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The first is about two hitmen, Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) and Vincent Vega (John Travolta), who are out to retrieve a briefcase stolen from their employer, Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames). This leads into two subplots, one about Vincent being ordered to also take Mia Wallace, Marsellus's wife (Uma Thurman), out for a night on the town while Wallace is out of town doing business, and another about Jules and Vincent accidentally shooting a guy named Marvin in the face and trying to clean it up.
The second is about an aging boxer named Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis) who is paid by Wallace to throw a fight. Instead, Butch bets on himself and wins (accidentally killing the other boxer in the process), making swift plans to leave the country straight after. But before he can do this, he has to recover a certain gold watch that belonged to his father, which promptly leads into the weirdest day of his life, involving Marsellus, Vincent, and a pair of seriously nasty hillbillies.
The third story which actually bookends the film is about a pair of robbers named Pumpkin and Honey Bunny (Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer) who spontaneously hold up a restaurant... a restaurant that Jules and Vincent are eating in.
Known for its rich, eclectic, pop-culture-laden dialogue, and mix of humor and over-the-top violence, Pulp Fiction is known as one of the best, most iconic films to come out of The Nineties. Also somewhat infamous for the controversy over proper writing credits. The Gold Watch chapter originated as an original script by Roger Avary. Tarantino bought the script with the intention of adapting it, as one would do a novel. In the final credits, Avary is given a "story by" listing.
There is also an interesting review of the layers and story in one segment of the movie, the "gold watch" incident, which can be found here.
Not to be confused with actual Pulp Fiction as a genre, which is found under Pulp Magazine.
Provides Examples Of:
- Actor Allusion: We've certainly seen John Travolta dancing in a couple of movies... (Saturday Night Fever, Grease) ... as well as winning a dancing contest prize he didn't entirely deserve.
- Affably Evil: Jules and Vince
- Afro Asskicker: Jheri Curl flavor.
- Alliterative Name: Vincent Vega, continuing the legacy of Vic Vega.
- Also, Winston Wolf.
- All There in the Manual: According to the script, the briefcase contained diamonds. Tarantino felt this was too similar to the plot of Reservoir Dogs, and left it ambiguous.
- Anachronic Order: Quentin Tarantino's trademark style of storytelling. Here's how the film would play in chronological order:
- Prelude to "The Gold Watch" (Christopher Walken talks to young Butch)
- Prelude to "Vincent Vega and Marsellus Wallace's Wife" (Jules and Vince discuss Europe and foot massages, then kill Brett and retrieve the case)
- "The Bonnie Situation"
- Prologue—The Diner (Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer discuss the robbery)
- Epilogue—The Diner (standoff between Roth/Plummer and Jackson/Travolta)
- Prelude to "Vincent Vega and Marsellus Wallace's Wife" (Marsellus instructs Butch to throw the fight and Butch has a minor confrontation with Vince)
- "Vincent Vega and Marsellus Wallace's Wife"
- Prelude to "The Gold Watch" (Butch and his French girlfriend talk about pot bellies)
- "The Gold Watch".
- Anti-Hero: Butch, Type III
- Vincent & Jules are Villain Protagonists or Type V, but Jules becomes Type III or arguably Type II near the end.
- The Aristocats: Eva Gabor's character inspired Uma Thurman's dance.
- As Herself: Kathy Griffin is cast as herself. She's the red-haired woman who witnesses the crash Butch and Marcellus are involved in.
- As the Good Book Says...: Jules Winnfield is fond of quoting Ezekiel 25:17 (with a bit of his own embellishment, as only the final lines of Jules' speech, "And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger... And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee," appear in the aforementioned passage) before executing someone, and as he explains to one character, he always thought it was some "cold blooded shit" that one said to "a motherfucker" before "I popped a cap in his ass."
- As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Esmarelda Villalobos. Colombia is the world's leading source of emeralds. No Colombian ever would name their child "Esmarelda" but "Esmeralda" (the Spanish word for Emerald). However, there's always the possibility that her name was misspelled In-Universe.
- Asian Store Owner: The opening conversation includes a lament about how this trope has made knocking over convenience stores nearly impossible; as Pumpkin explains, the small business owners are all either Jewish or Asian, and either way the business has been in the family for "fifteen fucking generations," so naturally they're going to be rather defensive when some jerk with a gun comes in.
- Ass Shove: Captain Koons' "your father's watch" speech.
- The Atoner: While Butch claims not to care about killing his opponent, he mutters, "Sorry, Floyd," to the air when he hears the news. His compulsion to save Marsellus may be connected.
- While we don't see it, it seems Jules is starting down this path.
"The truth is you're the weak. And I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin', Ringo, I'm tryin' real hard to be the shepherd."
- Author Appeal: Mia goes barefoot in at least two of her scenes, and foot massages come up in conversation twice. Esmarelda drives her cab barefoot, as well. Tarantino's foot fetish is well known at this point.
- Badass: Jules, Butch, Marsellus Wallace, and even Mia in her own way.
- Badass Back: Butch killing Maynard. After wounding him with a Diagonal Cut he then moves on Zed and casually shoves his katana backwards into Maynard's stomach.
- Bald Black Leader Guy: Marsellus Wallace, clearly. But he doesn't look like a bitch.
- Beam Me Up, Scotty: Jules' biblical quote is way off.
- Berserk Button: Butch, when he realizes that Fabienne has not packed his father's wrist watch.
- Black Comedy
- Book Ends: The film begins and ends at the diner, but from different POV's.
- Also the Ezekiel Bible verse is used early on in the film, but by the end it takes on a different meaning.
- Bowdlerise: The broadcast version of the film goes to extreme measures to eliminate the existence of the character of The Gimp.
- Bound and Gagged: Butch and Marsellus.
- Brick Joke: Does Marcellus Wallace look like a bitch? Yes.
- Calling Your Bathroom Breaks: One of Vicent's more... endearing qualities.
- Cavalier Consumption: While Jules and Vincent are putting on a hit. Man, Big Kahuna Burgers are tasty.
- Chainsaw Good: Referenced,then averted: Butch considers a chainsaw when choosing his weapon for taking down the pawn shop rapists (he also sees and discards a carpenter's hammer and a baseball bat before spotting the Katanas Are Just Better.)
- Cliché Storm: In-universe: the Fox Force Five pilot described by Mia Wallace. From what she says, it appears to be a very generic and cheesy Five Girl Band series that wasn't picked up for a good reason.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Butch's wife has shades of this with the things she talks about.
- Cluster F-Bomb: And fucking how, you fucking motherfucker pissant piece of motherfucking fuckshit. On many TV broadcasts, there's at least one scene where instead of blocking out individual words, the audio just gives out entirely.
- "Oh, you could blow? Well, I'm a mushroom-cloud-layin' motherfucker, motherfucker!"
- Cold-Blooded Torture: What's going to be happening to Zed. With pliers and a blowtorch.
I'm about to go medieval on his ass - Marcellus Wallace
- Conscience Makes You Go Back: Butch going back to save Marcellus after escaping The Gimp
- Creator Cameo: Quentin Tarantino plays Jimmie.
- Credits Gag:
- The manager is credited as "Coffee Shop" because when he's about to say "coffee shop manager" to Pumpkin he was cut off.
- Producer Lawrence Bender is "Long Haired Yuppie-Scum"
- Emil Sitka is "Hold Hands, You Love Birds!", his "line" in the Three Stooges short Lance was watching.
- The bartender's actual name in the script is English Bob (referenced by Jules in the diner scene). But his "My name is Paul and this is between y'all" line was so awesome that he's credited as "Paul" instead.
- Deconstructive Parody: of crime thrillers. Even feared crime lord Marcellus Wallace makes stupid mistakes.
- Dies Wide Open
- Double Standard Rape (Male on Male): Averted.
- Double Take: Marcellus, when he spotted Butch escaping. Complete with a Precision F-Strike which, if you consider the movie, is improbably precise.
- Driving a Desk: For no apparent reason Tarantino chose what looks like a 1940s black-and-white street background for the scene where Esmerelda drives Butch away from the fight.
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: Vincent. After being the central character of the previous story, he comes out of the bathroom and gets shot by Butch before he can even say or do anything.
- Drugs Are Bad: Only those stupid enough to leave their submachine gun out in the open while going to the bathroom would ever dabble in heroin. Also, Mia nearly dies from an OD.
- Enemy Eats Your Lunch: "Mmm-mm. This is a tasty burger!"
- "Do you mind if I have some of your tasty beverage to wash this down with? *drinks the entire soda* Mmmm, that hit the spot."
- Enemy Mine: When Butch goes back to rescue Marsellus Wallace.
- Ensemble Cast
- Equal Opportunity Evil: Marsellus runs a pretty diverse group for an organized crime outfit. It's especially odd, considering Vince is the brother of a guy working for a more typical Mafia group whose leader makes a few rather unfortunate remarks about blacks.
- Faux Affably Evil: Jules when he and Vincent show up at Brett's apartment. Jules comes in, acts civil and friendly, and even politely asks Brett if he can take a bite of his burger and a drink of his Sprite. Of course, throughout the entire discussion, everyone present knows that Jules and Vincent are hitmen who, at best, are here to recover the glowy thingy in the briefcase, and at worst, are here to kill them, so Jules' act of civil politeness just serves to ratchet up the tension, until Jules finally dispenses with the whole thing and breaks Brett's concentration by shooting his buddy.
- Five-Bad Band
- Foot Focus: Long before it became a popular internet theory, foot fetishists had Tarantino figured out. It wasn't just the famous foot massage dialogue...sole shots, walking shots, and even a brief pedal stomping scene (yes, there's a fetish for that).
- Foreshadowing: Jules on Marsellus Wallace, "Does he look like a bitch?" "No." "Then, why did you try to fuck him like a bitch?...You tried to fuck him. And Marcellus Wallace does not like to be fucked by anybody except Missus Wallace."
- Near the beginning of Butch's story when Esmerelda asks him what it feels like to kill a man, he can't answer because he didn't do it knowingly. By the end of Butch's story and two corpses later, Butch could probably describe the feeling in detail.
- Freestate Amsterdam: Vincent tells us about this.
- Funny Background Event: By itself it's not particularly funny, but the classy party Winston Wolf is attending when he receives the summons to help Jules and Vincent becomes a lot funnier when you realize it's not even eight o'clock in the morning when it's taking place.
- Groin Attack: Marsellus puts a shotgun blast into the groin of his rapist.
- Hand Cannon: The giant revolver carried by the third guy in Brett's apartment.
- Heel Realization: The entire final part of the movie involves Jules' realization that he was, in fact, a tool used by wicked men. It's left unknown whether or not he helped Pumpkin and Honey Bunny have the same sort of realization as well.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Vincent.
- Hypocritical Humor: Whether it was intended for humor or not, in one scene, Jules tells Vincent to stop committing blasphemy by taking God's name in vain. Before and after that scene, however, Jules has no problem using the same language he scolded Vincent for, himself.
- During the opening scene, Pumpkin complains about how "too many foreigners own liquor stores", which makes robbing them harder. Pumpkin is an Englishman in America — a foreigner, in other words.
- Idiot Ball: The film is basically Vincent's Idiot Plot.
- Idiot Hero: Vincent. Pretty much everything he says or does is a fuck up.
- I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: Trope Namers.
- Imagine Spot: Jules imagines Bonnie's potential reaction to coming home and finding "a couple of gangsters in her kitchen doin' a bunch of gangster shit."
- Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Played for Laughs when that one guy misses Jules and Vincent. At point blank range. Six times. Understandably enough, this causes Jules to suspect Divine Intervention.
- Incredibly Lame Pun: Ketchup.
- In Medias Res: An extreme example, with the jumpy timeline of the film, that still manages to make a cohesive narrative.
- Insistent Terminology: "It's not a motorcycle, it's a chopper, baby."
- Intercourse with You: Girl You'll Be A Woman Soon can be perceived like this, because Mia and Vincent definitely have some sexual tension going on.
- In the Name of the Moon: Jules Winnfield's (mis)quoting the Biblical book of Ezekiel before pulling the trigger.
- Ironic Echo: Butch telling Marcellus "That's pride fucking with you" while hitting him in the head.
- Jerkasses: Just too many people to count. Justified because they all speak in Cluster F-Bombs. However, Zed and Maynard were the big ones.
- Karma Houdini: Pumpkin and Honey Bunny are made to give back the MacGuffin briefcase and Jules's wallet... but, other than that, they get to keep all the loot they've robbed, including the contents of the register, several of the other diners' wallets and a cell phone, and walk away entirely unharmed - while, admittedly, looking rather shook up. Of course, Jules has made it expressly clear that if it were any other day, he'd have just popped them both and finished his coffee, but he's making a conscious effort to change his ways.
- Jules probably realized that they would need enough money to live on for a few months to be able to resist the temptation of returning to a life of crime. He even gave them the money from his own wallet towards that end.
- Katanas Are Just Better: Butch chooses a katana over a variety of other weapons, including a Chainsaw Good. The trope can be justified by the fact that Butch is trying to sneak up on two men armed with guns, and a chainsaw is not very sneaky, but Butch is clearly awed by the katana and sees it as the most AWESOME weapon.
- Large Ham: Samuel L. Jackson at many points, such as the ending and of course the infamous "Describe what Marsellus Wallace looks like!" bit.
- Left the Background Music On: The music playing during the opening credits comes from Jules and Vincent's car radio.
- Left Your Lifesaver Behind: Vincent is waiting for Butch to show up at his (Butch's) house to kill him. While waiting Vincent needs to go to the bathroom, so he leaves his Ingram MAC-10 on the kitchen counter. While he's in the bathroom Butch shows up, and uses the Ingram to kill the unarmed Vincent as he leaves the bathroom.
- Lethally Expensive: Christopher Walken's butt-smuggled wristwatch.
- Let Us Never Speak of This Again: The first of Marsellus' two things he asks of Butch after Butch saves him from Zed's... attentions.
- The Load: While seemingly a cool and badass hitman at first, it soon comes to light Vincent Vega is an idiot. At least one person dies and another comes near it due to his general carelessness and a few of the conflicts inside the film are due to it.
- Two, if we count himself.
- When visiting the apartment in the beginning of the film, Vincent and Jules express deep concern over the fact that there could be as many as five guys there, all possibly armed. So what does Vincent do when they show up? Check the other rooms for Mooks? Nope. Ask if there's anyone else there? Nope. He just sort of dicks around in the kitchen.
- To be fair, Jules didn't think of doing that either, even though he had the same information Vincent did.
- MacGuffin: The briefcase. Also the watch, which spent many years up various asses in a Vietnamese prison camp.
- Magic Bullets: One of the major plot points involves the "bad bullets" version of this trope, where a man empties a high-caliber revolver at Jules and Vincent (at almost point blank range), but completely misses them. After killing him, Jules and Vincent examine the bullet holes in the wall, which the camera could not see until they stepped back, suggesting that the bullets should have passed through them. Lampshaded and arguably justified, as Jules points out that it couldn't possibly be anything but divine intervention and Vincent has no better rebuttal than any other Flat Earth Atheist. However, the commentary points out that some bullet holes were already in the wall when Vince and Jules went in.
- In Vince's defence, he didn't say he didn't believe in miracles, just that in his opinion what happened to them didn't count as one. Possibly skepticism that God would step in to save two professional murderers. God certainly didn't save Vince from getting shot the next day.
- Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The aforementioned Magic Bullets scene leads to an argument between Jules and Vincent regarding whether or not it was an act of God or pure luck. Also, some theories about the briefcase include supernatural elements.
- Meaningful Background Event: In the first scene, when Pumpkin and Honey Bunny are discussing the merits of robbing liquor stores or restaurants, Vincent can be briefly seen heading for the bathroom.
- Meaningful Name: Butch has a discussion regarding the meaning of names with a taxi driver who has some interest in the subject. He claims that for Americans, "our names don't mean shit". Which seems rather a strange thing for a professional boxer named Butch to say.
- Memento MacGuffin: Butch's watch.
And now, little man, I give the watch... to you.
- Mood Whiplash: Captain Koons' speech to young Butch starts off seriously, but then takes an abrupt turn for the absurd halfway through.
- Yet, somehow, the drama is not completely lost, and Butch's obsession with keeping the watch safe seems completely justified. A lot of the credit for this goes to Christopher Walken, who is possibly the only actor in the world who could deliver the second half of that speech seriously.
- Moral Dilemma: The main characters struggle with these, as Tarantino explains.
- Mugging the Monster: Two robbers try to hold up a professional hitman. Unusually, the conflict gets resolved more or less peacefully because of benevolence on the hitman's part.
- Nobody Poops: Averted. Vince goes to the bathroom three times, and during each visit shit goes down.
- Noodle Incident: Tony Rocky Horror getting thrown by Marsellus Wallace. Rumor is Tony gave Mia a foot massage but Mia writes it off as bullshit and says she doesn't know why Marsellus chucked him either. It's not totally clear whether or not she's telling the truth, however; Vincent still seems slightly dubious.
- Noodle Implements: Marsellus Wallace tells Butch that he's going to call several of his men to "go to work" on his rapist Zed with a pair of pliers and a blowtorch, then proceeds to tell Zed that he's going to "get medieval on his ass." Since Zed had already been shot in the groin, one can only imagine what else of his is going to be pinched and burned.
- The blowtorch is for burning off his finger and toetips, so he can't be printed. The pliers are for pulling out teeth, so he can't be tracked via dental records. In other words, Marcellus wants him to die and never have it be known what happened. There are other uses for those pliers, but explaining will fall even further into squick territory.
- N-Word Privileges: "N-WORD" is peppered throughout the script, said by (and to) white and black characters alike. The most famous being Jimmie (who is married to a black woman), and his query about whether his garage has a sign saying "Dead N-WORD
Storage". If you are curious: it hasn't.
- One-Scene Wonder: The Wolf and Captain Koons.
- Only a Flesh Wound: By the way Marsellus says what specific time period he's going to get on the ass of the guy that just raped him, you get the impression that the guy would live to face it. Despite the fact that he just shot him in his crotch with a shotgun! However, birdshot or anything smaller than 00 buckshot penetrates quite poorly, so the chance of his injuries being fatal may be...unfortunately small.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: The two robbers "Pumpkin" and "Honey Bunny". Honey Bunny's real name is revealed to be Yolanda. Jules calls Pumpkin "Ringo".
- Outlaw Couple: "Pumpkin" and "Honey Bunny".
- Pants-Positive Safety: After ditching their bloodied suits from the Marvin incident, Jules and Vincent are seen carrying their guns in their waistbands.
- Pre-Ass-Kicking One-Liner: The page quote by Jules, especially the last line. "If I said it — it meant your ass."
- The Precious Precious Car: Vincent's Malibu. Also, Winston "The Wolf" Wolf's Acura NSX:
Winston Wolf: I get my car back any differently than I gave it, Monster Joe's gonna be disposin' of two bodies.
- The Public Domain Channel: Lance watches the Three Stooges short "The Brideless Groom".
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "Does!? He!? Look!? Like!? A bitch!?"
- Punk in the Trunk
- Random Events Plot
- Rant-Inducing Slight: Depending on how you see it, Vincent's mild insult to Butch ("I ain't your friend, Palooka") may be what inspired Butch to back out of his deal with Marsellus and cause the whole mess in the second third of the story.
- Rape as Drama
- Rape as Redemption: Marsellus.
- Re Cut: Defied. In commentary, Quentin Tarantino mentions that he didn't do a director's cut because:
Tarantino: "I made the movie I wanted to make the first time."
- Retired Badass / Retired Monster: Jules presumably becomes one after the movie finishes.
- Riddle for the Ages: What was in the suitcase?
- Rule of Cool: Jules' reason for reciting "scripture."
- Running Gag: There are three times when Vincent goes into a bathroom and shit happens when he returns. The last one kills him.
- Scary Black Man: Jules and Marsellus.
- Seinfeldian Conversation: So much!
- Share the Male Pain: Take a good long look at Butch after Zed gets blasted by the shotgun. Butch spends all but a couple seconds in the next few minutes of conversation covering his crotch.
- It's not quite clear what he is actually doing with his hands - one could also assume that he is resting his hands on the hilt of the katana.
- Shot to the Heart: Vincent does this to Mia, since they don't want a drug lord's wife going to the hospital with a drug OD. In reality, she almost certainly would have died unless 911 was called. The epinephrine may have restarted her stopped heart, but it would do nothing about the heroin still in her system, she'd probably be tachycardic from the epi, and she'd probably also get an infection from the unsterilized needle in her chest.
- Shown Their Work: Jules refers to his gun as "Mr. Nine Millimeter" to Ringo during the diner standoff; while the guns Jules uses appears to be a .45 caliber 1911 pistol, it's represented by 9mm Star Model B clones. The only way to identify them at all is by the external extractor, a tiny strip of metal on the right side of the slide.
- Sickening Sweethearts: Pumpkin and Honey Bunny.
- Signs of Disrepair: As Butch looks for weapons, one sign in the shop reads Kill___ _Ed.
- Soul Brotha: Jules is one bad mother-- Shut your mouth!
- Spiritual Spinoff: Word of God admits that Kill Bill is somewhat based on the "Fox Force Five" pilot that Mia Wallace describes.
- Stupid Crooks: Vincent has a large number of personal What an Idiot! moments, two of which are directly in relation to his job as a hitman and enforcer for Marcellus Wallace's criminal empire. Not only does he provide us the Trope Namers for I Just Shot Marvin in the Face, but Vincent also leaves Marcellus' submachinegun in plain view while he goes to the bathroom at Butch's apartment when he's supposed to be waiting for Butch to show up and kill him. Butch does show up, and, upon noticing the gun, picks it up and shoots Vincent dead after he steps out of the bathroom.
- Jules and Vincent going to breakfast at a Denny's less than 400 yards from the place they shot three people at under two hours prior. The restaurant is a Denny's in the script, and you can see the sign as Jules and Vincent are walking to the hit, talking about Mia.
- Take Our Word for It: The audience never sees what Marsellus Wallace sent Vincent and Jules to retrieve, but, going by the glow that radiates from the briefcase containing it, and the reactions of all the characters who see it, we're to believe it's pretty fantastic. Tarantino originally intended it to be the loot from Reservoir Dogs, but changed it to an unseen light, and has stated that it's "whatever you want."
- Third-Person Flashback: At flashback to when Butch is given his father's watch, with Christopher Walken telling him the story, starts in first-person but then goes third.
- Those Two Bad Guys: Jules and Vincent.
- Throwing the Fight: Butch is supposed to take a dive. He does not. Things get out of control from there.
- Too Dumb to Live: Vincent, so very very much. He lasts about a day without his Hypercompetent Sidekick Jules after he finds religion and retires.
- To the Pain: Marsellus is about to "get medieval on your ass".
- Tragic Keepsake: Why Butch is so protective of his father's watch.
- Treasure Chest Cavity: Christopher Walken's characters keeps a watch in his rectum for the son of the former owner.
- Trunk Shot
- Underdressed for the Occasion: An unusually gory example.
- Villain Protagonist: Jules and Vincent.
- Pretty much the entire cast when you think of it, a possible exception being Butch, who puts Honor Before Reason to save Marcellus.
- Visual Pun: During the "adrenaline shot" scene, there are two board games in the background - "Operation" and "Life".
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Jules and Vincent, again.
- Walking the Earth: Invoked, as Jules' retirement plan
- What You Are in the Dark: Butch has the opportunity to just walk away after he escapes from The Gimp. He hesitates at the front door, and then goes back to rescue the man who wants him dead.
- Wham! Line: "Garçon, coffee!" The second time we hear it. Wham, we're back at the beginning of the film. Oh, did you think we were just gonna let that scene hang there like that?
- "I DON'T REMEMBER ASKING YOU A GODDAMN THING!"
- You Look Familiar: According to Word of God, this is set in the same universe as Reservoir Dogs. Several actors (Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Tarantino himself) return.