There was a time, a few years back, when every other show on television was a cop show. Some were reality-based, some were dramas, and a few were comedies but all dealt with facets of the same subject. It was then that I formulated a theory as to why such shows were so popular with television producers. It was either that viewers were endlessly fascinated by variations of the cops-and-robbers theme or that cop shows in general were just easier to create than other shows. Although the first part of the theory may be correct to some extent, I believe that it is the latter part which is the deciding factor. This makes sense because the majority of criminal case records are available for public perusal and provide a substantial base on which writers can expand.
The same situation holds in the film industry. Movies about cops or, more generally, crime in all its varieties account for a disproportionate number of releases. While relatively few of these gain the momentum required to become blockbusters, many meet with enough success to justify their creation. Personally, though, I think that given the choice, most people would rather see a film with less menacing subject matter if the two were equally good. And wouldn't the world be a better place if Disney released two animated films each year instead of having the bloody one-two of "Natural Born Killers" and "Pulp Fiction" appear within months of each other?
The plot of "Pulp Fiction" is really a series of interrelated stories in which a relatively small cast of characters interact with violent and often deadly results. The first of these finds Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Jules (Samuel L.Jackson), a couple of thugs in the employ of L.A. crime boss Marsellus Wallace, paying a call on a group of young men who have double-crossed Marsellus. You can guess the outcome of this encounter. The second story deals with the complications that arise, both sexual and life-threatening, when Vincent is asked to baby-sit Marsellus' beautiful wife Mia (Uma Thurman).
The next story has prizefighter Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis) agreeing to throw a fight in exchange for a hefty sum supplied in advance by Marsellus. Butch winds up defeating his opponent, killing him in the ring actually, is a double-crossing plot of his own. Needless to say, Marsellus isn't about to let the situation slide by. The last story is about how a criminal smoothie named The Wolf (Harvey Keitel) is dispatched by Marsellus to help Vincent and Jules erase the aftermath of a messy situation. Look for the writer/director of the film, Quentin Tarantino, to play a small but pivotal role in this story.
Although each of the characters is well fleshed out and has his or her own philosophy and life and crime, "Pulp Fiction" still suffers from a case of "been there, done that". Because it was the winner for best picture at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival, it's likely to be bandied about come Oscar time for a number of awards ranging from Best Original Screenplay to Best Actor for John Travolta. But even as its originality within the crime genre makes it watchable, "Pulp Fiction" seldom rises above the trappings of the genre.