Study Guide

Pulp Fiction Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames)

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Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames)

What does Marsellus Wallace look like?

Jules wants to know. We want to know. Everyone on the planet wants to now.

Every major character in the film is associated with Marsellus. We hear a lot about him, but we don't see his face until 95 minutes into the film. And what's he doing? Going medieval on his enemies? Nope. He's carrying coffee and donuts across the street.

Jules knows what Marsellus looks like. He's bald, he's broad, he's black, he's smart, and he's not to be messed with. The big crime boss of Pulp Fiction has a lot of rackets going, although his biggest business seems to be drugs. He demands loyalty and has his hitmen ready if he doesn't get it. It was rumored that he threw an associate out a window just for giving his new wife Mia a foot massage. Even if that wasn't true, people believed he'd do something like that. He's that tough. And Jules and Vincent believe it.

JULES: He gave her a foot massage.

VINCENT A foot massage? That's all?

(Jules nods his head yes.)

VINCENT: What did Marsellus do?

JULES: Sent a couple of guys over to his place. They took him out on the patio of his apartment, threw his ass over the balcony.

The reason they're having this conversation in the first place is that Marsellus had asked Vincent to take his wife out to dinner, to keep an eye on her while he's away on business. Jules is telling Vincent a cautionary tale. (P.S. We see a lot of Mia in the film, but we learn nothing at all about her relationship with Marsellus. They don't even have a line of dialogue together onscreen. It's a mystery: all we know is that he's very protective of her…obviously. )

Speaking of Marseullus' mystery, our first sight of of the guy is from the back. All we see is his large bald head with a bandage on the back. The bandage actually covered actor Ving Rhames' shaving cut, but Tarantino thought it added a bit of character—and so it became the only thing we see of Marsellus for a while.

He's the typical villain: we only see him in the dark corners of a room or from a distance.

Keeping it Real

Marsellus is a realist. He has to be in order to be in this business. He knows that people can rat you out or cheat you, and you have to be ready for that. He's especially matter-of-fact with Butch, who he wants to take a dive in a fixed fight.

MARSELLUS: Thing is Butch, right now you got ability. But painful as it may be, ability don't last. Now that's a hard motherf***in' fact of life, but it's a fact of life your ass is gonna hafta git realistic about. This business is filled to the brim with unrealistic motherf***ers who thought their ass aged like wine. Besides, even if you went all the way, what would you be? Feather-weight champion of the world. Who gives a s***? I doubt you can even get a credit card based on that. 

Butch takes the money, but instead of going down as agreed in the fifth round, he knocks out his opponent in the first. Butch is a dead man as far as Marsellus is concerned.

MARSELLUS: I'm prepared to scour the earth for this motherf***er. If Butch goes to Indochina, I want a n****r hidin' in a bowl of rice, ready to pop a cap in his ass. 

Marsellus' Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day

Marsellus has had a few bad days. A bunch of punk drug dealers steal his briefcase with who-knows-what kind of treasure inside. Then Vincent accidentally kills Marvin and Marsellus has to call his fixer to mop up the mess. Oh, and his boxer double-crosses him and costs him a bundle of money.

But all that pales in comparison to what happens in his pursuit of Butch, culminating in both of them waking up in a pawnshop basement, bound and gagged, about to be sodomized by Maynard and Zed, a couple of Deliverance type goons. The goons take turns raping Marsellus; Butch escapes and decides, against his better judgment probably, that he can't leave Marsellus in that situation. He kills Maynard with a sword, freeing Marsellus to blow off Zed's private parts with Maynard's shotgun.

Marsellus has a choice right now. He's face to face with a guy who double-crossed him then saved his life. But he's a realist. First he exacts his revenge—but not on Butch:

BUTCH: What now?

MARSELLUS: What now? Well let me tell you what now. I'm gonna call a couple pipe- hittin' n*****s, who'll go to work on homes here with a pair of pliers and a blow torch. (to Zed) Hear me talkin' hillbilly boy? I ain't through with you by a damn sight. I'm gonna git medieval on your ass.

  Then Marsellus does the math. He's got a serious image to uphold.

BUTCH: I meant what now, between me and you?

MARSELLUS: Oh, that what now? Well, let me tell ya what now between me an' you. There is no me an' you. Not no more.

BUTCH: So we're cool?

MARSELLUS: Yeah man, we're cool. One thing I ask – two things I ask: Don't tell nobody about this. This s***'s between me and you and the soon-to-be-livin'- the-rest-of-his-short-ass-life-in- agonizing-pain, Mr. Rapist here. It ain't nobody else's business. Two: leave town. Tonight. Right now. And when you're gone, stay gone. You've lost your Los Angeles privileges. Deal?

BUTCH: Deal.

Marsellus' character goes from cold-blooded crime boss to helpless victim and back to boss. We knew you couldn't keep a guy like him down. He'd kill you if you tried.

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