Conjecture is a fun tool, so let’s go ahead and figure the contents of the brief case that Samuel L. Jackson’s Jules’ character totes around as some personal and indispensible object (or concept) that his boss, Marsellus Wallace, can’t do without. Maybe it’s gold, or cash. Maybe it’s the man’s soul – that would explain the oddly placed band aid at the base of his neck – the site of the soul’s extraction. Whatever Tarantino’s intent, the brief case, disregarding its contents, is a dead ring for what Mike Hammer finds during the final half hour or so during Robert Aldrich’s Kiss Me Deadly. What’s in side – it’s been guessed that the contents could be radioactive material, or even the harbinger of the apocalypse. Either is acceptable and still comes back around as a signifier of older films that deserve a few more proper examinations.
And while Tarantino’s effort here won’t ever fall into that category, Pulp Fiction did serve to breathe new life – or begin – a litany of careers. Becoming a Tarantino regular after this feature, Uma Thurman was all but unknown prior to her appearance here. Sam Jackson hadn’t hit the big time as of yet and Tim Roth was just another actor with an accent. As for Bruce Willis, his star hadn’t faded, but portraying a boxer in this feature served to engorge his actorly largesse, because really, how many times can you stop terrorists in a movies with a number in its title. But most importantly, John Travoltta, who really only had some cheeseball seventies and early eighties roles apart from Welcome Back Kotter, was completely transformed by the film. And for the past fifteen years has appreciated an extended renaissance even if subsequent work hasn’t ever been as interesting as what he did here.
Opening the film with extended discourse on the differences between French and American McDonald’s, Vega prattles on in almost eloquent terms about fast food inequities. But here again, Tarantino’s mastery of common vernacular is displayed. At once Vega’s clever, but earthy. Intelligent and well traveled, if just a bit terse. And that’s the only way Tarantino would have it.
Scripts following this one would use variations on the discussions taking place over this two hours and change – is there a connection to Seinfeld’s claim that the show was about nothing? Somehow, though, there’s been a brilliant consistency in Tarantino’s writing. Well, up until pretty recently, at least.