Much is made of the profanity, violence, and criminal subject matter of Tarantino’s films. Less often discussed is why we still care about what are, at face value, terrible people doing terrible things. It’s because of Tarantino’s genius for creating characters we gravitate towards – characters that, aside from their criminal tendencies, are like people we know, people we really like – maybe in spite of ourselves.
The suave Winston Wolfe is the epitome of those characters – a fast-talking, no-nonsense problem-solver whose business just happens to involve helping people literally get away with murder. As “The Wolf” – think James Bond by way of Scorsese’s mob epics – Harvey Keitel is a model of criminal efficiency. With a single call from Marcellus, The Wolf completes the 30 minute trip to Jimmie’s house in Toluca Lake in less than 10. Once inside, he clips through a “just the facts” debriefing, curiously mirroring the questions of a cop. And although the interior of Jules’s car has had a recent, grisly re-upholstering – which Wolf must resolve – the unflappable Wolf’s first request is for Jimmie’s famously good coffee – “Lots of cream, lots of sugar.”
Tarantino pulls the audience into the film so thoroughly that a “fixer” who still says “pretty please with sugar on top” before setting to work mopping up a crime scene seems not only plausible, but a relief. Though you’d never want to be in a situation where you needed him, Tarantino convinces us people like The Wolf exist – and leaves us strangely happy they do.