Director Quentin Tarantino
Starring Tim Roth, Harvey Keitel, Steve Buscemi
Scott’s Review #1,332
Reviewed January 9, 2023
Reservoir Dogs (1992) is the film that began an essential transition in cinema history. The 1980s saw way too many watered-down or oversaturated films with enough sappy or melodramatic thematics to make a seasoned cinema lover want to gag and run for a good television series.
The 1990s were different. It’s impossible to think of the decade in film and not speak the name Quentin Tarantino, an iconoclast who took the crime thriller genre and riddled it with violence, dark humor, comic book-style characters, and dozens of other eccentricities and spun the world on its heads.
It was needed.
But before anyone begins to assume Reservoir Dogs is the most fantastic Tarantino film, it’s not. Many list it as his weakest catalog entry. That’s open to the opinion of course but in my view, the influence of the film accounts for much of my enjoyment of it.
It’s not as developed and stylized as Django Unchained (2012) or as powerfully fucked up or odd as Pulp Fiction (1995), but the rawness, the gore, and the go-for-broke scenes that are shot like a play, and the small-budget make watching Reservoir Dogs a reminder of the genius that is Tarantino.
Countless scenes mirror sequences to come in his later films so much so that a game can be played to discover where something played out in another Tarantino film.
The film gave new recognition and merit to the independent film genre which was huge and provided doors flying open to young filmmakers everywhere who had ideas and just needed to get their films known.
The influence of Reservoir Dogs is unmeasured and a double feature of Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction is suggested. Even though the latter was released later, most people saw Pulp Fiction first and then discovered Reservoir Dogs.
A group of unsavory thieves assemble to pull off the perfect diamond heist. It turns into a bloody shit show when one of the men turns out to be a police informer. But which one is it and who is responsible for the ambush?
As the group begins to question each other’s guilt, the tensions and suspicions threaten to blow up the situation before the police step in and save the day. But how many will die first?
Tarantino cleverly casts himself in a small role as Mr. Brown and names all the men using the same formal title. There is Mr. White (Harvey Keitel), Mr. Orange (Tim Roth), Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen), Mr. Blue (Edward Bunker), and finally Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi) who is my favorite of all.
In 1992, many scenes were shocking. When sinister Mr. Blonde cuts off the ear of a cop and prepares to set him on fire the brutality and sadism are hard to watch.
The blood-soaked Mr. Orange lies in a pool of blood through nearly the entire film. As his skin turns whiter and whiter and his clothes redder and redder it’s an example of masterful cinema and creativity.
The few exterior shots are in Los Angeles which gives the film a low-budget, raw look. It’s to be celebrated as the potent sun and grizzled veneer of the city of angels are on display.
I’m not a fan of the lack of female representation but this only enhances the muscle and masculinity of the characters. As they sit in a diner mulling over whether tipping is necessary we could easily be in a men’s locker room witnessing banter about getting laid, or watching an episode of Seinfeld.
There are no romantic entanglements to mess up the plot or no rescuing the girl from criminals to contend with. The closest we come is a couple of homoerotic moments of men embracing men amongst bullets and blood.
Reservoir Dogs succeeds as a whodunit, a heist film, and a vile look at the inhumanity of some of the characters.
The influence and relevance of Reservoir Dogs in 2023 are as abundant as they were in 1992. Cinema is like fine wine and sometimes the more time that goes by the more appreciation is warranted for a film.
It’s not perfect and is unpolished and sometimes underdeveloped but it’s been emulated so many times that it’s become a blueprint of the crime thriller.
Independent Spirit Awards: 1 win-Best Supporting Male-Steve Buscemi (won)