Reservoir Dogs is the first feature film by Quentin Tarantino, and it stars Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen and Steve Buscemi. In order to celebrate the 25th birthday of this classic, I decided to revisit it in all its 1080p glory.
This iconic story focuses on the lead-up and aftermath of a diamond store heist executed by six robbers whose name is assigned to a color: Mr. White (Harvey Keitel), Mr. Orange (Tim Roth), Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen), Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi), Mr. Blue (Edward Bunker) and Mr. Brown (Quentin Tarantino). The heist goes horribly wrong: the police was already there, some of them get shot, and one question remains… is there a rat in the group?
The confident execution of Tarantino’s directorial debut features many of his trademarks, and you can’t but respect how brilliantly the story is told: the heist itself is never shown but you manage to piece each element perfectly thanks to the dialogue between the remaining survivors; the banter between the characters is natural, be it during the opening scene at a bar where they discuss music, or when they are trying to figure out the true identity of the mole; the non-linear story jumps from one point to another without the need title cards or time stamps, rather relying on the audience’s intelligence and the clear direction and precise editing that never make it confusing in which moment of the story you are.
The main theme of the movie is, like with most of the future Tarantino joints, violence. All the characters exact violence, and yet they all have different views on it: some like Mr. Blonde just like to go on a killing spree and torture a man because it satisfies their natural instincts, and some like Mr. White are detached from it and use it as the means to an end (in this case, escape from the heist). But the violence is also contrasted by the strong amount of humour injected in the story: seeing Michael Madsen dance to Steelers Wheel’s “Stuck in the Middle With You” while he is slowly torturing a cop and speaking in his cut-off ear is the perfect blend of violence and black humour.
The casting by Ronnie Yeskel is spot-on: Harvey Keitel (who is also co-producer) gives one of his best performances as an hardened robber who gets soft with Tim Roth’s Mr. Orange (who gives his breakout performance); Michael Madsen’s portrayal of the crazy Mr. Blonde has entered an iconic status of his own, thanks to his calm and suave persona that is just a façade or his truly evil philosophy; Lawrence Tierney and Chris Penn play father and son who concoct the whole operation, and the relationship between them and the other heisters feels natural; even Quentin Tarantino, who has a very small part, manages to leave an impact. But my favorite character has to be Steve Buscemi’s Mr. Pink: every time he is on screen he is an endless source of laughs and comedic reactions, and he is the source of one of my favorite quotes ever in a Tarantino movie:
“Come on, guys! Nobody wants this! We’re supposed to be fucking professionals!”
Even though the movie takes place in a few simple locations, cinematographer Andrzej Sekula manages to use some very inventive shots and camera angles, and there is a heavy use of long shots that keep the dialogue flowing and the action moving without slowing down. Another important aspect is the soundtrack: classic 70s songs (“Hooked on a Feeling”, “Little Green Bag”, “Coconut”) are used both in a diegetic and non-diegetic way to push the story forward and to set the tone of the entire picture.
Overall, Reservoir Dogs is one of the best directorial debuts of all-time, made by a film lover who has since made some of the most entertaining and rewatchable movies of the past two decades. This is a sharply written, smartly edited, funny and gripping crime story that you are not going to forget any time soon.
Visual Effects: 9
Violence & Gore: 9
Sex & Nudity: 6
Drugs & Profanity: 7.5
Intensity & Horror: 7