Great Scene: “Pulp Fiction”
Does Ezekiel 25:17 ring a bell in this classic Tarantino scene?
In the pantheon of great Quentin Tarantino scenes — and there are a whole host of them — this one from Pulp Fiction has to be up near the very top. A long, slow burn to the climax. Heaps of memorable dialogue. Some surprising twists. And a couple of mysteries including the one about the briefcase:
Here’s the script version of the scene:
INT. APARTMENT (ROOM 49) – MORNING
THREE YOUNG GUYS, obviously in over their heads, sit
at a table with hamburgers, french fries and soda
pops laid out.
One of them flips the LOUD BOLT on the door, opening
it to REVEAL Jules and Vincent in the hallway.
The two men stroll inside.
The three young caught-off-guard Guys are:
MARVIN, the black young man, who open the door, will,
as the scene progresses, back into the corner.
ROGER, a young blond-haired surfer kid with a "Flock
of Seagulls" haircut, who has yet to say a word, sits
at the table with a big sloppy hamburger in his hand.
BRETT, a white, preppy-looking sort with a blow-dry
Vincent and Jules take in the place, with their hand
in their pockets. Jules is the one who does the
How you boys doin'?
Am I trippin', or did I just ask you
We're doin' okay.
As Jules and Brett talk, Vincent moves behind the
Do you know who we are?
Brett shakes his head: "No."
We're associates of your business
partner Marsellus Wallace, you
remember your business partner
Now I'm gonna take a wild guess here:
you're Brett, right?
I thought so. Well, you remember
your business partner Marsellus
Wallace, dont'ya Brett?
I remember him.
Good for you. Looks like me and
Vincent caught you at breakfast,
sorry 'bout that. What'cha eatin'?
Hamburgers. The cornerstone of any
nutritious breakfast. What kinda
No, I mean where did you get'em?
MacDonald's, Wendy's, Jack-in-the-
Big Kahuna Burger.
Big Kahuna Burger. That's that
Hawaiian burger joint. I heard they
got some tasty burgers. I ain't never
had one myself, how are they?
Mind if I try one of yours?
Yours is this one, right?
Jules grabs the burger and take a bite of it.
Uuummmm, that's a tasty burger.
Vince, you ever try a Big Kahuna
Jules holds out the Big Kahuna.
You wanna bite, they're real good.
I ain't hungry.
Well, if you like hamburgers give
'em a try sometime. Me, I can't
usually eat 'em 'cause my girlfriend's
a vegetarian. Which more or less
makes me a vegetarian, but I sure
love the taste of a good burger.
You know what they call a Quarter
Pounder with Cheese in France?
Tell 'em, Vincent.
Royale with Cheese.
Royale with Cheese, you know why
they call it that?
Because of the metric system?
Check out the big brain on Brett.
You'a smart motherfucker, that's
right. The metric system.
(he points to a fast
food drink cup)
What's in this?
Sprite, good, mind if I have some of
your tasty beverage to wash this
Jules grabs the cup and takes a sip.
Uuuuummmm, hit's the spot!
You, Flock of Seagulls, you know
what we're here for?
Roger nods his head: "Yes."
Then why don't you tell my boy here
Vince, where you got the shit hid.
It's under the be –
– I don't remember askin' you a
You were sayin'?
It's under the bed.
Vincent moves to the bed, reaches underneath it,
pulling out a black snap briefcase.
Vincent flips the two locks, opening the case. We
can't see what's inside, but a small glow emits from
the case. Vincent just stares at it, transfixed.
No answer from the transfixed Vincent.
Vincent looks up at Jules.
Closing the case.
Look, what's your name? I got his
name's Vincent, but what's yours?
My name's Pitt, and you ain't talkin'
your ass outta this shit.
I just want you to know how sorry we
are about how fucked up things got
between us and Mr. Wallace. When we
entered into this thing, we only had
the best intentions –
As Brett talks, Jules takes out his gun and SHOOTS
Roger three times in the chest, BLOWING him out of
Vince smiles to himself. Jules has got style.
Brett has just shit his pants. He's not crying or
whimpering, but he's so full of fear, it's as if his
body is imploding.
Oh, I'm sorry. Did that break your
concentration? I didn't mean to do
that. Please, continue. I believe
you were saying something about "best
Brett can't say a word.
Whatsamatter? Oh, you were through
anyway. Well, let me retort. Would
you describe for me what Marsellus
Wallace looks like?
Brett still can't speak.
Jules SNAPS, SAVAGELY TIPPING the card table over,
removing the only barrier between himself and Brett.
Brett now sits in a lone chair before Jules like a
political prisoner in front of an interrogator.
What country you from!
"What" ain't no country I know! Do
they speak English in "What?"
(near heart attack)
Then you understand what I'm sayin'?
Now describe what Marsellus Wallace
(out of fear)
Jules takes his .45 and PRESSES the barrel HARD in
Say "What" again! C'mon, say "What"
again! I dare ya, I double dare ya
motherfucker, say "What" one more
Brett is regressing on the spot.
Now describe to me what Marsellus
Wallace looks like!
Brett does his best.
Well he's... he's... black –
– go on!
...and he's... he's... bald –
– does he look like a bitch?!
Jules' eyes go to Vincent, Vincent smirks, Jules
rolls his eyes and SHOOT Brett in the shoulder.
Brett SCREAMS, breaking into a SHAKING/TREMBLING
SPASM in the chair.
Then why did you try to fuck 'im
like a bitch?!
Now in a lower voice.
Yes ya did Brett. Ya tried ta fuck
'im. You ever read the Bible, Brett?
There's a passage I got memorized,
seems appropriate for this situation:
Ezekiel 25:17. "The path of the
righteous man is beset on all sides
by the inequities of the selfish and
the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is
he who, in the name of charity and
good will, shepherds the weak through
the valley of darkness, for he is
truly his brother's keeper and the
finder of lost children. And I will
strike down upon thee with great
vengeance and furious anger those
who attempt to poison and destroy my
brothers. And you will know my name
is the Lord when I lay my vengeance
The two men EMPTY their guns at the same time on the
Check out the video below of the scene:
In the movie, we don’t see the ‘God stopped the bullets’ business until much later in the proceedings. Instead, the scene ends with poor Brad’s demise. When we return to the ‘scene of the crime’, the perspective switches to some poor sap with a pistol hiding in a closet and we hear the replaying of Brad’s assassination including Jules’ recitation of Ezekiel 25:17.
In actuality only the very last line aligns with the Old Testament. Here is the actual scriptural text from Ezekiel 25:15–17:
“This is what the Sovereign LORD says: ‘Because the Philistines acted in vengeance and took revenge with malice in their hearts, and with ancient hostility sought to destroy Judah, therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am about to stretch out my hand against the Philistines, and I will wipe out the Kerethites and destroy those remaining along the coast. I will carry out great vengeance on them and punish them in my wrath. Then they will know that I am the LORD, when I take vengeance on them.’”
The first part of Jules’ recitation is some sort of amalgam or reinterpretation of Biblical verses. What could Tarantino be going at in creating a kind of hyper-scripture with the lines Jules recites?
I’ve always looked at it as describing Jules’ arc:
- The “righteous man” is Jules, the man he wants to be. By virtue of his work, he finds himself surrounded by the “tyranny of evil men”. The line suggests the righteous man (Jules) cannot sustain the status quo. He will have to change.
- The line “shepherds the weak out of the valley of darkness,” again I think this refers to Jules, a prophecy of sorts when he defuses the potentially bloody situation with Honey Bunny and Pumpkin in the diner, allowing the psycho couple to escape with their robbery haul and their lives intact.
Normally Jules would have blasted away at these crazed thieves. Indeed in the diner scene, he repeats his version of Ezekiel 25:17 and speculates: Is he the righteous man? The shepherd? Or perhaps the tyranny of evil?
In the end, he choose the path of righteousness by letting Honey Bunny and Pumpkin go free. As he says, this is a ‘transitional period’ in his life and I like to think Jules goeson to change his ways.
What precipitates that change? This:
Jules believes the fact he and Vincent are alive is nothing short of a miracle. He believes. On the other hand, Vincent does not believe… and, well…
Which brings us back to the Great Scene. It’s a gripping inquisition which recalls the first scene of Inglourious Basterds. It’s got the weird briefcase which may or may not have some sort of supernatural thing going on (its lock combination is 666). It’s got Kahuna burgers which recalls the whole “Royale with cheese” bit of business between Jules and Vincent earlier.
But from a character standpoint, it’s that Rashomon like reprise of the scene’s ending in which the dude busts out of the closet, blasts away at Jules and Vincent… and miraculously misses the mark.
We may not think of Pulp Fiction as a theological movie, but what transpires in this scene has a spiritual impact, leading Jules to a kind of conversion experience. This scene is a defining moment in the lives of the two henchmen. One of them gets it. The other one doesn’t. One lives. One dies.
This existential dynamic is one of many reasons why this qualifies as a Great Scene.
What do you think of this scene from Pulp Fiction? Love to hear your thoughts. Head to comments and let me know what you think.
For more articles in the Great Scene series, go here.