Quentin Tarantino introduces us to Jules Winnfield’s dark side early in Pulp Fiction in a riveting, stomach-tightening scene of cat and mouse.
Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) and Vince Vega (John Travolta) are let into a dingy apartment by an informant so that they can confront Brett (Frank Whaley), who has ripped off their boss, Marsellus. As Brett enjoys his breakfast and a friend naps on the sofa, Jules enters with a breezy, “Hey kids, how you boys doing?” Jules clearly has murderous intentions, but wants to have a bit of fun toying with his prey. He starts by grilling Brett about his choice of breakfast, the Big Kahuna Burger. Jules politely asks if he can try the burger and Brett, in no position to object, agrees to share. After a bite, Jules famously declares, “Mmmmmm, this IS a tasty burger,” before launching into an account of his epicurean preferences to his literally captive audience.
Returning to business, Brett nervously explains that there is a misunderstanding about his business dealings with Marsellus, at which point Jules calmly shoots the guy napping on the sofa, with a mocking, “Oh, sorry, did I break your concentration?” Brett is increasingly frantic to talk his way out of a similar fate, and his panic only adds to Jules’ enjoyment of the game. He continues to grill Brett, taunting Brett’s constant replies of “what” until finally shooting him in the shoulder as motivation to find another answer. The tension escalates until Jules finally launches into a fiery sermon, reciting Ezekiel 25:17 before he and Vince spray a torrent of bullets into Brett.
Samuel L. Jackson’s performance is superb. Jules is a professional in every way, in control of his surroundings and himself. His temper builds in a calculated fashion and reaches its zenith only when he is ready to complete his mission. This game of cat and mouse is an infamous scene only Quentin could serve up so deliciously.