YOLANDA: I love you, Pumpkin.
RINGO: I love you, Honey Bunny. (they look lovingly at each other) Everybody be cool! This is a robbery!
YOLANDA: Any of you fuckin' pricks move and I'll execute every motherfucking last one of you!
Nothing like bonding over an early morning coffee and a stick-up. Tarantino loves these kinds of juxtapositions of ordinary conversation and violent action. It's what gives these scenes some humor. You don't expect it.
BRETT: (to Jules) Look, what's your name? I got his name's Vincent, but what's yours?
JULES: My name's Pitt, and you ain't talkin' your ass outta this shit.
BRETT: I just want you to know how sorry we are about how fucked up things got between us and Mr. Wallace. When we entered into this thing, we only had the best intentions…
(Jules takes out his gun and shoots Roger in the chest, knocking him out of his chair.)
We figured that that whoever was in the apartment was going to get shot, but the extended dialogue preceding the scene casts some doubt on that. Maybe if the kids say the right thing, Vincent and Jules will take the briefcase and leave, satisfied with just scaring them to death. It ends up being a particularly violent scene because of the suddenness and unexpected timing of the shooting. It gets worse. Jules continues to taunt and torture Brett before he and Vincent empty their guns at him. There was never gonna be no mercy.
ESMARELDA: What does it feel like?
BUTCH: What does what feel like?
ESMARELDA: Killing a man. Beating another man to death with your bare hands.
BUTCH: Are you some kinda weirdo?
ESMARELDA: No, it's a subject I have much interest in. You are the first person I ever met who has killed somebody. So, what was it like to kill a man?
BUTCH: I couldn't tell ya. I didn't know he was dead 'til you told me he was dead. Now I know he's dead, do you wanna know how I feel about it? I don't feel the least little bit bad.
Butch's response to Floyd's death, although it was unintentional, is very cold-hearted. Butch has a plan and nothing's going to get in his way. This scene makes his later scenes with Fabienne very tense and very surprising.
BUTCH: If you had a pot belly, I'd punch you in it.
FABIENNE: You'd punch me in my belly?
BUTCH: Right in the belly.
FABIENNE: I'd smother you. I'd drop it right on your face 'til you couldn't breathe.
Butch and Fabienne are just joking around, flirting with each other. Contextually it's all fun and games but it's interesting how violent imagery has seeped into Butch's love life. He's a fighter—he punches people for a living.
(After Brett is killed, the guy hiding with a gun in the bathroom bursts through the door screaming "Die you motherfuckers! Die!" while unloading his revolver at them. He misses every shot and after a moment of shock from Vincent and Jules, they return fire, killing him.)
We never really find out who these kids are, but they were in way over their heads dealing with a gangster like Marsellus. The kid who bursts out of the bathroom, firing away, is beyond in over his head thinking he can take on professional killers. We guess he figured it was his only option after hearing all the gunshots. Jules and Vincent coolly gun him down.
(The rape scene.)
This is by far the most disturbing scene in a movie where some other very disturbing things happen. Part of what makes it so violent is that the victim is the mysterious gang boss that has seemed all-powerful and untouchable up until Butch almost runs him over. Both Butch and Marsellus seem indestructible until they're degraded in the worst way possible, completely helpless against the sexual violence of the deranged Zed and Maynard.
MARSELLUS: I'm gonna call a couple pipe- hittin' niggers, who'll go to work on homes here with a pair of pliers and a blow torch. Hear me talkin' hillbilly boy?! I ain't through with you by a damn sight. I'm gonna git medieval on your ass.
Marsellus is a connoisseur of violence. He's got all kinds of ways to send a bloody message.
VINCENT: Marvin, what do you make of all this?
MARVIN: I don't even have an opinion.
VINCENT: C'mon, Marvin. Do you think God came down from Heaven and stopped the bullets?
(Vincent's gun goes off. The bullet strikes Marvin's head, killing him, and spraying blood everywhere.)
When you read the scene like this, it sounds horrific, but if you remember watching it then you know it's actually funny. Huh? How can this graphic killing of an innocent young man be funny? It's about the context of the killing, the casual conversation, the shocking suddenness and, most importantly, Vincent and Jules' reactions. They act like Vincent accidentally spilled his morning coffee all over the car seat, not shot some poor kid.
BRETT: I just want you to know how sorry we are about how fucked up things got between us and Mr. Wallace. When we entered into this thing, we only had the best intentions. […]
JULES: What does Marsellus Wallace look like? […] Does he look like a bitch?!
JULES: Then why did you try to fuck 'im like a bitch?!
BRETT: I didn't.
If you're a gang boss, you have to make an example of people who try to betray you. For all we know, Brett was telling the truth but, honestly, it doesn't matter, not to Jules or Vincent, and definitely not to Marsellus. No briefcase means no loyalty and if you're not loyal to Marsellus then you are a dead man.
MIA: Besides, it's more exciting when you don't have permission.
Vincent wants to talk ask Mia about the foot massage incident but he doesn't want to offend her. We think his reluctance is warranted; it's a touchy subject. But Mia's comment might be about more than just their conversation. The date could be a test of Vincent's loyalty, and suggestive remarks like this aren't making it any easier.
VINCENT: You see, this is a moral test of one's self; whether or not you can maintain loyalty. Because being loyal is very important.
"Very important" in the sense that you'll get killed otherwise. Even now that he knows the foot massage story wasn't true, Vincent knows he should keep his hands off Mia and gives himself a talking-to in the bathroom. Do you think Mia is testing him or does she really fall for him?
VINCENT: I got a chick, she's fuckin' ODing on me.
LANCE: Well don't bring her here! I'm not even fuckin' joking with you, don't you be bringing some fucked up pooh-butt to my house!
VINCENT: No choice. […]
LANCE: Are, are you talking to me on a cellular phone? I don't know you, who is this, don't come here. Prank caller! Prank caller!
Well, so much for Lance being Vincent's buddy. What happened to the discount prices and the "mi casa, su casa" talk? We guess Lance's loyalty goes out the window when danger's involved. Vincent has to remind Lance that Marsellus would be extremely unhappy to know that Lance didn't help his wife.
CAPTAIN KOONS: Your granddad was facing death and 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 22-year old grandfather asked a gunner on an Air Force transport named Winocki, a man he had never met before in his life, to deliver to his infant son, who he had never seen in the flesh, his gold watch. Three days later, your grandfather 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
We see here how loyalty codes in the military are like the ones among the gangsters. It's not as if Dane, Butch's grandfather, would have known whether Winocki delivered; he was dead either way. But it's the loyalty principle that counts and now Butch, for better or for worse, is left with the heirloom. Some people have suggested that that maybe Butch remembered this story of loyalty and that's what made him decide to rescue Marsellus
RINGO: I heard about this guy, walked into a federal bank with a portable phone, handed the phone to the teller, the guy on the other end of the phone said: "We got this guy's little girl, and if you don't give him all your money, we're gonna kill 'er."
YOLANDA: Did it work?
RINGO: Fuckin'- A it worked, that's what I'm talkin' about! Knucklehead walks in a bank with a telephone, not a pistol, not a shotgun, but a fuckin' phone, cleans the place out, and they don't lift a fuckin' finger.
YOLANDA: Did they hurt the little girl?
RINGO: I don't know. There probably never was a little girl— the point of the story isn't the little girl. The point of the story is they robbed the bank with a telephone.
Yolanda and Ringo's extended conversation about different kinds of robberies takes up the first five minutes of the film. We're wondering, what's going on here? Then they stop on a dime, pull out their guns, and start threatening the restaurant patrons. They're hoping that if they sound threatening enough, like the guys on the phone, everyone will go along.
JULES: What country you from?
JULES: "What" ain't no country I know! Do they speak English in "What?"
JULES: Then you understand what I'm sayin'?
JULES: Now describe what Marsellus Wallace looks like!
JULES: (points his gun at Brett's head) Say "What" again! C'mon, say "What" again! I dare ya, I double dare ya motherfucker, say "What" one more goddamn time! [pause] Now describe to me what Marsellus Wallace looks like!
It's very important to Jules to be very clear when he talks. He's got a deliberate and intense way of speaking. Brett's gonna get killed anyway, but the fact that he's stammering and inarticulate just makes it worse.
MIA: (over the intercom) Vincent, I'm on the intercom. It's on the wall by the two African fellas…to your right…Warm…warmer…Disco.
MIA: Push the button if you want to talk.
VINCENT: (into intercom) Hello.
MIA: Go make yourself a drink and I'll be down in two shakes of a lamb's tail.
Mia's disembodied voice on the intercom creates some distance between her and Vincent. Vincent's already nervous about this encounter, and this just adds to the tension and mystery. It puts Mia in control and creates a seductive atmosphere. Tarantino also does this when Marsellus is asking Butch to throw the fight. We hear his voice, but he's off-screen. It adds to the shadowy mystery surrounding Marsellus and puts him in control.
MIA: Don't you hate that?
MIA: Uncomfortable silences. Why do we feel it's necessary to yak about bullshit in order to be comfortable?
VINCENT: I don't know.
MIA: That's when you know you found somebody special. When you can just shut the fuck up for a minute and comfortably share silence.
Mia definitely has a point; sometimes we just talk for the sake of talking because not saying anything would just be awkward. But there's another layer what she's saying. She's challenging Vincent to see if they can have that kind of relationship.
(Vincent slams the adrenaline shot into Mia's chest and she comes out of shock in a jolt, sitting up and taking heaving breaths.)
LANCE: If you're okay, say something.
Even in their most desperate times, Tarantino's characters are sarcastic and funny. Maybe she's just too freaked out to think of what to say, but it reminds us of her earlier comment to Vincent about "yakking about bullshit."
BUTCH: Now all this other shit, you coulda set on fire, but I specifically reminded you not to forget my father's watch. Now think, did you get it?
FABIENNE: I believe so...
BUTCH: You believe so? What does that mean!? You either did, or you didn't! Now which one is it?
FABIENNE: Then I did.
BUTCH: Are you sure? […] No! It's not your fault. You left it at the apartment. If you did leave it at the apartment, it's not your fault. I had you bring a bunch of stuff. I reminded you about it, but I didn't illustrate how personal the watch was to me. If all I gave a fuck about was my watch, I should've told you. You're not a mind reader, are you?
Butch fails to communicate the importance of the watch. This might not seem important in the moment other than to show that Butch really values the watch. But just think of all the subsequent action that flows from that miscommunication: Vincent's death, Butch and Marsellus being kidnapped. Poor Fabienne—even though Butch concludes that it's not Fabienne's fault, there're only so many things you can retract.
FABIENNE: Where did you get this motorcycle?
BUTCH: It's a chopper, baby, hop on. […]
FABIENNE: Butch, whose motorcycle is this?
BUTCH: It's a chopper.
FABIENNE: Whose chopper is this?
Butch just went through the "weirdest fucking day of [his] life" which is probably an understatement considering what happened, and now all he needs is for Fabienne to get on the bike so they can get going. But even with all this, he still has to let her know it's a chopper, not a motorcycle. Why do you think it's important to him to get that detail right?
VINCENT: Still I hafta say, play with matches, ya get burned.
JULES: Whaddya mean?
VINCENT: You don't be givin' Marsellus Wallace's new bride a foot massage.
JULES: You don't think he overreacted?
VINCENT: Antwan probably didn't expect Marsellus to react like he did, but he had to
expect a reaction.
JULES: It was a foot massage, a foot massage is nothing, I give my mother a foot massage.
Vincent and Jules aren't just yakking on about the implicit meaning of foot massages (okay, that's pretty much what they're doing), but there's more to it than that. This is about Marsellus Wallace dishing out his own demented version of justice: mess with his wife and you pay the price. Now, Vincent thinks it's "excessive" but not unexpected, whereas Jules thinks it's a ludicrous overreaction. Point is that Marsellus decides what's fair.
(Vincent and Jules enter the apartment of a group of young men and execute them for trying to pull a fast one on Marsellus.)
Vincent and Jules don't really think twice about killing these kids. They're unarmed and ready to hand over the briefcase but what's done is done and they're all dead men. What did they do? Did they deserve it? Maybe you were too shocked or busy laughing about Big Kahuna burgers but this scene introduces us to gangster justice of Pulp Fiction. The hitmen don't really concern themselves whether this killing is fair. It's just a job they were sent to do.
JULES: You ever read the Bible, Brett?
JULES: There's a passage I got memorized, seems appropriate for this situation: Ezekiel 25:17. "The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon you."
Check out our "Symbols, Imagery, Allegory" section for more about this Ezekiel passage. For now, we'll just say that it's a vengeance warning from the Bible against the Philistines, and Jules uses it to imply that people who cross Marsellus will go down as a matter of justice. Of course, it's turning justice on its head, since Marsellus is a vicious mob boss.
LANCE: Still got your Malibu?
VINCENT: You know what some fucker did to it other day?
VINCENT: Fuckin' keyed it.
LANCE: Oh man, that's fucked up.
VINCENT: Tell me about it. I had the goddamn thing in storage three years. It's out five fuckin' days—five days—and some dickless piece of shit fucks with it.
LANCE: They should be fuckin' killed. No trial, no jury, straight to execution.
VINCENT: I just wish I caught 'em doin' it, ya know? Oh man, I'd give anything to catch 'em doin' it. It'a been worth his doin' it, if I coulda just caught 'em, you know what I mean?
Capital punishment for defacing a car? Okay, maybe Lance is exaggerating a bit, but Vincent seems more serious. Maybe that's why Vincent's in the hitman business; delivering his own sense of justice to all the people who've wronged him (or his boss). Ironically, the person who keyed his car is actually the person who kills him.
(In Butch's apartment, Vincent steps out of the bathroom to meet Butch with a gun pointed at him. Butch fires and kills Vincent.)
This is definitely a Tarantino Universe situation: our protagonist up to this point is surprised on his way out of the bathroom, of all places, and unceremoniously gunned down as Toaster Pastries with perfect timing pop up out of the toaster.
BUTCH: I meant what now, between me and you?
MARSELLUS: Oh, that what now? Well, let me tell you what now between me an' you. There no me an' you. Not no more.
BUTCH: So we're cool?
MARSELLUS: Yeah man, we're cool.
Butch's act of courage and sympathy has brought about his personal salvation. At least his salvation from Marsellus, who wanted to kill him less than an hour before. This is a great example of the code of justice among gangsters, based completely on loyalty. As long as Butch promises to shut up about what happened, get out of town and stay out, Marsellus won't hunt him down.
JULES: (cleaning up Marvin) I will never forgive your ass for this shit. This is some fucked-up repugnant shit!
VINCENT: Did you ever hear the philosophy that once a man admits he's wrong he's immediately forgiven for all wrong-doings?
JULES: Man, get outta my face with that shit! The motherfucker who said that never had to pick up itty-bitty pieces of skull with his fingers on account of your dumb ass. […] You're the motherfucker should be on brain detail.
Oh, so now Vincent is a believer? That "philosophy" of forgiveness is a religious one, last we checked. Jules isn't buying it, despite his recent religious awakening. As far as he's concerned, justice is this at the moment: Vincent shot Marvin, so he should be the one mopping up his brains.