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Pulp Fiction (4K Ultra HD) (Steelbook)
No way does Pulp Fiction need more glowing admiration. As I mentioned in my review of Jason Bailey's book on the subject, what other violent, profane, R-rated film has had such an impact on popular culture? Quentin Tarantino's second film won the Palme d'Or at Cannes in 1994, earned a host of Oscar nominations, and sits high up on many "best of" lists. It is not my favorite film from the director - that would be Jackie Brown - but it is certainly a livewire good time. I watch this film every couple of years and always find something new to like; from character nuances to soundtrack beats to sly humor that lands just right. That Pulp Fiction is fast approaching its thirtieth anniversary seems unreal, and Paramount has given the classic a nice 4K Ultra HD upgrade here. Fans of the film have no doubt owned it in multiple versions, and will no doubt jump on this newest, definitive 4K version.
I hear some of the film's critics saying Pulp Fiction is a film about "nothing;" and in some ways that may be true. It is also about the intersection of romance and violence, the insertion of organized-crime heavies into polite society, and what happens when normal people interact with goons like hitman Vincent Vega (John Travolta). Vega and Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) work for gangster Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames) and violently retrieve a briefcase from a low-level drug dealer early in the film. That becomes a motif throughout Pulp Fiction; and its contents remain a mystery that has garnered much debate. Tarantino tells his story in chapters that unfold out of order, and characters pop in and out of each other's lives at will. Other storylines include Vega taking out Marsellus's wife Mia (Uma Thurman); boxer Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis) ripping off Marsellus and trying to leave town with girlfriend Fabienne (Maria de Medeiros); and an unhinged couple (Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer) holding up a diner as Vincent and Jules arrive.
Pulp Fiction maintains near-constant, electric excitement throughout, and only slows down briefly in the Butch/Fabienne narrative. Much has been written about the dialogue in this film, and it is certainly memorable. From Jules and Vincent's "Royale with Cheese" tete-a-tete to Mia and Vincent's dinnertime verbal joust, it is easy to see why Hollywood was buzzing about Tarantino and the film before its release. While the movie as a whole is immensely entertaining, there are chapters that I prefer. It is hard to replicate the excitement and fun of "Vincent Vega and Marsellus Wallace's Wife" or "The Bonnie Situation." The time spent with Willis and de Medeiros is intimate in a different way, and, while both actors are excellent, these scenes are not as overtly entertaining. The film's detour into the basement of a pawn shop with Marsellus and Butch is disturbing and unexpected and is just one Pulp Fiction's tricky detours.
Endlessly quoted and imitated, Pulp Fiction is truly a cultural icon. The eclectic dialogue and characters, endless pop-culture references, and a sense of humor that is both witty and a bit unhinged all make the film a classic. The acting is universally impressive, with Travolta, Jackson, Thurman, Willis and Rhames standing out amid strong supporting performances by Harvey Keitel as Marsellus' fixer and Christopher Walken as Butch's long-dead father. Pulp Fiction is the kind of film where each segment works well on its own, but its chapters together create a cohesive anthology of imperfection. This is an early peek at Tarantino's world, and Pulp Fiction deserves its lauded reputation. It does what so many movies fail to: entertain.
THE 4K ULTRA HD:
Paramount handles distribution for this new 4K Ultra HD release. The film unspools at 2.35:1 with a 2160p/HEVC/H.265 transfer with Dolby Vision and HDR10 from a native 4K source. Shot on 35 mm stock, the film has been remastered from the original camera negative, and this is an immensely pleasing presentation that I suspect replicates the theatrical experience. The 4K presentation is crisper, tighter, and more filmic than the previous Blu-ray. Textures and fine-object detail are fantastic throughout. Every iconic set and costume is visible in tangible clarity. Close-ups reveal intimate facial features, the black suits of Vincent and Jules are strikingly defined, and Mia's adrenaline-worn face is even more striking. Grain is light but natural, and the HDR grade gives colors a realistic boost. Highlights and black levels are deeper, bolder, and more convincing than in previous releases. Overall, this is handsome, filmic presentation that should please fans.
This release recycles the previous 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix, which is not a criticism. The rapid dialogue is completely clear and free of distortion or crowding. The mix offers strong atmosphere, from crowd noise to weather to background music. The memorable soundtrack is afforded excellent representation, and the sounds of Dusty Springfield, Al Green, Kool & the Gang and others are given a healthy surround-sound boost. I noticed no technical issues here, and this is an immersive, healthy mix. The disc includes a host of dub mixes and subtitle options, too.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
Also available in a regular case with slipcover, I received Pulp Fiction in a Steelbook that includes the 4K disc, a Blu-ray and a digital copy. The cover sports iconic imagery from Jack Rabbit Slim's and the inside has character portraits. Although there are no newly produced extras, the set carries over a bunch of worthwhile legacy content. Available on both discs are the Not the Usual Mindless Boring Getting to Know You Chit Chat (43:01/HD), a strong set of cast and crew interviews from a decade ago; Here are Some Facts on the Fiction (20:37/HD), a critics' roundtable; and an Enhanced Trivia Track. The Blu-ray also offers Pulp Fiction: The Facts (30:31/SD); Deleted Scenes with Tarantino Introduction (24:39 total/SD); Behind the Scenes Montage: Jack Rabbit Slim's (4:44/SD); Behind the Scenes Montage: Butch Hits Marsellus (6:02/SD); Production Design Featurette (6:22/SD); Siskel and Ebert "At the Movies" episode (16:00/SD); Independent Spirit Awards (11:29/SD); Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or Acceptance Speech (5:20/SD); Charlie Rose Show> episode (55:27/SD); and an extensive Marketing Gallery.
Sure, you've owned a handful of previous releases, but you definitely want to upgrade to Pulp Fiction in 4K Ultra HD. Paramount releases the movie in both Steelbook and standard variants with tons of legacy bonus features and an excellent, upgraded 4K image. There is little else I can add to this film's legacy, and this release is Highly Recommended.
William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.