Pulp Fiction hardly needs any introduction, and chances are if you’re reading this you’re already a fan who just wants to hear how the new disc compares.
After the success of Reservoir Dogs, it was Pulp Fiction that truly announced the presence of Quentin Tarantino as a force to be reckoned with, garnering critical praise, igniting the careers of its stars, courting controversy for its violent content, and directly influencing the style and tone of the cinematic era that followed, arguably more than any other film.
For me, my love of Pulp Fiction ties into its themes which directly challenge the small-minded idea of wanton violence as entertainment. As the stories reach their (non-sequential) culminations, we learn that it’s a depiction of a series of second chances and redemption — that just happens to set against the seedy backdrop of L.A. criminals.
A woman who overdoses is saved from the jaws of death. Moments after trying to kill each other, two enemies unite against a common threat and ultimately allow their previously insurmountable grievance to be settled. Two gangster hitmen are faced with a critical moment of reflection and each makes a different choice — with fateful consequences. A Bonnie-and-Clyde-esque couple tries to rob the wrong bad motherfucker, but get an unthinkable pardon for their transgression. Each story, each thread of this tapestry, represents a new lease on life.
It’s classic and mythical storytelling, despite the film’s postmodern style and conventions. And moreover, it’s meaningful.
Even the film’s shockingly casual depiction of racism and frequent racial slurs, for which Quentin still gets criticized, have a lot of impact when you recall the film in its proper context. Just a couple years before, L.A. had been gripped in its infamous race riots, and the city was still in the shadow of racial violence, fear, and turmoil.
For this revisit, I viewed the 4K transfer both on the 4K disc in a normal home theater setting and using the included 4K digital copy at a close viewing distance (in which video issues, compression artifacts, etc are very easy to spot).
In both cases I was very pleased with the appearance, with no issues noted in either case, which is especially impressive for the digital version in the manner I tested it. Pulp Fiction is more about overall style than specifically visuals, but as a watershed film of the post-modern but pre-digital 1990s, it’s certainly a holy grail for 4K treatment for many cinephiles and collectors, and looks the part with solid detail and color.
Pulp Fiction has arrived on 4K Blu-ray in both a Standard version and a Limited Edition Steelbook package (which is the version I received). The standard edition features a classy noirish monochrome look applied to the familiar poster art, which the Steelbook features new artwork depicting the dancing scene at Jackrabbit Slim’s. Of course art is always subjective, but I greatly prefer the standard edition edition over the stylized minimalist art of the Steelbook.
The Steelbook features full interior artwork and a J-card. Both editions feature a Blu-ray disc and digital movie code.
Special Features and Extras
Pulp Fiction has a pretty rich home video history with great extras going back to the LaserDisc era.
One general issue we see on most 4K discs have is that they relegate all extras to an included (and often pre-existing, previously authored) Blu-ray disc. This new edition of Pulp Fiction includes such a Blu-ray, but steps things up by actually porting a few key items to the 4K disc as well.
The features on the disc are pretty great and include a lot of interviews and conversations that capture some of the zeitgeist around the film and criticism of its content — at the film’s release, it was considered by many to be provocative and confrontational, glorifying violence.
On the 4K Disc
- Not the Usual Mindless Boring Getting to Know You Chitchat (43:01) — Cast interviews
- Here are Some Facts on the Fiction (20:37) — a roundtable that also includes some criticism in addition to the praise for the film
- Enhanced Trivia Track
On the Blu-ray Disc
- Not the Usual Mindless Boring Getting to Know You Chitchat (43:01)
- Here are some Facts on the Fiction (20:37)
- Behind the Scenes Footage — Butch vehicle stunt (6:02), Jack Rabbit Slim’s (4:44)
- “Pulp Fiction: The Facts” (30:31)
- Production Design Featurette (6:22)
- Siskel and Ebert at the Movies: “The Tarantino Generation” (16:00)
- Independent Spirit Awards Footage (11:29) — Michael Moore sits down with QT, Samuel L Jackson, and Lawrence Bender
- Cannes Film Festival Footage (5:20)
- The Charlie Rose Show — Tarantino Interview (55:27)
- Stills Galleries
- Trivia Track
- Deleted Scenes (24:39) — Tarantino pops in for on-screen introductions of these clips, referencing that these extras are for the Laserdisc
- Marketing Gallery — includes tons of trailers and TV spots including international versions in German, French, and Japanese
- Blu-ray trailers for Reservoir Dogs (1:45) and Jackie Brown (1:38)
- Soundtrack Chapters
- DTS HD Master Audio Sound Check
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4K Standard — https://amzn.to/3FgJKV6
4K Steelbook — https://amzn.to/3FdHLAM
Except where noted, all 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the disc(s) in question with no editing applied, but may have compression or resizing inherent to file formats and Medium’s image system. All package photography was taken by the reviewer.