'Pulp Fiction': THR's 1994 Review

Pulp Fiction (1994) - John Travolta - Samuel L. Jackson - Photofest- H 2016
Miramax Films/Photofest

On October 14, 1994, Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, the frenetic follow-up to his debut feature Reservoir Dogs, hit theaters. When it premiered at Cannes Film Fest earlier that year, The Hollywood Reporter first reviewed the film: 

Plug gold with your first shot, you can dump your trunk on the big boys. In this rock ‘n’ roll case, Quentin Tarantino would be the plugger, Miramax the big boys. The goods in question are a yarn in three parts, Pulp Fiction, that Tarantino scraped together before he hit the big time with Reservoir Dogs.

Viewers who still have some ammo left in the chamber will figure out that Dogs came out of one of this thing’s parts. Neo-noir buffs, Tarantino fans and festheads will plop down bucks for this sleaze-streets spin, but don’t expect John Q. Public to smack down dough for this spray of ammo, torture, old tunes and new noise.

Tarantino’s lined up a fine cast to play his assorted snotwadsgrimeballssleazoids, small-timers, druggies and bulletheads in this 1990s version of a down-and-dirty 1940s pulp fictioner, the kind Dash Hammett and the boys used to crank out. There’s John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson as dope world enforcers; Uma Thurman as a new age moll; Bruce Willis as a prizefighter; Christopher Walken as a ‘Nammie platoon captain; Harvey Keitel as Wolf the Fixer and Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer as Pumpkin and Honey Bunny, respectively, who do Tarantino’s opening number, the coffee-shop philosophy routine. This time on the plate, however, it seems to be missing a slab of Lawrence Tierney. Or maybe the waxing itself is just plain thin rather than deepnutcase smart.

Yup, what people are going to notice is that while all those high-crime delicacies from Dogs are here — scattershot, coffee-shop wisdom, sadistic torture of the hog-tied done to sunny rock ‘n’ roll, gun-pointed stalemates — they don’t got quite the charm the second time around.

Still, this thing’s plugged with more good stuff than you fence after a riot. Some of Tarantino’s lines are so pure, you could mix ‘em with 80 percent talcum powder and still make a big haul by selling in an alley somewhere. Visually, Tarantino’s got the thing covered too. The thing comes at you in even crazier ways than you’d expect from a room full of head cases.

When you get to the fine slice on Pulp, what you’ve got is a lot of lethal lines all smartly wired together and detonated by a combustive slew of sounds. It’s a smart, low amusement, but on the Q.T. (and don’t go making too much of the initials here), someone’s got to be laughing all the way to the bank for pawning off his old wares. —Duane Byrge, originally published May 23, 1994.