Reservoir Dogs

Reservoir Dogs concerns itself with the heist of a jewelry store by a group of six career criminals

Reservoir Dogs marked the freshman effort of one of today’s most controversial writer/directors, Quentin Tarantino. He began the writing of Reservoir Dogs while working as a clerk in a video store, after reportedly watching every film in the place. This gives me a bit of understanding of this man’s enthusiasm for movies since I personally collect movies and currently own over 1,500 of them. Tarantino uses Reservoir Dogs to introduce us to a world of his own creation. He has populated this world with unusual characters, typically in the life of crime. Odd brand names including the ever-famous Big Kahuna Berger and the every popular pack of Red Apple smokes! The more films by Tarantino you watch, the more comfortable you begin to feel in his world even though violence and disorientation beset the world.

Tarantino is very loyal to a group of talented actors, which is evident by the way they keep turning up in his films. This lends itself to a directorial flow to his movies that adds to the realism. Reservoir Dogs concerns itself with the heist of a jewelry store by a group of six career criminals. Although all are know to the kingpin behind the caper, none are know to each other. They are given color-coded names to identify each other. Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen), Mr. White, (Harvey Keitel), Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi), Mr. Orange (Tim Roth) and Mr.Brown (Quentin Tarantino). This group attempts to pull off a daring daylight robbery of a large store in hopes of getting away with a large cache of gems. As with all Taratino movies, very little goes off as planned. The action is told out of any chronological sequence. This provides a strange familiarity to the telling of the tale. As if a friend is relating a story to you adding details as he remembers them. The focus shifts from one member of this ensemble cast to another, raising questions that have to wait for another viewpoint to be made clear. No one character has all the details and we as the audience must wait for the pieces of the puzzle to fall into place. Typically of Taratino’s style, even the background adds to the telling of the tale. What may seem like a random event, a balloon drifting past a car, actually provides a clue to the mystery that is unfolding.

Carefully watching Reservoir Dogs shows the influence Alfred Hitchcock’s work has had upon Taratino. He uses the classic Hitchcock device of the ‘McGuffin’, something important to the characters that is not shown to the viewers. In this case it is the gems. We never see them and we never have to. They drive the characters but the enjoyment of the movie is the interaction of the characters and not the purpose of their actions. Another Hitchcock device used with great effect by Tarantino is how he approaches the use of violence. Sure we get to see a lot of bloodshed but much of it is offscreen, left to our imagination. Mr. Blonde kills the most people of any of the criminals yet we do not see most of it. Still, the violence is there in our minds and firmly associated with the characters. The division between what we see and what we know about the character adds to the terror that surrounds him.

Reservoir Dogs is a gritty movie. A movie that comes across in an extremely realistic fashion. Part of this is Tarantino’s gift for writing dialogue. The banter between the characters may at first glimpse seem trivial but it is vital to the development of the characters. For example, Mr. Pink. During a crisis that develops he is the only one that can keep focused on the situation at hand. He is the professional of the group although his physical stature is that of a little punk. (a part well played by Steve Buscemi). In contrast to this image is th eone formed by his frequent rants. Upon leaving the coffee shop they use to plan the heist, (coffee shops are another of Taratino’s recurring themes), Mr. Pink refuses on principle to leave a tip. What follows is a wild treatise on economics, working class morals and government intervention. The words Taratino spins weaves a web of interest that holds the viewer tightly.

The Reservoir Dogs DVD is of high quality. The sound is Dolby 5.1 and it is clear, well balanced and provides a realistic sound field. This is extremely important since, as typical for a Taratino flick, the dialogue often overlaps and the clarity is needed for understanding of the plot. The picture is also very good. There are no visible compression artifacts providing crisp colors. I would have enjoyed more in the way of additions. This seems to be the case for older films. Many films that have previously been released in Laser Disc transfer the commentary used there. Unfortunately, many directors do not seem to like providing insight into the motivation used in the films. This is a shame since those directors seem to comprise some of the most interesting ones around. If you are a Taratino fan Reservoir Dogs is a must. His first feature film and the one that started it all. For those not familiar with his work this is an excellent form of introduction.

Review by Doug MacLean of

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