I was a young adult and had seen, but hadn’t been particularly blown away by, Reservoir Dogs. Well, Pulp Fiction blew my mind.
My first impression was that this was a movie that was going to go all the way. When the Band Apart logo first comes up, along with the first jolt of the theme song, you know you’re seeing something cool and powerful. Next was the conversation between Jules and Vincent. As it was playing, I remember consciously thinking that, though the subject was crude, it was clear that the writer was really in the moment. The scene is shocking but doesn’t offend, because the characters are so logical, and they just keep delving deeper and deeper into the subject of foot messages.
Of course, the second Vincent says that Marsellus asked him to take his wife out, I was stunned. This was a very classic story, almost cliche, but it didn’t matter. What was cliche just added tension, rather than corniness.
Anthologies don’t usually work, because usually most of the stories are terrible, with maybe one that stands out. In Pulp Fiction, they were all great. The only weaknesses to me were in Butch’s story. The pot belly speech was just too weird, and when Butch and Marsellus stumbled into the pawn shop and got captured, it’s like, “wha?” The pawn shop rapists element redeemed itself, though, in the coolest way, getting Butch and Marsellus to make peace.
Of course, the time jump at the end was really cool, but what made it more than just an intellectual idea is how well it worked. When Pumpkin and Honeybunny showed up at the end, the audience groaned. They knew what it meant that Jules’s restaurant was about to get robbed at gunpoint.
I have a clear recollection of Pulp Fiction, because it was one of those few times where you could feel that popular culture had just been josteled, sort of like when “Smells Like Teen Spirit” hit the charts. There is a clear pre-Pulp Fiction and post-Pulp Fiction. No movie has had the same impact since.