Pu,lp Fiction - 2-Disc Collector's Edition (18)

Review by Jack Foley

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Deleted Scenes: The Drug Deal Monologue, Mai Interviewing Vincent, The Esmeralda Cab Scene, Monster Joe's Truck and Tow, Extended Jack Rabbit Slim's scene; Theatrical Trailers (11:03); TV Spots (13); Production Design Featurette; Pulp Fiction Still Gallery; Siskel & Ebert "At the Movies" The Tarantino Generation (15:50); Independent Spirit Awards - Michael Moore interviews Quentin Lawrence and Sam (11:27); Cannes Film Festival - Palme d'Or Award Ceremony, acceptance speech (5:16) Charlie Rose Show (55:22); Tarantino Fiction - Original Documentary; Behind the Scenes Montages; DVD Rom Bonus: Enhanced Playback Track, Synchronized Trivia Game, Sceenplay Viewer, Open Mic Commentary.

QUENTIN Tarantino's finest hour, to date, came in the form of this sprawling crime saga, packed with powerhouse performances, some trademark choice dialogue and a liberal sprinkling of ultra-violence that only Tarantino knows how to do best.

Pulp Fiction took the coveted Palme d'Or at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival and opened to rave reviews the world over, proving that Reservoir Dogs was no fluke.

Comprised of three stories, book-ended by a prologue and an epilogue, the movie focuses on the lives of several gangsters and their charges as they all come together at different points of the day. Part of its strength lies in the fact that you're never quite sure what order you are watching the film in, making it impossible to predict which characters will last the pace, or which will wind up dead.

In the first story, a hitman (John Travolta) is charged with babysitting the irresponsible wife (Uma Thurman) of his vengeful boss, while in the second, a washed-up boxer (Bruce Willis) attempts to trick the Mob by refusing to throw a fight. The third and final story centres around the attempts of two hitmen (Travolta and Samuel L Jackson) to clean up a job when it gets messier than expected, employing the services of the 'cleaner' (Harvey Keitel), while waiting at the house of a helper, played by Tarantino himself.

Sound routine? Well, there is nothing average about the composition of this movie, which frequently tip-toes the line between good taste and bad, while remaining effortlessly cool - if a little soulless - throughout.

Travolta (for whom the movie represented yet another career revival) has seldom been better as the smooth-talking, if dumb, hitman, who even gets to indulge in a spot of dancing with Thurman's moll, while Samuel L Jackson virtually hijacks every scene he is in as the Bible-spewing hitman whose near-death experience at the start of proceedings heralds a career re-evaluation.

But it is difficult to pick out a bad performance, such is the quality on show. Thurman is extremely sassy as the care-free moll, Willis is suitably moody as the earnest boxer whose decision to go against the Mob takes a worse turn than even he could have expected, and the likes of Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer, Rosanna Arquette, Steve Buscemi and Keitel all contribute telling cameos.

Tarantino even throws in another unwatchable scene (to rival the ear-splicing in Dogs), as Willis and Mob boss Ving Rhames are held hostage in the basement of a couple of redneck store owners ('Bring out the gimp!'), while also taking the darkest subject matter and somehow making it funny (witness Travolta's accidental slaying of an informer, or Eric Stoltz's needle-play with an overdosing Thurman).

Dialogue-wise, the movie positively sparkles, and re-writes the dictionary with Tarantino's own brand of gangster vernacular. Moments to savour include Jackson's near-legendary explanation of a Royale with cheese, Amanda Plummer's 'Any of you motherfuckers move and I'll execute every last mother fucking one of you!' (sampled on Fun Lovin' Criminals Scooby Snacks track), and Thurman's teasing of Travolta as she lures him onto the dancefloor.

At two and a half hours, Pulp Fiction could so easily have dragged its way along to a bloody conclusion, but Tarantino's strength lies in his ability to inject new life into a genre which was beginning to grow tired. The fact remains that these tough-talking, gun-toting men in black are way cooler than Messrs Smith and Jones have ever been.

The special edition, two-disc DVD is an absolute must for any fans of the movie, featuring commentary from the director himself, deleted scenes and a whole range of extras. Let us hope that Tarantino's next movie, Kill Bill, features a return to this sort of genre-defining form, rather than the self-indulgent bore that was Jackie Brown.