Saturday, February 17, 2018


I was rereading Stanley Kauffmann's review of Pulp Fiction. (Don't ask why, I just was.)  Kauffmann's a good writer, clear and succinct. But it intrigues me how certain things bother some critics, things no one else notices, or even cares about.

There are certain parts of the plot that he doesn't buy.  For instance, people shooting guns in residential neighborhoods and the neighbors doing nothing.  This I understand.  When Travolta and Jackson dispatch some people in an apartment, you'd think someone would call the police.  Personally, I allowed them a little poetic license, since the two hitmen do mention they have to leave before too long, so do recognize you can't just shoot people and hang around

But I don't agree with the other things Kauffman doesn't buy.  He notes during the diner holdup dozens of people having breakfast are ordered to lie on the floor.  "Not one of the makes a sound or a move [...] during long conversations among the principles."

First, they're extras, and I have no trouble with extras quietly allowing the leads to go about their business.  But on a realistic level, this business takes, say, ten minutes.  If someone brandished a gun and announced loudly I'd be executed if I moved, I think I could manage to keep quiet for ten minutes.  Maybe Kauffmann really doesn't like his breakfast disturbed.

Then there are basic mistakes Kauffmann makes.  This is always a problem with critics--no one understands everything, especially during a first viewing. The trick is to avoid too many mistakes (and I can think of certain well known critics who abuse the privilege).  Here's what he says about Bruce Willis: "Willis kills a man, wipes the gun free of his fingerprints and then puts his prints on a doorknob."

Certainly Kauffmann didn't miss the overall point of the scene.  After screwing over a criminal boss, Willis returns to his apartment to retrieve his father's watch.  As he fears, the apartment is guarded, but he manages to shoot John Travolta with the gun that was meant to be used against him.  This isn't his gun, so wiping clean a murder weapon is understandable.  However, this is his apartment, so having his fingerprints all over it, including the doorknob--especially the doorknob--will not arouse suspicion.

Or did Kauffmann not get that?


Anonymous Lawrence King said...

Even if Willis had been stupid with fingerprints (which, as you point out, he was not), that wouldn't be a flaw in the movie. Willis is not a professional hitman or gangster, so it would be a flaw in the movie if he were too thorough and precise when doing gangster stuff.

1:47 PM, February 17, 2018  

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