If the contract killing, fight-fixing and drug dealing in Pulp Fiction are simply viewed as specialised commercial activities, says Rhymer Rigby, the management sub-text becomes clear.
Pulp Fiction established Quentin Tarantino as a mainstream director, without compromising his cult credentials. Its four interlinked plots follow a pair of low grade hitmen, Vince and Jules; Butch, a boxer who has been paid by Marsellus Wallace (the local Mr Big) to throw a fight but won't; Marsellus' stunning wife, Mia; and a supporting cast of sundry lowlifes. Although the violent themes may initially appear distasteful, closer study reveals that the contract killing, fight-fixing and drug dealing are simply specialised commercial activities. Once this has been taken on board, the business viewer will be able to fully appreciate the film's richly rewarding management sub-text.
Locked in mortal combat, Butch and Marsellus are captured by a pair of hillbillies with decidedly deviant intentions.
While the trailer-trash twosome are engaged in unwholesome, non-consenting congress with Marsellus, Butch escapes, but returns to rescue his enemy.
Butch guesses - correctly - that forming a temporary, strategic partnership now will later result in the nullification of the contract on his life.
Understandably nervous before taking his boss's wife out, Vince pops round to his drug dealer's house where he is talked into paying $500 a gram for superior heroin. Such is the dealer's confidence in his 'super premium' product (a no-quibbles returns policy, for instance) that Vince cheerfully pays over the odds. Moreover, his vendor provides excellent after-sales care, allowing Vince to shoot up in his living room.
OUTSOURCING AND USE OF CONSULTANTS
Having accidentally shot Marvin, their back-seat passenger, in the face, Vince and Jules have a carmine-covered car to get rid of, so they call in Winston Wolf, a 'cleaner'.
The duo's core competence is gangland slaying, not vehicle disposal, so they outsource this activity to a reputable consultant. Thus, an hour later, they find themselves enjoying breakfast in a pleasant diner, not a prison cell.
Entrusted to Vince's care, Mia carelessly snorts his heroin rather than her coke - with predictably disastrous results.
Naturally Vince freaks out but, after taking stock, he drives her to his dealer's where they inject her heart with adrenaline, preventing an opiate coma. Under extreme pressure, Vince is a cool operator: his assessment of priorities and carefully orchestrated action plan save Mia's life - and his own.
Jules has been killing successfully for years but, during his last hit, he experiences 'what alcoholics refer to as a "moment of clarity"' and, over blueberry muffins, reveals that he is leaving 'the life'. Realising that he has got his work-life balance wrong, Jules decides to downshift, allowing himself to devote more time to his philosophical ponderings, an area for which his work had previously left little time.