Why Brett From Pulp Fiction Looks So Familiar

Were someone to compile a list of iconic movie scenes, Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction would probably take up several spots. There's the introduction with Ringo (Tim Roth) and Yolanda (Amanda Plummer), the restaurant robbers better known as "Pumpkin" and "Honey Bunny." There's the adrenaline shot that saves Mia Wallace's (Uma Thurman) life and everything leading up to it. And, of course, there's the apartment raid carried out by Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson).

Vincent and Jules are hitmen, and they've come to collect for their boss Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames). The three young men they find in the apartment (four, counting the one hiding in the bathroom with a .357 Magnum) are scared out of their wits — especially Brett, who Jules deals with in the most passively intimidating way possible. Poor Brett just wants to finish eating his hamburger ("The cornerstone of any nutritious breakfast," as Jules notes), but, well ... business is business.

As Brett, actor Frank Whaley practically shakes in his boots as much as much as first-time viewers are when watching the scene. If he seems familiar to you, outside of Pulp Fiction, here's where you may have seen him before.

Whaley turned the tide in Swimming with Sharks

Three years before Pulp Fiction, Whaley starred in his first leading role as slacker-slash-dreamer Jim Dodge in Career Opportunities. The film didn't perform well commercially or critically — a rare miss for seminal writer and director John Hughes — but Whaley would get his second and much more successful chance at leading man status in Swimming with Sharks. Despite what the title might signal at first glance, the film is about what it's like working under a bad boss, which is so unfortunately common that it may as well be called a rite of passage.

Business world neophyte Guy (Whaley) undergoes this rite of passage when Buddy Ackerman (Kevin Spacey), a big name in the movie industry, hires him. It seems to be the biggest break in the starry-eyed writer's life until Buddy's true colors begin to show. Guy's lucky enough to have his girlfriend and coworker Dawn Lockard (Michelle Forbes) to lean on, but even her support can't hold up forever under their mutual boss' tyranny. After getting fired, Guy comes to a decision: he's going to kidnap Buddy and make him suffer.

No spoilers beyond that, but suffice to say things don't turn out too pretty. Whaley imbues Guy's transformation from young buck to vengeance-driven employee with an almost frightening degree of believability, proving himself to be leading man material after all.

Whaley witnessed nuclear espionage in Broken Arrow

1990s action films come in all shapes and sizes, from absolute classics that hold up to this day, like The Matrix, to sequel failures like Speed 2: Cruise Control. No matter what the individual flicks are about, there sure are a lot of them — enough to give the action-packed 1980s a run for their money. 

Among this slew of fast-paced films is Broken Arrow, a 1996 John Woo production about a different kind of nuclear warfare. What does that mean, exactly? Well, generally speaking, cinematic nuclear warfare is about the tension of a stalemate between armed nations or the deployment of the destructive weapons. Broken Arrow is about the theft of two warheads and the mission to recover them, making it more boots-on-ground than anything else. The nuclear tension is still there, but it's much closer to home — and therefore much more terrifying, in a way.

Whaley's character Giles Prentice puts it best: "I don't know what's scarier: losing nuclear weapons, or that it happens so often there's actually a term for it." That term is "Broken Arrow," hence the title. A government employee, Prentice values the truth above all else, even if it means disclosing sensitive information about the situation at hand. He's not the type to break rank, but he's happy to put in his two cents, making him a valuable and insightful asset. Though they don't share scenes, Broken Arrow marked Whaley's first film with Travolta since Pulp Fiction.

Whaley did more than manage a motel in Vacancy

Have you ever stayed at a seedy motel? After your car broke down? With a person you're falling out of love with? Under all of those circumstances, couple David (Luke Wilson) and Amy Fox (Kate Beckinsale) hole up at a motel run by an unassuming-looking man named Mason (Whaley) in 2007's Vacancy. It may sound like the basic premise to a rom-com, but the film is about as far from a rom-com as it gets.

It doesn't take long for David and Amy to become uncomfortable at the motel, what with the unexplained screams and cacophonous banging. Until their car is fixed at the repair garage across the street, however, they're not going anywhere: the motel is in the middle of nowhere, and no cell reception means nobody can pick them up. Mason attempts to assuage the couple, but his words do little to reassure them. And soon enough — without spoiling anything — he does the exact opposite of attempting to assuage them. Let's just say he's got a dirty little secret that puts David and Amy in the gravest of danger, and leave it at that.

When looking at most of the roles in Whaley's filmography, his portrayal of Mason makes him seem like a completely different person. That's what it takes to be a good actor, though: the ability to bring out the best and worst aspects of humanity. If he ever quits acting and starts up a motel, though, stay well away – just in case.

Whaley worked the 29th Precinct on Luke Cage

Whaley's been in his fair share of films, but he's no stranger to the small screen, either. From one-episode guest roles on the likes of Law & Order and the 2002 iteration of the anthology series The Twilight Zone, to TV films like Mrs. Harris, to main cast parts like the one he had in miniseries Madoff, he's been a television mainstay for some time. So, it's no surprise that the TV side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe saw fit to employ the thespian's talents, casting him as NYPD Detective Rafael Scarfe in the prematurely canceled Luke Cage. First appearing in Chris Claremont and Pat Broderick's Marvel Premiere #23, Scarfe has a long Marvel history — some of which is kept on the show, some of which is changed (as expected). One thing that doesn't change is his pairing with fellow detective Misty Knight (Simone Missick), who learned the ins and outs of being a police officer under his tutelage.

Unfortunately, Scarfe isn't exactly the upholder of justice he could — and should — be. His complicated past leads him to make some messy choices that entangle him in the mire of the superpowered criminal underworld. And that, as you might have guessed, doesn't lead him to a life of peace and stability.

In the future, Whaley will be seen portraying Robert Poe in the upcoming 3 Days Rising, a unique take on legendary writer Edgar Allen Poe's short story "The Fall of the House of Usher." Scheduling conflicts caused by COVID-19 make it difficult to tell what comes after that for the actor (or any actor), but we'll be seeing much more of Whaley once things clear up, no doubt.