Reservoir Dogs (1992) (R)
Quentin Tarantino's debut feature film is nothing short of masterfully gritty and surprisingly realized for such a young man. I know the stigma is that young directors and writers have less talent or less experience to draw from therefor their films (or frankly other works of art) are "less". People like Tarantino blast away that stigma with the calm fortitude of blood of guns, and he's never been more enjoyable to watch than here.
"Reservoir Dogs" proves many things about the director: he has a love affair with film (the movie practically stinks of it, not that that's a bad thing), he is not afraid of killing, he is anti-sentimental, and he has a deep fascination with story-telling and how that relates to chronological order. Tarantino would go on to proves all these over again with "Pulp Fiction" which, until recently, was his only film to win an Oscar ("Django Unchained" nabbed him another one, both for screenwriting interestingly enough).
The movie begins at a restaurant where a table full of hired guns are having a calm conversation about tipping and "Like A Virgin". Tarantino's flair for dialogue shows up in his first scene in which he himself acts. It seems like as the movie goes on, Tarantino places more and more faith into his actors and eventually evaporates himself out of the film. Or maybe he's just a big movie nerd...who knows?
For someone who describes himself in uncomplicated fashions as a comic-book geek, it's curious to see how ruthless Tarantino gets with "Reservoir Dogs" which sometimes resembles more of a run-of-the-mill thriller and crime drama than anything else.
After the dinner scene we flash forward to "after the job" time and something has gone incredibly wrong. One of the guys has been shot and is bleeding heavily from his gut, one of them has already revealed his identity, and one of them is sure that the team was set up by an insider...there's a rat among them.
The team was hired by Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney) to take out a shipment of diamonds coming to a small store. The cuts were nice and the danger seemed almost non-existent, so what's there to lose? Well, there are a few lives, maybe a few limbs, maybe even an ear or two.
Given code names, the team knows nothing about each other to ensure the others' safety just in case. Joe is a man who likes to keep his butt covered. Also in the butt-covering business is Joe's son, Nice Guy Eddy (Chris Penn) who vouches for his father at all times and is seen as the "spoiled kid" at other times. We're not sure whether to hate him or not; but then again, that's the reaction we have towards most of these guys. Most of them don't seem like terrible people out of the gate, Tarantino uses the foundation of a few characters to make sure whether we hate someone or not. It's quite clever.
"Reservoir Dogs" resembles a stage play more than anything else that Tarantino has done. It takes place mostly in one warehouse, where the remaining team are waiting for orders and others after the debacle. Then we randomly have flashbacks leading up to all the men's presence or demise.
Mr. White (Harvey Kietel) is the most seasoned of all of the men. He is the maverick here and he has known Joe for the longest. Then there's Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi) whose nervous antics and ramblings about professionalism set Mr. White's teeth (and ours) on edge. Mr. Orange (Tim Roth) is the unfortunate receiver of a bullet to the gut and he can't manage to get anything out of his mouth without screaming and eventually passing out. Without medical attention, he will be dead soon.
Lastly in order of importance, there's Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) who is several times called a "sociopath". His "are you going to bark all day, little doggie?" taunting does nothing to help the already tense situation.
Ultimately, it's a mystery, a thriller, but also a character piece. Tarantino has been the target of criticism for developing "caricatures" of people; but that's not necessarily true or relevant here. If these are exponentially exaggerated versions of people (which I don't think they are), "Reservoir Dogs" would still succeed massively because it's entertaining, gripping, and just full of enough violence to make you wince. It's bloody fantastic.
Posted by Micah Jones