A title as self-conscious although not as accurate as Samuel Beckett's Film. Yes, Quentin Tarantino's cast of characters accommodates some staple figures of the form: the small-time heisters, the mob torpedoes, Mr. Big's sex-bomb mate, the boxer bribed to throw a fight. But the writer-director borrows his narrative devices from a more "experimental" stripe of novelist: the nonlinear storyline (the unattuned spectator might suspect a reel out of order when a dead character resurfaces near movie's end, and an earlier plot thread is picked up right where it was left); no single focal character or situation, but instead an idle shuffle of them; the leaping-over of a climactic bit of action. (Maybe Meta-Pulp Fiction would be more accurate, without being a lot more self-conscious.) And the first and foremost thing to be said about his dialogue would be that it is "bookish": Elmore Leonard-ish tangents of doubtful relevance. Tarantino is, so to speak, a man who loves to hear himself write. One of the inherent perils of this verbal exhibitionism, though, is the tendency to fall into the sentimentality of the "colorful" character (the mystical hitman, the human pincushion with eighteen ring-holes from ear to nose to tongue to clitoris), such that Tarantino seems at times to be cultivating a new idiom, a new milieu, in which to transplant the term "Runyon-esque": more colorful, more florid, more lurid. And hence more sentimental, inverted and twisted though the sentiment may be. There are plenty of things to snicker and cackle at (nothing heartier) along the way, especially in the long interlude subtitled "Vincent Vega and Marcellus Wallace's Wife." There are plenty of other things merely to wince and grimace at. John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, Bruce Willis. (1994) — Duncan Shepherd
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