"Pulp Fiction," directed by Quentin Tarantino, was one of the defining films of the 1990s. Set in Los Angeles, the film takes viewers into a parallel world populated by hit men, gangsters and small-time hoodlums and their wives and girlfriends. It is regarded as one of the most compellingly original films of the 1990s because of its eclectic mix of bizarre humor, atmospheric cinematography, witty dialogue and skewed insights into the nature of life and destiny. Released in 1994, the film was an instant box office hit.
"Pulp Fiction" stars John Travolta as hit man Vincent Vega and Samuel L. Jackson as his accomplice Jules. Bruce Willis plays Butch, a boxer who get on the wrong side of gangster boss Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames). Uma Thurman stars as Marsellus's wife Mia. Wolf, a sinister character who disposes of the evidence after a killing, is played by Harvey Keitel.
The film's narrative unfolds in three interrelated vignettes. The first story focuses on Vincent and Jules and tells the story of Vincent's night out with Mia Wallace, which ends with the gangster's wife being given an unorthodox adrenalin shot after overdosing on heroin. In the second story, Butch, a boxer, goes on the run after he double-crosses Marsellus. Jules undergoes a religious conversion after a near-miss with death in the third story, and Wolf is sent to clean up the evidence after an accidental shooting. The film begins and ends with a coffee shop robbery.
"Pulp Fiction" mixes brutality with humor and meaningless minutiae with its themes of destiny and moral choice. In one memorable scene Vincent Vega and Jules discuss the comparative merits of American and European burgers before carrying out a cold-blooded murder. Such shady characters are portrayed with tenderness, engaging the audience's sympathies, even as their deeds repel us. The film abounds with playful cultural references to film noir, 1950s teen culture and television. The dance sequence between Vincent Vega and his gangster boss's wife, Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman), complete with a psychedelic 1950s-style set, is reminiscent of a 1950s teen movie -- without the innocence.
The soundtrack to "Pulp Fiction" reached No. 21 on the Billboard charts. It featured an eclectic mix of vintage classics and obscure songs from the 60s. Songs included Dusty Springfield's "Son of a Preacher Man," Chuck Berry's rock-and-roll classic "You Never Can Tell" and The Tornadoes' less-well-known 1962 surf-rock instrumental "Bustin Surfboards."
"Pulp Fiction" made $108 million at the box office. It was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won the prestigious Palme d'Or (Golden Palm) at the Cannes Film Festival. "The New York Times" praised its "depth, wit and blazing originality" while "Time" magazine called it "'Diehard' with a brain."