Reservoir Dogs (USA, 1992)
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Starring Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Steve Buscemi, Michael Madsen
IMDb Top 250: #66 (16/7/12)
I've regularly had a go at Quentin Tarantino for being bloated, self-important and indulgent. Both instalments of Kill Bill are overlong, baggy and poorly written, and Death Proof comes across as totally desperate and inept. But as much as I will criticise Tarantino for not delivering on the promise of Jackie Brown, there can be little denying the power and biting originality of his early work. Reservoir Dogs is Tarantino at his most disciplined and efficient, and it still feels edgy and gripping after 20 years.
an interview for the AFI surrounding Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction¸ Tarantino talked about different crime directors putting their stamp on the criminals in their films through the suits and accessories that they wore. He contrasted his penchant for black suits (which is cemented in Pulp Fiction) with Sergio Leone's dusters, Jean-Pierre Melville's trench-coats or John Woo's recurring use of doves. Tarantino's aesthetic stamp achieves the same as his predecessors, in elevating his characters above the norms of generic convention, so that even as we are aware of where they come from, they still feel like real people that could exist.
"Tin Men with guns", or "Diner with guns". One of the best scenes comes right at the beginning, where the gangsters are arguing over the hidden meanings of Madonna's 'Like A Virgin'. Later there is a chat in the car about the actress Pam Grier, who would later work with Tarantino in Jackie Brown. We hadn't really seen a heist film in which grown men had these kinds of discussions with straight faces before, and even after it's been copied a thousand times, the original still works well.
American Werewolf make-up artist Rick Baker. The issue was whether we are supposed to enjoy the violence, with the upbeat music making us feel good even as horrible things happen. The answer is that this and the other bloodbaths are intentionally repulsive, balancing the stylised nature of the plot with the brutality forced upon its players. You might even argue that this scene is blackly comedic, with the shot of the 'Mind Your Head' sign being analogous to the A Farewell to Arms joke in Evil Dead 2.
"all sounded like black dudes to start with". If we accept this, the ending of the film gains a little extra meaning; the whites are betrayed by their own kind, and cease to control the town.
Verdict: Tarantino at his most disciplined