A Tarantino masterpiece: Reservoir Dogs review
The first feature film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino; Reservoir Dogs, which was released in 1992, is regarded as one of the greatest independent films of all time. It features many of the trademark features that fans have come to love with Tarantino’s films, such as nonlinear storytelling, violence, profanity, dark comedy, and a unique selection of soundtracks, mostly from the 1960’s and 70’s.
Despite being nearly 30 years old, this is one of the director’s finest projects, particularly when you consider the small budget of the film.
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Reservoir Dogs follows six jewel thieves who are hired for a job by crime boss Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney) and his son ‘Nice Guy’ Eddie Cabot (Chris Penn). The opening scene is set in a diner where the character’s all meet to discuss a planned heist. Each of the thieves have been given an alias for the task, Mr White (Harvey Keitel), Mr Pink (Steve Buscemi), Mr Orange (Tim Roth), Mr Blonde (Michael Madsen), Mr Blue (Edward Bunker) and Mr Brown (Tarantino). The employees are wearing black and white suits, which adds to the crime setting.
This scene sets the tone of the film and is highly memorable and comedic. It may initially appear that the characters are just having a random conversation, as they discuss Madonna’s ‘Like a Virgin.’ However, it is actually a clever use of foreshadowing by the director, revealing each character’s personality traits. An example of this is when Mr Pink, who is shown to only look out for himself and to the amusement of the other characters, refuses to tip the waitress.
After the opening credits, the film’s time jumps ahead to post the heist, which appears to have gone horribly wrong. Mr Orange is severely wounded after being shot and is driven to a warehouse by Mr White. Tarantino’s use of non-linear storytelling becomes apparent at this point, which cleverly engages you as the viewer, as you want to know what has occurred. This technique is also utilised to present backstories for most of the characters, with each story linking into the films present-day events. The actual heist, despite being central to the plot, is never actually shown. However, you do gain an understanding of the events of the heist, through the present day dialogue and the jumps in time.
At the warehouse, they meet up with Mr Pink and conclude there must have been a ‘rat’ amongst the group. The character that is later revealed to be the ‘rat’, was in fact given away in the opening scene through the revelations of the thieves personality traits, something most viewers would be unaware of.
Mr Blonde eventually arrives and is shown to have taken a police officer called Marvin Nash (Kirk Baltz) hostage. Another jump in time then occurs, although this time to the past, where the viewer is given a backstory to Mr Blonde and his relationship with the Cabot’s.
On returning to the present, Nice Guy arrives and soon departs with Mr White and Mr Pink to dispose of the stolen cars and retrieve the diamonds, leaving Mr Blonde alone with Nash and Mr Orange. One of the most iconic, yet confronting scenes of the film then occurs, as Mr Blonde gruesomely tortures Nash by removing one of his ears and covering him in gasoline, while dancing and singing away to Stealers Wheel ‘Stuck in the Middle with You.’ Another clever moment by Tarantino, who managed to make a gruesome scene comedic.
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The film ends with a mass shootout. Only one character manages to survive and as a result, walks away with the score as foreshadowed at the beginning.
The acting within the film is almost faultless, particularly the performances by Harvey Keitel and Steve Buscemi, with Buscemi going on to win the Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Male for his flawless portrayal of Mr Pink. This combined with the intelligent writing and direction of Tarantino, has resulted in a cinematic masterpiece.
One criticism I would direct towards the film is that there are no female lead characters, although, given the themes explored in Reservoir Dogs, it is easy to see why the director made this decision.
I would highly recommend Reservoir Dogs to those who are in the market for a unique, highly quotable, crime focused film, which begun the career of an outstanding filmmaker.