Reservoir Dogs (1992) - After a simple jewellery heist goes terribly wrong, the surviving criminals begin to suspect that one of them is a police informant.
This post was originally written for a blogathon run by Chris (Terry Malloy’s Pigeon Coop) & Mark (Three Rows Back) and was designed to showcase the debuts of famous directors. Hence this review is mainly gibberish and me poorly describing why Tarantino’s debut is amazing, and how good he and the film is. Please try and enjoy it anyway!
What can I say about Reservoir Dogs that hasn’t already been said a million times, by people much more respectable than me? Not a lot, but I’ll throw some stuff out here anyway. For those that don’t know, the plot goes a little something like this: a diamond heist goes bad and the thieves are left to pick up the pieces back at their warehouse headquarters, all the while suspecting that a traitor in their midst sabotaged the operation.
Tarantino’s style can be seen immediately in the opening scene, and it showcases what most people associate Tarantino with; dialogue. The conversations his characters have in all his movies, I mean, you can tell a Tarantino film just by tuning in to a conversation. The smallest, most subtle things take on so much meaning, and for me no one writes like this man. I didn’t see the film on its release (as I was 10 years old) but I can imagine people watching it, wondering who the hell this Quentin Tarantino guy was, writing, directing and acting in his debut movie. Then the opening scene kicks in and we are listening to some guys talking about random things like tipping and the subtext of Madonna’s Like a Virgin song. It just holds and demands your attention, then the guys leave, the suave crew walking out of the diner in slow motion, set to the George Baker Selection’s super cool Little Green Bag. Wow. You’re just hooked, and here we are over 20 years later, the effect has not diminished at all.
I love how within this opening scene, where the issue of tipping the waitress comes up and Mr Pink’s refusal to tip, sets into action a discussion that not only tells us all we need to know about these characters but even foreshadows the events of the film. Spoilers follow……but shame on you for not already having seen the movie!! Mr Pink won’t tip, showing he mostly cares only about himself (I’ll be honest, his argument is solid and I hate tipping). Mr White believes the waitress works hard and deserves a tip, which shows despite being a criminal he cares for people, which is what leads him to be so blindly trusting with regards to Mr Orange. Mr Blonde offers to shoot Mr Pink for a joke, foreshadowing his sociopathic tendencies. Mr Orange tells Joe that Mr Pink refused to tip, playing the part of a rat, which he is. Joe pressures Mr Pink to tip and he does, showing Mr Pink is ultimately a coward. All that is gleaned from an argument about a tip. That is great writing, and a standard which he has continued throughout his career.
It’s a heist movie where we never actually see the heist. People always assume it’s a horrendously violent film, yet apart from the police torture scene – the camera even cuts away from the ear slicing – it really isn’t that violent. Most of it is set in a warehouse, with a small cast. These would be quibbles and issues I have with plenty of other films, yet with Reservoir Dogs I can’t find a bad thing about it. Everything from the dialogue to the cast to the music is not only perfect, but something which is synonymous with all of Tarantino’s films. He finds random music in Japanese clothing stores. He takes washed up actors and gives them the part of a lifetime. But mostly he just does what the hell he wants, when he wants.
As a fan, the one thing I love more than anything else Tarantino wise is that all the characters from his films are alive and real to him. They all play out in his head, and by doing so he has created an intricate, instantly recognisable movie universe – one which boasts a family tree of miscreants that overlap between movies in weird and wonderful ways. This chart shows the links, and it just emphasises the detail and thought that goes into everything he writes.
These connections – however subtle they may be – bear little effect on the plots of Tarantino’s movies. Instead, they’re like easter eggs that reward observant onlookers: in-jokes that might mean nothing to us, but mean the world to their creator. Even in his early work, Tarantino was building his own giant playground, in which not only his individual movies co-exist, but their characters’ paths cross and intersect behind the scenes.
I could go on and on about it, but I’m merely scratching the surface. Ultimately Reservoir Dogs is a work of genius by a debut director, and a film which although he has bettered in my opinion with Pulp Fiction, will easily stand the test of time. I’m hungry, let’s get a taco.