26

In the opening scene of Pulp Fiction (1994), hit-men Jules Winnfield and Vincent Vega raids the apartment of Brett, a business associate of their boss (Marsellus Wallace). The main objective is to retrieve a briefcase of Wallace's from Brett's apartment. They seems to be sure that Brett has the briefcase and Vega eventually finds the briefcase while Jules keeps talking to Brett.

But I wonder, what exactly do they plan to do with Brett and everyone else in the apartment? Sending a message could work if they non-fatally shoot Brett and left him alive to show not to mess with Wallace. But they kill him and the others, except one teenager named Marvin, who was apparently their informant (who accidentally gets shot by Vega and dies sometime later).

The other possibility is that they always planned to kill Brett. But why waste so much time engaging in a lengthy conversation? Why not just shoot everyone else and make Brett hand over the briefcase, and then kill him as well? The longer they wait, the more chance of the plans going awry. This actually happens, as a man bursts out from the bathroom and shoots them, which they miraculously survive.

On why they did not kill Marvin. Thank you users BCdotWEB and galacticninja for pointing that out in that other question.

12
  • 6
    Frankly you are right but basically this scene is to introduce the characters. What actually happens is of little consequence other than to show us who they are and introduce the macguffin of the briefcase.
    – Paulie_D
    Jul 3 at 12:38
  • 3
    FYI Marvin is the informer, that's why he doesn't get killed: pulp-fiction.fandom.com/wiki/Marvin
    – BCdotWEB
    Jul 3 at 15:44
  • 10
    @Paulie_D if it turns out the briefcase isn’t in the apartment, a bunch of dead guys aren’t going to be much use for finding it. Jul 3 at 18:30
  • 3
    On Marvin, see: Why didn't Vincent and Jules kill Marvin? Jul 4 at 7:46
  • 3
    Because movies are not about efficiency or checking off items on a “TODO” list. Movies are stories. And we, as observers of the story, have little to no idea what or who any of these characters are. Thus scenes needy to be structured so as to show us (the audience) who these characters are. And since everyone is a human being, hitmen are not geniuses or logical. I mean look at Brett. Is he really a tough guy? Would a tough guy see Brett as a real threat? Nope. So they screw around with him before killing him. Real life is messy and imperfect. Pulp Fiction really plays around with that idea. Jul 5 at 16:14
46

Pulp Fiction is expressly about the supporting characters in the background of classic gangster pulp stories - the henchmen, the moll, the boxer who is supposed to throw the fight, etc.

It explores these characters but maintains the tropes of the genre from which they are drawn. One of those tropes is that when the gangster sends the henchmen to kill someone, they chit-chat about it. They can't just execute the best possible tactical operation - they have to frighten and taunt Brad and his associates, and deliver the gangster's "message". That is one reason the briefcase is undefined as a MacGuffin - because it doesn't have to be anything specific, since it is standing in for all such MacGuffins in classic crime films and this scene stands in for all scenes where there is a confrontation over the MacGuffin - and those are classically always dialogue-heavy and exposition-heavy.

3
  • 17
    Exactly right. Why does Auric Goldfinger strap James Bond to an industrial laser that will very slowly cut Bond in half starting at his crotch, when this elaborate scheme actually gives Bond enough wiggle room and time to escape, instead of Goldfinger just shooting Bond in the head? Why does Ernst Stavro Blofeld have James Bond walk the plank over a swimming pool filled with sharks, when that gives Bond the opportunity to evade the sharks and swim out, instead of just shooting him in the head? Because in-universe, they are egomaniacs who need the attention, and out-of-universe, it's cool. Jul 4 at 7:57
  • 10
    @JörgWMittag out-of-universe Bond needs a way to survive
    – OrangeDog
    Jul 4 at 10:25
  • 4
    What do you mean by "expressly"? It's never outright said during the films runtime, is it? Was it stated in the trailers or something? Jul 5 at 15:33
7

In addition to tbrookside's answer a logical in universe answer is that Jules and Vincent wouldn't kill anyone (important) until they have what they came for. You never know if the case is in the apartment but Brad hid the contents somewhere else for instance.

1

Everyone seems to be satisfied with TBrookside's meta answer, but OP's original point is badly taken.

There's no one in the lobby, but throughout the 3½ minute single take while Jules & Vincent walk around the apartment complex talking about Marcellus Wallace & Antwan Rockamora they repeatedly encounter incidental noise showing that the entire floor is full of people. Either floor up or down is presumably also full of people starting their day.

Even in universe, the thing to do here is to get everything they can before opening fire. Some of the neighbors are playing loud music, some are presumably still sleeping, but people are going to hear the gunshots and—at minimum—get the police on their way towards the complex. They know they have 15 or however many minutes, but they aren't going to needlessly risk returning empty handed.

Vincent even pointedly reminds you this is on his mind in a later scene:

VINCENT

Do you wanna continue this theological discussion in the car, or at the jailhouse with the cops?

As it turns out, Marvin knew the current location of the case and Jules mostly shuts him up to maintain his dominance of the scene. Walking into the room, though, they couldn't know whether the others had moved it; letting the guys think they might live turns out to be the best option for getting information; and—if it had been moved—Brett's best play for dying without torture and causing more trouble for his killers would've been to claim that he had given it to Roger (the guy on the couch who they'd just shot). There'd be no way for Jules or Vincent to quickly extract any other information because (again) the cops would already be on their way and they're not about to slowly haul Brett all the way out to their car, screaming as he goes.

They did it the way they should've. Even Jules messing with the guy's breakfast is gauging how submissive these guys are—Do they have a plan? Are they going to cause trouble? The idea that they could've just used Marvin to find the case is based on knowledge they wouldn't've had at the moment. (The way things play out imply he was attempting to double-cross them anyway.) The idea that they keep talking needlessly after they get their information is off: the conversation after that is just Jules quickly shutting down Brett's attempt to talk his way out of this shit.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .