Christopher Walken. There never was anybody quite like him.
Pulp Fiction is another one of those films in which any number of scenes rates special mention, from the wild episode when the boys have to revive an overdosing Uma Thurman by plunging a syringe filled with adrenaline directly into her heart muscle, to the held-captive basement horror show (and its gloriously violent resolution) with “the Gimp” and his pals, to the final showdown at the diner, when cool-as-a-cucumber assassin Samuel Jackson, having turned the tables on the punk holding a gun in his face, tells the pair of armed robbers that “normally, both of your asses’d be about as dead as fried chicken, but you happen to be pullin’ this shit while I’m in a transitional period”, then offers them his wallet, which is the one that says Bad Motherfucker on it (which indeed it does, all nicely embossed in the leather). It’s one great little set piece after another, presented, for maximum disorientation, out of chronological order.
The purely tangential back story of Bruce Willis’s precious watch, though, is something else again, a flashback in which his character, an aging boxer, remembers the time when he was a young child, and an Air Force officer visited to fulfill his sacred duty to deliver a family heirloom his dead father wanted him to have: a strapless, beat-up wristwatch that’s been passed down through the generations, bought originally in a little general store in Knoxville Tennessee, and made by the very first company ever to manufacture them. Walken is absolutely mesmerizing, relating the saga of the timepiece as it made its way through history, how the boy’s great grandfather wore it during World War I, after which his grandfather had it during the battle of Wake Island, but bailed it to a gunner on a departing transport plane – a young man named Wanaki, whom he’d never met before – to take back to his family Stateside when the situation became hopeless, because none of those Marines, explains Walken, with all appropriate solemnity, had any illusions about ever getting off that island alive. Wanaki was as good as his word, and thus the watch made its way to his father, who wore it every day, right up to the one when his plane was shot down over Hanoi, and he ended up being taken prisoner. Now, Dad knew that his captors would take away that watch unless he hid it somehow, so…
Almost all the way through, it’s truly a beautiful story, touching, full of authenticating detail, written in prose the like of which any fine playwright would be proud to have authored, but then it veers off so sharply, so fast, that it leaves your head spinning.
Incredibly, this was filmed in one afternoon, over a limited number of takes on the final day of production. Walken never so much as saw any of the movie’s other actors, he was just in and out, like a session musician who comes in to the studio for a little while after everybody else has gone home, and lays down a discrete backing track.
In less than five minutes he pretty much steals the movie, and Pulp Fiction is an awfully tough movie to steal.