Stars: **** out of 4
Summary: An awful trip into the dark side of life that’s too much for the morally conscientious, but also a terrifically clever and redemptive narrative that shows that light shines brightest in the darkest places.
Review: You know what? I’m tired of something. I’m tired of folks focusing too much on the dark side of life. I’m tired of self-imposed moral guardians not having the wit to see the good in the world around them. Gag me with a spoon. But there is evil in the world. You bet your sweet bippy. Sooner or later, you’re going to have to deal with it. Art when used properly is a roundhouse kick to the face of those sneaky bastards who think they can catch you off guard. In other words, it’s a way of exorcising our demons, exposing the villain within. Strange genius Quentin Tarantino, whether he admits or not, has a definite talent for that sort of thing. Exhibit A. “Pulp Fiction”.
This is a movie about the criminal underworld. It’s about the things we keep secret. About family. About sexuality. About conversations about God and pigs in an old diner. Yet, for all the myriad qualities, those influenced by the film seem to have taken to the incidentals of the setting rather than the brilliance of the substance. So, Tarantino’s cinematic offspring have drug use, bloody violence, bad sexual jokes and the overuse of the F-word. Those things are present in ‘Pulp Fiction’, but they’re a part of something much more intelligent. It’s not just shocking. It’s better than that. It’s honest. It’s not a movie you’d want your grandmother to see, and if you think you would, either you’re messed up or I don’t want to meet your grandmother.
There’s a classic proverb that says, ‘Great artists steal’. Tarantino doesn’t just steal tropes or scenes or characters like any old filmmaker would do, instead he soaks up the very essence of a cultural mindset and wrings it out onto the page and the screen. The result is always both uncomfortable and extremely engaging. Wholesomeness and perversion exist side by side. There’s good sex and bad sex, God and gangsters, redemption and revenge. Perhaps a reason why the self-imposed protectors of the moral status quo can’t get a movie like ‘Pulp Fiction’ is that they just don’t want to see people naked — metaphorically, I mean. The film is extremely redemptive and the good guys win. The nastiness of their on-screen world is our very own nastiness. As unnecessary as seeing it could be, maybe those of us who live in this dark world need to be reminded of our own uncomfortable secrets, and that by sifting through them we can find our own redemption.