'Pulp Fiction' spawn: The best and worst of the Tarantino clones that followed

October 14, 2014 9:01 PM

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When Pulp Fiction opened in theaters 20 years ago today, the mainstream moviegoing audience was introduced to a dynamic new Hollywood talent. Quentin Tarantino was a 31-year-old hipster whose formal film education never rose much higher than working as a clerk in a Manhattan Beach video store. A walking encyclopedia of film history who fetishized some of the more obscure genres, Tarantino had a gift for dialog and his own visual toolbox that expanded the language of cinematic storytelling. Pulp Fiction was the culmination of a two-year stretch where the director went from Nobody to Wunderkind, beginning with the Sundance premiere of Reservoir Dogs in 1992. That splashy debut established Tarantino’s bonafides with actors, critics, and insiders, and the idea of John Travolta dropping by his house to play board games and talk shop suddenly became feasible. His scripts for True Romance and Natural Born Killers made it to the screen—though not in the form he envisioned—but for a guy who most Americans still didn’t know, he had already earned an artistic reputation: He was cool.

Pulp Fiction was the culmination of all that creative build-up and industry goodwill. Tarantino attracted an amazing ensemble cast, one that looks even better in hindsight, in part because of what Pulp did for each of their respective careers, from Samuel L. Jackson to John Travolta to Uma Thurman. ...

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