September 15, 1995 in Seven

‘Pulp Fiction’ Is All About Living And Dying By The Code

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Dear Bob Dole: You got it wrong, buddy. “Pulp Fiction” is the study in morality; “True Lies” is the study in sleaze.

Not only that, but “Pulp Fiction,” which pre-sold a record 715,000 units to retailers, ends up being a celebration of the Bible. The Old Testament, no less.

Don’t believe me? Well, consider this: Every single person who dies in Quentin Tarantino’s ground-breaking film does so for a reason. Each, in his own way, has broken the moral code dreamed up by writer-director Tarantino (and co-writer Roger Avary) and ruthlessly adhered to by his collection of lowlife characters.

Listen: The trio of preppy hustlers that Jules and Vinnie slaughter tried to cheat the man for whom Jules and Vinnie work. Cheating isn’t allowed.

Listen: The man that Butch beats to death in the ring deserved it. As Butch explains, the guy made a mockery of the business of boxing by only posing as a fighter. He cheated and, once again, cheating isn’t allowed.

Listen: The kid that Vinnie accidentally shoots deserved it, too. He pointed the finger at the preppies, which makes him a snitch. Snitching isn’t allowed.

Listen: The guys in the pawnshop, too, deserved what they get. Killing for business is allowed, but killing for fun isn’t. That’s cheating, and we already know what happens to cheaters.

And, finally, listen: Vinnie deserves it, too. He’s become careless after his three-year stay in Amsterdam, and his carelessness causes the death of one man and very nearly the death of someone else by overdose. Carelessness is the next thing to cheating and, well… you know the rest.

On the flip side, it’s Butch’s very sense of honor that saves him. Sure, he lies and cheats the man who pays him to do a job. But what he was paid to do - throw a fight - amounts to a more serious kind of cheating, and two cheats always cancel each other out.

Besides, when it comes right down to it, Butch forgets the personal insults and does what’s right. You don’t leave anyone to die at the hands of those who don’t know the code.

But what about Pumpkin and Honey Bunny? you say. Aren’t they candidates for cerebral disconnection when they try to steal Jules’ briefcase, in effect forcing him to break the oath he has pledged to his boss?

Well, yes, which is the crowning point of Tarantino’s Old Testament vision. Jules, in his “transition period,” decides to overlook the murderous pair’s attempted transgression. Caught up in a feeling of forgiveness, he pardons them - much the same way that the Nazi work-camp official played by Ralph Fiennes does a young boy in “Schindler’s List.”

Jules’ act of forgiveness, however, takes. And, after actually contemplating the words of Ezekiel 25:17 for the first time, he is left to “walk the Earth… like Caine in ‘Kung Fu,”’ in whatever form that takes.

As for “True Lies,” which you, Sen. Dole, have singled out as “good family entertainment,” well, sir, there are more people killed in any single five minutes of “True Lies” than in all of “Pulp Fiction.”

And why do they die? Mostly because they happen to have brown skin.

Tarantino, for all his use of racial epithets, is colorblind. Black, white, brown or whatever, it all amounts to the same thing: If you obey the code, you’re the man.

And you get to ride away with your sweetie on a motorcycle named Grace.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: WHAT’S NEW TO VIEW Now available - “Pulp Fiction” (Miramax), “Major Payne” (MCA/Universal), “Children of the Corn: Urban Harvest” (Dimension). Available on Tuesday - “Jefferson In Paris” (Miramax), “Buffalo Girls” (HBO), “A Little Princess” (Warner), “Losing Isaiah” (Paramount), “The Madness of King George” (HME), “Roommates” (Miramax).

This sidebar appeared with the story: WHAT’S NEW TO VIEW Now available - “Pulp Fiction” (Miramax), “Major Payne” (MCA/Universal), “Children of the Corn: Urban Harvest” (Dimension). Available on Tuesday - “Jefferson In Paris” (Miramax), “Buffalo Girls” (HBO), “A Little Princess” (Warner), “Losing Isaiah” (Paramount), “The Madness of King George” (HME), “Roommates” (Miramax).


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