#224 Reservoir Dogs
(1992, Quentin Tarantino)
“For all I know you’re the fucking rat!”
I don’t like Quentin Tarantino. While I intend to touch on it a little in this review, I’ll be going into greater depth in a much later review (so stay tuned for that!). Instead, today we’re looking at the film that got him famous, Reservoir Dogs, which also happens to be the one movie of his that I’ve actually liked. Let’s take a look at why.
Reservoir Dogs centres on a jewel heist executed by six men who are strangers to one another and operate on codenames. The story kicks off in the immediate aftermath, where Mr White (Harvey Kietel) is driving a horribly injured Mr Orange (Tim Roth) back to the safehouse. Here they meet with a panicky Mr Pink (Steve Buscemi), who has realised that someone in the team has tipped off the police to their whereabouts, and is determined to find out. Meanwhile, Mr Blond (Michael Madsen) decides to do some investigation of his own, and kidnaps a police officer for this purpose.
Reservoir Dogs is a very unique movie. It’s unusual for a jewel heist movie to focus so little on the actual heist itself. Instead, the movie hops around to give us backstory on the various members of the motley crew, and show us the panicky aftermath, where the mystery of the police informant dominates. This unique storytelling makes the movie very intriguing to watch, and puts an exciting new spin on the heist genre (well, new at the time).
The acting is also fantastic, especially from Kietel and Madsen as the cool and calculating Mr White and downright psychotic Mr Blond respectively. Despite his criminal credentials, it’s easy to like Mr White as a character just because of his mostly sensible and logical approach to a tricky situation, and Mr Blond is downright terrifying due to the intentionally emotionless portrayal by Madsen. Buscemi is good as the ultra-twitchy, overly talkative Mr Pink, but then Buscemi is twitchy and overly talkative in every movie he’s in so it’s not saying much.
The central mystery of the movie is drawn out appropriately, and even when we find out who the culprit is, the movie keeps up a good pace showing us his background and the scenes leading up to the heist, where we can see the conflict the character is going through.
It’s such a shame that this strong mystery thriller threatens to be ruined at any given moment simply by the presence of Tarantino as writer and director. The entire opening scene feels unnecessary and overly long, where criminal mastermind Joe (Lawrence Tierney) reads out of some address book that never gets explained while Tarantino literally inserts himself in the movie (he plays Mr Brown) talking about Madonna singing about large penises.
It’s this kind of self-indulgent wankery that makes me hate Tarantino. I don’t want to watch ten minutes of his smug, squinty face talking about sex in the crudest terms, especially when it has absolutely no bearing on the plot, nor is his character in any way important for the rest of the movie. While the tipping conversation that follows this serves to provide character to Mr Pink, the very beginning conversation just sits there and wastes time.
There are other moments of this as we move through the film, but fortunately it’s kept to a minimum. Tarantino thinking it’d be cool to play a song he really likes (“Stuck In The Middle With You” by Stealer’s Wheel) at least underscores a scene that helps characterisation, and as such remains the most memorable scene in the film. There are a few questionable lines of dialogue that sound like Tarantino is saying “am I cool yet?” in the background, and far too many instances of the n-word for a white director to be comfortably using, but these instances can typically be glossed over.
Overall, Reservoir Dogs is a reasonably well-plotted and well-paced mystery thriller that only occasionally threatens to be dismantled by its director’s self-indulgence. It certainly holds together than some other Tarantino movies, as I will discuss in a later review…
Starring Harvey Kietel, Tim Roth, Chris Penn, Steve Buscemi, Lawrence Tierney & Michael Madsen
Written by Quentin Tarantino
Produced by Lawrence Bender
Cinematography by Andrzej Sekula
Edited by Sally Menke
Favourite Scene: It’s really hard to deny how well-done the ear-cutting “Stuck In The Middle” scene is, so it’s that
Scene That Bugged Me: Any time Tarantino inserts himself into the movie. Get back behind the camera, you.
Watch it if: You want context for that ear-slicing scene
Avoid it if: You like your movies to get moving straight away
Posted on October 11, 2013, in 1990s, Crime, Mystery, Thriller and tagged chris penn, harvey kietel, jewel heist, lawrence tierney, michael madsen, movies, quentin tarantino, reservoir dogs, stealer's wheel, steve buscemi, stuck in the middle with you, tim roth. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.