Filmsite Movie Review 100 Greatest Films
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Pages: (1) (2) (3) (4) (5)
Plot Synopsis (continued)


A young Butch (Chandler Lindauer) - in a childhood flashback - is watching a TV show. It is an animated episode of the cartoon Clutch Cargo (1959), about the adventures of the title character who journeys around the world with his pet dachshund named Paddlefoot.

His mother interrupts him with the arrival of a "special visitor" named Captain Koons (Christopher Walken, in a cameo, referencing his role as a soldier in the Vietnam War in The Deer Hunter (1978)), who is there to bring him an important heirloom - a gold watch. It has been in the Coolidge family for three generations since World War I. It was first owned by the boy's great grand-father, a WWI veteran, and then passed down to Butch's grandfather who fought in World War II, and then to Butch's father who fought in Vietnam.

For five years, Koons claims he had been with Butch's father when he died of dysentery as a captive in a Hanoi POW camp. Due to the father's dying request, Koons is intensely dedicated to bringing the watch home to little Butch. In the incredulously scatological speech, Koons emotionally describes how he has hidden the gold watch in his rectum for two years, in order to ensure its delivery.

Hello, little man. Boy, I sure heard a bunch about you. See, I was a good friend of your dad's. We were in that Hanoi pit of hell together over five years. Hopefully, you'll never have to experience this yourself, but when two men are in a situation like me and your dad were for as long as we were, you take on certain responsibilities of the other. If it'd been me who'd - not made it, Major Coolidge'd be talking right now to my son Jim. But the way it turned out, I'm talking to you. Butch. I got somethin' for ya. This watch I got here was first purchased by your great-grandfather during the first World War. It was bought in a little general store in Knoxville, Tennessee,. Made by the first company to ever make wrist watches. Up 'til then, people just carried pocket watches. It was bought by Private Doughboy Erine Coolidge on the day he set sail for Paris. This was your great-grandfather's war watch and he wore it everyday he was in that war, and when he'd done his duty, he went home to your great-grandmother, took the watch off, put it in an old coffee can, and in that can it stayed until your granddad, Dane Coolidge, was called upon by his country to go overseas and fight the Germans once again. This time they called it World War II.

Your great-grandfather gave this watch to your granddad for good luck. Unfortunately, Dane's luck wasn't as good as his old man's. Dane was a Marine and he was killed -- along with all the other Marines at the battle of Wake Island. Your granddad was facing death. He knew it. None of those boys had any illusions about ever leavin' that island alive, so three days before the Japanese took the island, your granddad asked a gunner on an Air Force transport, name of Winocki - a man he had never met before in his life - to deliver to his infant son who he'd never seen in the flesh, his gold watch. Three days later, your granddad was dead, but Winocki kept his word. After the war was over, he paid a visit to your grandmother, delivering to your infant father his dad's gold watch. This watch. (He held the watch up - and paused) This watch was on your daddy's wrist when he was shot down over Hanoi. He was captured, put in a Vietnamese prison camp. He knew that if the gooks ever saw the watch, it'd be confiscated and taken away. The way your Dad looked at it, this watch was your birthright. He'd be damned if any slope's gonna put their greasy, yellow hands on his boy's birthright, so he hid it in one place he knew he could hide something - his ass. Five long years he wore this watch up his ass. Then, he died of dysentery. He give me the watch. I hid this uncomfortable hunk of metal up my ass two years. Then, after seven years, I was sent home to my family. Now, little man, I give the watch to you.

(the present)

A bell rings, startling the adult, has-been boxer Butch Coolidge out of his flashbacked reverie. He awakes in his boxing shorts/trunks, yellow robe, and gloves, resting on the training room table before his big fight ("Battle of the Titans") against Floyd Ray Wilson - the opponent he has been paid to throw as another of Marsellus' dependent 'niggers.' Although he has taken a bribe for agreeing to dive in the 5th round of this fight, he has impulsively decided to win the match, double-cross Marsellus, take the prize money, and run away. [Note: there are many antecedents in other films of a boxer not taking a dive, i.e., Body and Soul (1947), The Set-Up (1949), On the Waterfront (1954), etc.] In the aftermath of the brutal and bloody fight that he wins (unseen in the film), Butch hurriedly flees from the arena for his getaway. Marsellus is understandably upset: "I'm prepared to scour the earth for that motherf--ker. If Butch goes to Indochina, I want a nigger hiding in a bowl of rice ready to pop a cap in his ass."

Butch takes a taxi from an alleyway, driven by Spanish-named, Colombian cabbie Esmarelda Villa Lobos (Angela Jones), who was listening to the bout on her taxi's radio. She knew that he killed his opponent ("You killed the other boxing man") (Body Count #3) - to his surprise. She continues, with an interest in death: "You are the first person I have ever met who has killed somebody. So? What does it feel like to kill a man?" After just learning about the dead man, Butch reacts: "I don't feel the least bit bad about it." He had bet on himself in the 'fixed' fight - and the odds "went through the roof." He is due to collect a "rich and prosperous" bounty from eight bookies around town by the evening of the next day. He is planning to leave the next morning with his girlfriend - traveling by train to Knoxville, Tennessee. When dropped off, he tips the cabbie an extra $100 to buy her loyalty and silence.

He is out of sight with his baby-talking French girlfriend Fabienne (Maria de Madeiros), nicknamed "Sugar Pot," in the River Glen Motel. When he enters the dark bedroom, she wants him to spoon with her, and tells him she wishes to have a sexy, "big, perfectly round" potbelly rather than a small tummy: "Potbellies are sexy." She admits she has a bit of a tummy "like Madonna when she did 'Lucky Star'." (Note: Is she possibly pregnant?) He tells Fabienne that he - and his (deceased) opponent - are both retiring from boxing, but "we're not at the finish yet, baby." She senses: "We're in a lot of danger, aren't we?" He states his profound and tender love for her. She requests that he give her "oral pleasure" and then she will reciprocate with him. She moans: "Mon amour. L'aventure commence." (My love, the adventure begins.) After having sex, they both clean up in the bathroom, where Butch reassures Fabienne that they will have a lot of money, but they first need to get away. For a happy ending to their adventure, they could go somewhere in the South Pacific, but maybe they don't have enough to "live like hogs in the fat house forever."

The next morning when Butch awakens at about 9 am, Fabienne is watching a noisy "motorcycle movie" on television - Nam's Angels (1970), with "explosions and war." As she speaks about her preferred desires for breakfast food, he is rummaging through their suitcases. He discovers, in a violent rage, that she has forgotten to pack his gold watch. He asks threateningly and then explains the irreplaceable heirloom's importance: "Where's my father's f--king watch? Do you have any idea what he had to go through to get me that watch?" He throws around motel furniture and freaks out: "Do you know how f--king stupid you f--king are?" After calming down, he apologizes, realizes it isn't her fault because she isn't a "mind reader" and doesn't realize how personal it is for him. He says he will return to the apartment to retrieve the watch, while she has breakfast, and then they will join up later.

At his apartment, he fully expects one of Marsellus' gangster hit men to be looking for him during a stakeout. He parks Fabienne's white Honda a few blocks from his apartment, stealthily and carefully cuts across fields and alleys, crosses the street, enters the apartment's courtyard and climbs the stairs. Inside, everything seems quiet and in place. He retrieves the watch from its resting place on a kangaroo statue by the bed, and then reassured, he pauses for a snack of toaster pastries from the kitchen cabinet. As he glances to the left, to his surprise, he sees a small, compact submachine gun (with silencer) carelessly resting on the kitchen counter. [The machine gun belongs to Marsellus, who has momentarily left to purchase coffee and donuts. Sitting in the nearby bathroom, Vincent undoubtedly hears Butch's entry, but thinks it is Marsellus returning.] Butch picks up the weapon, and then hears the nearby toilet flush. The bathroom door opens on the intruder, and they both freeze when they see each other. A startled Vincent - literally caught with his pants down - is blown away (at the same time the tarts pop out of the toaster). He is bloodied as he propels backwards and smashes into the bathroom's shower stall. (Body Count #4) Butch wipes fingerprints from the machine-gun, leaves it in the living room, quickly exits the apartment, returns to the car and drives off.

[Note: Vincent is reading a copy of Modesty Blaise, a 60's detective pulp about a femme fatale James Bond, a female spy. Because of the quirky nature of the screenplay that is non-linear and presented out of sequence, Vincent is killed at the end of Story 2, although returns in the next sequence, Story 3.]

As he waits at an intersection, Butch is thinking to himself how lucky he is, and how everyone underestimates him. He is singing to the radio playing the Statler Brothers' "Flowers on the Wall," when he makes brief eye contact through the windshield with Marsellus [seen in full view for the first time in the film] who is crossing the road in front of him after exiting Teriyaki Donut with a pink box of donuts and two white styrofoam cups of coffee. [Note: Marsellus was at the stakeout with Vincent, replacing his partner Jules! This scene was similar to the recognition scene at the beginning of Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) when Marion Crane is seen leaving Phoenix by her surprised boss.] Marsellus recognizes Butch after a double-take and calls out "Motherf--ker!" In a sudden panic, Butch steps on the gas pedal and rams into Marsellus, hitting him squarely and knocking him down. This causes another gold-colored car to broadside the Honda, smash its windows, and send Butch spinning onto the sidewalk. He is left groggy, bloody, and injured. Lying on the pavement, Marsellus miraculously revives from temporary unconsciousness [his unlikely resurrection resembled the way that deceased individuals would miraculously come to life in slasher films, such as Halloween (1978)], takes out his .45 automatic pistol, and fires shots at Butch (although he misses and injures a gawking female onlooker instead).

A foot chase ensues between the two men, who both wobble down a backstreet close-by. Butch is limping, while Marsellus is dazed and shaky. Butch runs into a business for refuge, the MASON-DIXON PAWNSHOP, where Marsellus catches up with him, in full view of the bearded, redneck hillbilly clerk/shopowner Maynard (Duane Whitaker) behind the counter. Butch makes a few punches at Marsellus, knocks him unconscious to the floor, snatches his gun and is about to blow his head off, when Maynard brandishes a pump-action shotgun on both of them. Butch is knocked out with the butt of the shotgun. Then, Maynard telephones his brother Zed (Peter Greene): "The spider just caught a couple flies."

Butch and Marsellus are tied up in the hellish, backroom-basement, dungeon-like area of the pawn shop, where they are seated in separate chairs. They are gagged with two S&M styled ball gags (a little red ball is held in their mouths by a strap wrapped around their heads). Maynard tells them: "Nobody kills anybody in my place of business except me or Zed." A crazed and psychopathic Zed, a uniformed security officer, arrives and the two captors inspect their captives. Then Zed orders: "Bring out The Gimp" - held in a large locked chest. The Gimp is a silent, black-masked man (with two eye-holes and a zipper for a mouth), wearing black-leather bondage gear (from head-to-toe) - he is led in on a leash, and ordered to kneel. Zed chooses Marsellus, after counting back and forth between the two (with the sing-song rhyme: "Eenie Meenie Minie Mo..."), to be raped in another room, while the leashed Gimp is ordered to stand guard over Butch. To the radio tune of the Revels' "Comanche," a resistant and struggling Marsellus is heard being forced into submission behind a closed door. [The sexual sadism was reminiscent of Deliverance (1972).]

Meanwhile, Butch easily frees the ropes holding him, rises from his chair, knocks out the Gimp with a few punches (who is then hanged by his own leash - Body Count #5), and removes the red-ball gag. As he is about to flee out the store's front door, he turns and pauses - and impulsively decides to turn back and heroically save Marsellus. He searches in the pawnshop for a weapon that will be destructive and powerful enough - all alluding to other films and characters, and he ultimately chooses the most honorable item - the katana:

  • a claw hammer - recalling the brutal killer in the slasher film The Toolbox Murders (1978)
  • a baseball bat - recalling Joe Don Baker as Sheriff Buford Pusser in Walking Tall (1973)
  • a chainsaw - recalling two horror films: Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen) in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) in Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn (1987)
  • a katana (samurai sword) - recalling Ken Takakura (Takakura Ken) in The Yakuza (1974)

He returns downstairs where behind the door which he quietly opens, he sees the two rapists and their violated victim. Zed is sodomizing Marsellus, who is bent over a pommel horse. Butch greets Maynard with one slashing swing and then disembowels him with the katana. (Body Count #6) Zed clambers off Marsellus to reach for his victim's .45 gun, and is challenged by Butch to pick it up. With Zed distracted by the approaching Butch, a freed Marsellus grabs Maynard's pump-action shotgun and shoots Zed in the groin. As Zed moans on the floor, Marsellus threatens even more pain and punishment: "I'm gonna call a couple of hard, pipe-hittin' niggers to go to work on the homes here with a pair of pliers and a blowtorch. You hear me talkin', hillbilly boy? I ain't through with you by a damn sight. I'm gonna get Medieval on your ass." Butch is curious as to the nature of their own relationship, with respect to the fixed fight and his betrayal. Marsellus assures Butch that there is no situation ("We're cool") between them as long as Butch remains permanently out of Los Angeles and never tells anyone about the humiliating rape.

As he flees from the pawn shop, Butch sees Zed's big chrome chopper parked out front (the gas tank has the name GRACE on it). With Zed's key-ring, he starts up the rumbling bike, returns to pick up Fabienne from the motel room, and the two race to the train station for an 11 am train. When she asks about her Honda, he tells her that he had to crash it. He also promises that he will later fill her in on "the single weirdest, f--kin' day of my life." She also asks about the owner of the motorcycle, and is told about his demise: "Zed's dead, baby. Zed's dead."

Previous Page Next Page