Sunday, 23 April 2017

Reservoir Dogs (1992)

Fig 1 - Reservoir Dogs Poster
Quentin Tarantino's directorial debut Reservoir Dogs follows the aftermath of a jewel heist gone awry, leaving the surviving criminals to pontificate over their suspicions as to which one of them was the police informant that lead to their undoing. The film opens with a typically meandering discussion between a table of suited men regarding the lyrics of the Madonna song 'Like a Virgin'. Here we are introduced to the potty-mouthed gangsters who undertake the robbery, each identified by colour-based aliases assigned by their employer. Soon after, we are transported to the back of a speeding car in which Mr. Orange (Tim Roth) is bleeding profusely from a bullet wound. Mr. White (Harvey Keitel) drives him to the crew's safe-house, where they are soon joined by a disgruntled Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi). The men argue profusely and recount the events of the heist, in which the maniacal Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) supposedly opened fire in anger at the alarm being tripped. Mr. Pink then rightly points out that they should all be suspicious of one another and thus the film proceeds to let the audience question everyone involved...

This was my first time watching Reservoir Dogs and I was frankly stunned that, due to the cultural influence and popularity of the film, I hadn't had the central mystery spoiled for me. The surprise of the reveal made an already entertaining watch an exhilarating one, as even my initial suspicions were thwarted. I've been a fan of Tarantino since his comparatively recent feature Inglourious Basterds (2009), which served as the gateway to his filmography for me. Since then I've seen the majority of his works and frankly Reservoir Dogs, despite it's excessive bloodshed, almost pales in comparison to the degree of violence Tarantino has exhibited in his more recent films. That said, I don't find his penchant for brutality to be the appeal of his process, so it made no difference to me in this case.

Fig 2 - Reservoir Dogs - Mr. Blonde, Mr. White & Mr. Pink
Another staple of Tarantino's films comes via the use of dialogue, which was excellently performed by it's cast and written with enough humour and fluidity to make the characters appealing. With no female input to speak of whatsoever, the level of 'macho-comradery' is jacked up to eleven, which may be difficult to reconcile with for some. However, once a character with positive influence was designated, I found myself able to watch from the perspective of the 'outsider looking in'. In addition, it is established that the misogynist/racist/homophobic language used is from the mouths of the antagonists and should hopefully serve as a moral cue of who is and isn't in the wrong.

It's soundtrack is perhaps as celebrated as the film itself, with the George Baker Selection's 'Little Green Bag' accompanying the opening titles and Stealers Wheel's 'Stuck In The Middle With You' used to great effect during it's famous torture scene. I wasn't even adverse to the use of Harry Nilsson's 'Coconut' as the end credits played out, as seemingly unwarranted as it may have been. The music overall plays a huge part in the tone of the film and gives it a unique personality that an orchestral score may have neglected to construct.

In terms of performances, I found Steve Buscemi and Tim Roth to be equally mesmerising in completely different ways. In a similar vein to his role in Fargo (1996), Buscemi plays a hot-headed sociopath who from the outset was able to stand out from the group and establish the character of Mr. Pink with the right amount of assertion and paranoia to fuel his motivation for success. On the whole, the chemistry between the crew felt genuine and their back-and-forth's spontaneous.

I would ultimately say that Reservoir Dogs is one of Tarantino's best films and serves as something of a masterclass in character acting. It's an enjoyable take on the heist genre, with enough elements left out to titillate and more than enough 'cool' to intoxicate.


Fig. 1 Reservoir Dogs Poster (1992) From: Reservoir Dogs - Directed by: Quentin Tarantino

Fig. 2 Reservoir Dogs Screenshot (1992) From: Reservoir Dogs - Directed by: Quentin Tarantino

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