. Background TV sets blare with old biker movies. A black-and-white re-runs "The Three Stooges."

The production is measured. Tarantino's camera gildes effortlessly through backyards, over fences, up stairs, and even through walls. Well-lit sets mesh nicely with location shooting in Hawthorne, California – The Hawthorne Grill coffee shop, Pasadena, North Hollywood, Silverlake, and the Pacoima, Los Angeles junk yard.

This brand-new Buena Vista/Miramax UMD-Video for PSP is presenting the film in a 2.35:1 letterboxed aspect ratio with English Stereo Sound and optional English captions. The sound volume is actually somewhat muted, but increases dramatically during gun-fights and car-crashes.

The picture is quite clear, although the color saturation is sometimes soft. Some of the outdoor shots appear dusty and grainy; possibly a result of air from the San Fernando Valley. The interactive menus are superb, as you see the two 666 combinations open up as rock music from the film plays in the background.

The menus offer full-motion scene selection on the hood of the red Chevrolet. The scene selection Menu is nicely framed inside the Chevy's license plate. Use the left(<) and right(>) arrow buttons on the left of the PSP to access all 26 chapters. Clear tabs on the top quickly scan forwards and backwards. However, there are no real value extras on the UMD. At 154 minutes, "Pulp Fiction" is really too long. Somehow, I didn't mind a bit.