When one speaks of writer/actor/director Quentin Tarantino, the film in which they first meet his cinematic universe often colors how they view him and his work. If it’s his first film, Reservoir Dogs (1991), they likely speak with reverence as this microbudget project became a global hit and gave birth to the films that followed. For others, it’s the Kill Bill films (2003/2004), which inspire many to visit the various Shaw Brothers and Golden Harvest films that influenced the two-part picture. For many, though, it’s Pulp Fiction (1994), the film which reutilizes Tarantino’s time-twisting narrative approach from Dogs but perfects it to a saber’s point. The dialogue is sharp, the performances immaculate, and the twists continually surprising. There’s much about the film that stands the test of time. Now, for the first-time, Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment offers audiences Tarantino’s crime drama in 4K UHD in either a standard or limited-edition steelbook with all the legacy features of prior releases.
Through a series of seemingly random events, a group of disparate characters finds their lives deeply and profoundly connected, each person transforming from what they once were into something irrevocably different. The lucky ones make it out alive.
Especially coming off the recent Reservoir Dogs 4K UHD release, watching Pulp Fiction is even more impressive. We can see the growth of the director, capturing movement and his signature snappy dialogue with greater confidence, inserting more rhythm with the edits, and bringing out some of the most iconic performances of the 1990s. There’s a stronger understanding of how to use music, frame characters for impact, and pacing. The way that time is played with here is similar to Dogs in that the audience is shown things out of order, but, instead of the occasional flashback filling in the blanks to allow for a small sense of chronology, Pulp begins where it ends, the times in between deadly for many who the audience comes to know. It’s only when one starts to put the pieces together that we realize, for instance, that it’s likely because Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) quits the business that Vincent (John Travolta) is alone waiting for Butch (Bruce Willis), made extra vulnerable by his heroin addiction, dying as a result. There’s plenty of hints as to where things go, but the resultant impact of the small choices made along the way create major ripples for each and all. All these years later, it still dazzles.
When Tarantino inserts himself into the film as Jimmie, the friend Jules and Vincent go see after the car incident, a lot of the goodwill comes crashing down as Jimmie casually and repeatedly drops the N-word over and over. There was cover in Django Unchained (2012) given the era and location of the story, even a little bit with the post-Civil War The Hateful Eight (2015), but here it’s excessive, unnecessary, and feels strangely out of place in the context of the situation. Over the course of his nine-film career, Tarantino’s demonstrated himself a provocateur, yet one can’t help if he’s not just a little too comfortable with slurs or abusing women, even if many of his heroes are either people of color (Hateful), women (Kill Bill/Jackie Brown (1997)), or Jews fighting Nazis (Inglourious Basterds (2009)). That last one, in particular, should be a favorite for this reviewer given the way it deliciously depicts the slaughter of deserving murderers, yet there’s an edge to it that makes one wonder if the abuse beforehand was truly necessary to make the finale satisfying.
Chances are, if you’ve clicked on this, you either agree or disagree already and are just here to find out if the juice is worth the squeeze on the 4K UHD edition. First things first. If you already own a prior edition, there’s nothing new included, just the legacy bonus materials that you may already have. Second, there’s no new audio track (remixed or otherwise) on the 4K UHD disc. The audio is the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix that’d been available before. Two-out-of-two, this is stuff you have and therefore you need a solid reason to upgrade. Enter the 4K UHD video remaster/restoration that pulls out the gold and yellows in Lance’s (Eric Stoltz) living room, suggesting that Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) is about to overdose on the floor of a rich man’s home. In contrast, the white of the Wallace home is sharper, presenting a degree of coldness that may exist between the recently-married Mia and feared boss Marsellus (Ving Rhames). The scene when Vincent does his first on-screen dose of heroin, the blood is a deeper red, with more visible shading. Comparatively, in the opening scene where Jules and Vincent go to visit Brett (Frank Whaley), I’m not sure I ever noticed that Jules’s suit possesses shades of blue and purple compared to Vincent’s more traditional black suit. There are many scenes where the 4K improves the visual language of the scene, pulling out a different response from the audience. This may be enough to encourage fans to drop coin on a brand-new edition on its own.
When making your physical format purchase, there’re two options. The first is a standard release with a mostly black version of the iconic film poster with Mia smoking a cigarette while lying on a bed. This includes the 4K UHD disc, a Blu-ray disc, and a digital code. Pretty standard multi-format release. The other is a limited-edition steelbook that features Mia and Vincent dancing on a clock on the front, a burger, a pack of Apple cigs, and a five-dollar milkshake on the back. On the inside, the inserts for discs are clear, allowing for a film still of Mia and Vincent dancing to be visible when the discs are removed. Depending on who you purchase the steelbook from, the price differential between the standard and steelbook editions can be steep, so make sure to shop around.
Ultimately, the choice to upgrade or not comes down to how you feel about the film and your format options. If you’re a die-hard Tarantino fan or prefer your physical media in the best format, then you likely pre-ordered this as soon as it was announced. If you’re a tad more discerning with your purchases, this is going to be tougher as the video and packaging are the main draws. Even a new audio track (solid as the current one is) would feel worth the extra cost, but it may be harder to justify with so much already available on prior releases. The video is stunning, but is that enough?
Pulp Fiction Legacy Special Features:
4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc
- Not the Usual Mindless Boring Getting to Know You Chit Chat
- Here are Some Facts on the Fiction
- Enhanced Trivia Track (subtitle file)
- Not the Usual Mindless Boring Getting to Know You Chit Chat
- Here Are Some Facts on the Fiction
- Pulp Fiction: The Facts – Documentary
- Deleted Scenes
- Behind the Scenes Montages
- Production Design Featurette
- Siskel & Ebert “At the Movies”- The Tarantino Generation
- Independent Spirit Awards
- Cannes Film Festival – Palme d’Or Acceptance Speech
- Charlie Rose Show
- Marketing Gallery
- Still Galleries
- Enhanced Trivia Track (text on feature)
- Soundtrack Chapters (index points in feature)
Available on 4K UHD Blu-ray and digital December 6th, 2022.