In 1992, Quentin Tarantino exploded onto the movie scene with his directorial debut, Reservoir Dogs; Starring Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, and Steve Buscemi. The film follows a group of thieves who plan on pulling off the perfect heist; however, the bank robbery doesn’t go off as planned and suspicions arise about one of the men being a police informer. The independent film jump-started Tarantino’s career as a serious writer/director and is considered to be one of the greatest films of all time by many.
Two years later, Tarantino would make a movie that many would deem revolutionary, Pulp Fiction. In this crime saga that interweaves multiple stories that take place in the criminal underbelly of Los Angeles, the film follows two hitmen (Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield), their boss and his wife (Marsellus Wallace and Mia Wallace), a struggling boxer (Butch Coolidge), and a pair of robbers (Pumpkin and Honey Bunny). Like Reservoir Dogs, the film was critically praised and Pulp Fiction ended up with seven Academy Award nominations including best picture.
Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs are highly regarded as Tarantino’s best. The legendary director is set to hang up his boots once he finally makes his tenth film. When pitted against one another, which film is better? Pulp Fiction or Reservoir Dogs? Let’s dive deeper into both movies.
Reservoir Dogs embodies the spirit of an independent film: original, bold, and unorthodox. Here’s the thing, we barely know a thing about these men at first. Tarantino does an excellent job at establishing character in the opening dining room scene. The back-and-forth dialogue between the crew gives the audience a sense of who they are. However, we don’t know much else beyond what was said during the diner conversation.
As the film moves along briskly, we start to understand the characters of the core cast through flashbacks. While the mystery of who’s the undercover cop is given away (Spoiler alert: It’s Mr. Orange), what ultimately makes this an amazing film is the colorful cast of characters. Tarantino expertly builds up the tension based on the personality of these men, which eventually comes to a head in the climax. Despite being confined in one setting for a good majority of the film, it’s a true testament to Tarantino’s skills as a director by crafting an extremely compelling heist film that doesn’t even show the actual bank robbery.
Of course, Tarantino had some help with a cast of fantastic actors. The chemistry between the cast is great and everyone spews Tarantino’s dialogue with nice confidence and poise. Despite knowing that Mr. Orange is the undercover cop, the film continues to be intriguing due to the unpredictable nature of what will happen next. Reservoir Dogs is essentially a perfect crime thriller that uses its budget wisely and never loses steam throughout the one-hour and 45-minute runtime.
Once again, Quentin Tarantino manages to create a set of entertaining and fun characters that are usually the villains in most films. However, if there’s one negative about Pulp Fiction is the Butch Coolidge story. It’s the least compelling of the bunch and could’ve easily been removed without affecting the film one bit. Granted, the Butch and Marcellus scene would’ve never happened; however, the boxer storyline just feels unnecessary.
Despite that critique, it does provide some fun moments and Willis does a solid job with the character. The best characters are Vincent and Jules, whose back-and-forth conversations pop with some amazing dialogue. Of course, the incredible scene with Jules questioning one of the men that screwed Marcellus remains the best moment of the film, though Marv getting shot in the face is a close second. Despite their limited screen time, Uma Thurman, Tim Roth, and Amanda Plummer are also great in their roles as Mia Wallace, Pumpkin, and Honey Bunny.
Mia’s time with Vincent Vega really helped humanize the hitman through their simple conversation. Pumpkin and Honey Bunny also provided another standout moment when they confronted Jules. The stories in Pulp Fiction are extremely entertaining and they provide a nice context behind characters that rarely carry a big film. Tarantino smartly weaves the film together without confusing the audience. Despite the minor flaw, Pulp Fiction is an excellent film that still holds up in 2021.
So, which movie is better? Pulp Fiction. With a bigger scope and the ability to tell a larger story within the criminal world, Pulp Fiction excels in every major way. The film is by no means perfect, but it’s still top-notch from beginning to end.Harvey Keitel
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