What can be said about Pulp Fiction that hasn’t already been said. It was an instant hit, building off the cred Tarantino had earned with critics for his breakout film Reservoir Dogs a couple years prior. Whereas RD gave a lot of relatively new actors like Tim Roth and Steve Buscemi some important exposure, PF helped resurrect a couple flagging careers, like those of John Travolta and Bruce Willis, who had both seen a string of flops in the late 80s and early 90s. At this point, its tropes and dialogue have worked their way into the very fabric of pop cultures, largely due to the film’s eclectic and memorable monologues and extended conversations, plus its own slew of pop culture references from the 1970s. While not nearly as violent as RD, Pulp Fiction certainly has its moments. Let’s take a look at the hardware used in this neo-noir crime saga that could only take place in Los Angeles. Vincent Vega
We’ll start at the beginning of this non-linear story with the second pair of characters that we meet: Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield.
The pair are a couple of hitmen / enforcers who work for a local crime boss named Marselus Wallace who are headed to an early morning job recovering some stolen property from a group of amateurs.
We learn through the dialog that Jules is local and Vincent recently returned from lambing it in Amsterdam for a couple years. We never actually learn why. And that leads to the unforgettable “Royale with Cheese” conversation:
Vincent: “But you know what the funniest thing about Europe is?”
Vincent: “It’s the little differences. A lotta the same shit we got here, they got there, but there they’re a little different.”
Vincent: “Alright, when you …. into a movie theatre in Amsterdam, you can buy beer. And I don’t mean in a paper cup either. They give you a glass of beer. And in Paris, you can buy beer at McDonald’s. And you know what they call a Quarter Pounder with Cheese in Paris?”
Jules: “They don’t call it a Quarter Pounder with Cheese?”
Vincent: “No, they got the metric system there, they wouldn’t know what the f@&% a Quarter Pounder is.”
Jules: “What’d they call it?”
Vincent: “They call it Royale with Cheese.”
Jules: “Royale with Cheese. What’d they call a Big Mac?”
Vincent: “Big Mac’s a Big Mac, but they call it Le Big Mac.”
Jules: “Le Big Mac! Ahhaha, what do they call a Whopper?”
Vincent: “I dunno, I didn’t go into Burger King. You know what they put on french fries in Holland instead of ketchup?”
Vincent: “I seen ’em do it man, they f%$&n’ drown ’em in that shit.”
As the two prepare to enter the apartment building where their targets live, in a trademark camera-in-the-car-trunk shot, we see Vincent prepare his handgun for action: a chromed Auto-Ordnance M1911A1 pistol with pearl grip panels in .45 ACP.
“We should have shotguns for this kinda deal.”
As they leave the crime scene with their informant, Marvin, in the back seat, Vincent shows exactly why good trigger discipline is so important, especially with a single action pistol like a 1911. As he turns around to talk to Marvin about the miraculous events in the apartment, the car hits a bump and he accidentally fires his pistol, shooting Marvin in the face…which sets up the circumstances for “The Bonnie Situation.”
Though he’d been in movies for a good number of years, Pulp Fiction launched Samuel L. Jackson’s career into the stratosphere with his unforgettable role of Jules Winnfield. Afterward, he showed up in pretty much every movie for a decade or so.
As the other half of the hitman team, he had some great chemistry with Travolta, even though they didn’t actually share that much screen time.
Some would say that Jackson’s delivery of his bible quote speech is one of, if not the, most memorable scene in the movie.
Many people assumed Jules and Vincent both carried the same 1911 pistol, which led people to think there was a goof in the dialog later on in the second Diner scene, when Jules refers to his gun as “Mr. Nine Millimeter.”
In fact, Jules is carrying a gun that often stands in for a .45 ACP 1911 in Hollywood, the Star Model B in 9mm. For a long time, movie armorers found it much easier to work up blanks that would cycle a 9mm handgun rather than a .45, so the Model B became the go-to stand in for the easily recognizable 1911 in a lot of movies.
The Hand Cannon
After Jules and Vincent kill the men who took Marsellus’ briefcase, the duo is surprised by another man hiding in the bathroom, who bursts out firing a Taurus Model 689 chambered in .357 Magnum. Man #4 (Alexis Arquette) fires the revolver empty and then some, with his eyes nearly shut. When he open them, he’s nearly as surprised as Jules and Vincent to see that every single round, despite the near point blank range, missed.
After a quick check to make sure they aren’t hit, both Vincent and Jules empty their pistols into Man #4.
Jules: “You see the size of that gun he fired at us? Was bigger than him…
Vincent to Marvin: “Why the f*&% didn’t you tell us somebody was in the bathroom? Slip your mind? You forget someone was in there with a damn hand-cannon?”
This miracle, as Jules comes to think of it, is a turning point in his life that causes him to give up his life of crime, though his only plan is to “walk the Earth” like Caine from Kung Fu.
The past-his-prime boxer, Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis), has a hectic story that begins with an off-screen bout he was supposed to take a dive on. Instead, he bet everything he had on himself and beat the other fighter so bad he killed him in the ring.
With the people who set up the fight chasing after him, he and his girlfriend, Fabian, have to get out of L.A. as soon as possible, but it’s never that easy.
Butch returns to his home to retrieve his father’s watch, which Fabian has accidentally left behind.
Just because it never gets old, here’s the always excellent Christopher Walken playing a friend of Butch’s father, explaining exactly why the gold watch is so important:
If you listen to the story, it seems Butch’s great grandfather might have spent any luck the timepiece held during WWI, as it brought nothing but hardship to everyone else in the family who wore it, Butch included.
After he retrieves the watch from the little kangaroo on his bedside table, he takes a moment to make a Pop Tart in his small kitchen, kind if suprised there was nobody waiting for him—then he sees a suppressed MAC-10 on the kitchen counter before hearing a small noise from behind the closed bathroom door.
Moments later, the door opens and Vincent emerges with a book he’d been reading in the can…and comes face to face with Butch holding the submachine gun on him. In a beautiful piece of editing, there’s a couple beats where the two lock eyes and then the Pop Tart pops in the toaster, and Butch pulls the trigger, blasting Vincent with a burst of full auto fire, sending him back into the bathroom where he dies sitting on the closed toilet…a fitting end for an Elvis man.
Some people think Butch absentmindedly left the gun in the kitchen when he went to the bathroom, but it’s actually Marsellus Wallace’s gun, which he left behind when he went to go get breakfast for himself and Vincent. They were waiting there on the off-chance that Butch would return, but they assumed he’d already skipped town, leading to a less than attentive attitude. It’s also possible that Butch went into the bathroom and then Marsellus left without the gun, which would also explain why Vincent didn’t come out of the bathroom with his gun drawn after hearing Butch rustling around—he assumed it was Marsellus making the noise.
But Butch’s troubles are hardly over.
The Pawn Shop
Butch leaves his apartment after killing Vincent, thinking he’d outsmarted the men who were after him. He comes to a stop light in Fabian’s 1980 Honda and sees Marsellus walking across the street in front of him carrying the takeout food. He stops in mid stride, turns and sees Butch just as Butch recognizes him.
As Marsellus drops the food and tries to grab his gun, Butch slams the gas pedal and hits Marsellus with the Honda, but then goes out of control and runs into a pole.
When the men come to, they’re both banged up, but both alive, and Marsellus begins shooting at Butch with a Smith & Wesson 4506 in .45 ACP that he carries in a shoulder rig, but due to having just been hit by a car, his aim is off, and he shoots an innocent bystander.
A footchase ensues and Butch ends up in a seedy pawn shop where he waits for Marsellus to come in before buffaloing him and taking his S&W. Just as he’s about to shoot Marsellus in the head, the shop clerk pulls a Remington 870 pump shotgun with an extended magazine tube and forces Butch to drop the gun.
The clerk, Maynard (Duane Whitaker) then knocks Butch out with the butt of his gun.
Turns out Maynard and a security guard buddy of his, Zed (Peter Green), are into some seriously demented, rapey, sadistic stuff. Butch and Marsellus wake up with ball gags in their mouths at the mercy of the two sickos.
When they take Marsellus into the back to have their way with him, Butch overpowers “The Gimp” and makes his way back up to the shop where he almost leaves, but then decides to go back and save Marsellus. He retrieves a razor sharp katana sword from behind the shop counter. After making quick work of Maynard, he keeps Zed at bay with the sword while Marsellus picks up the 870 to extract some vengeance of his own.
Marsellus: “What now? Let me tell you what now. Imma call a couple a hard, pipe-hittin’ n*****s, who’ll go to work on the homes here with a pair of pliers and a blow torch. You hear me talkin’, hillbilly boy? I ain’t through with you by a damn sight. Imma get medieval on your ass.”
Pumpkin and Honey Bunny
The movie ends as it began, finishing the story of Pumpkin and Honey Bunny, a Bonnie and Clyde type of couple, who are seen holding up a diner in the opening scene.
Turns out, there are two familiar faces in the diner, Vincent and Jules. They’re wearing the goofy shorts and t-shirts given to them by Jimmie (Tarantino) after cleaning up the mess Marvin’s head left in the car and on their suits, so this places the diner robbery right after “The Bonnie Situation.”
When the two robbers pull their guns and start going through their now familiar routine, Vincent has just left the table and is in the bathroom as Jules is left pondering the miracle of the .357 Magnum.
Pumpkin (Tim Roth) is armed with a small, beat up Smith & Wesson Model 30 revolver in .32 S&W.
His partner, Honey Bunny aka Yolanda (Amanda Plummer), is armed with a Smith & Wesson Model 40 Centennial snub-nosed with a worn wooden grip in .38 Special.
The duo is ultimately outgunned and outsmarted by Jules and his 9mm and Vincent with his .45, though for once in the movie, everyone involved survives unscathed.
The poster for Pulp Fiction is quite memorable, in that it was plastered everywhere and remained hanging in pretty much every video store from coast to coast for a decade. It mimics the covers of the cheap pulp novels on which the movie’s tone and title are based and features Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) laying on a bed with a pack of Red Apple cigarettes, an open paperback, and a Beretta 92FS Inox in front of her. The gun is not seen anywhere else in the movie.