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Film Review: Reservoir Dogs
In 1992, Quentin Tarantino released Reservoir Dogs in his directorial debut. Starring Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Steve Buscemi, Chris Penn, Lawrence Tierney, Kirk Baltz, Randy Brooks, Edward Bunker, Tarantino, and Michael Madsen, the film grossed $2.8 million at the box office. Premiering at the Sundance Film Festival, becoming the festival’s most talked-about film, it won the Critic’s Award at the Fourth Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival and was nominated for the Grand Prix of the Belgian Syndicate of Cinema Critics. Empire magazine named put it as #97 in its list of the 500 Greatest Films of All Time and the American Film Institute nominated it for several of its lists, such as Top 100 Thrills, Top 100 Heroes and Villains, Top 100 Movie Quotes, and Top 10 Gangster Films.
After a jewelry heist goes wrong, the surviving criminals, who are using color-based pseudonyms, escape to an abandoned warehouse to try and work out what went wrong. Eventually, they realize that there must be an undercover cop working with them.
A very minimalist film, Reservoir Dogs is interesting in that it only shows the build-up and the aftermath of the jewelry heist, while leaving the actual events of the heist up to the viewer’s interpretation. It’s an entertaining concept in its execution in that since the heist itself is never shown, only with specific moments alluded to, each viewer paints a different picture of how the robbery took place, only connecting dots with the specific moments. The minimalism is furthered due to there not being an orchestral score and only using select songs on radios at various points. It gives the film the aura of an on-stage play as well as a looking into how the whole situation would play out if it was in real life.
The characters themselves are also very well done, with the four main characters (White, Pink, Orange, and Blonde), having some good establishing moments. Due to Pink’s refusal to tip the waitress, it shows that he’s a self-centered weasel with little sympathy for others. When White gets angry at Pink for refusing to tip and explains that waitresses need tips, it shows that he’s eventually going to be sympathetic and that he really has a good nature despite being a criminal. On the other hand, Blonde jokes about shooting White for not returning a notebook, demonstrating that he’s a violent psychopath with an itchy trigger finger. Further, Orange tells Joe that Pink didn’t tip, foreshadowing the fact that he’s a cop.
And in all those characters, the most notable has to be Mr. Blonde. As stated above, he’s violent and psychopathic, going so far as to torture a cop just because he can. In all of that, it’s quite eerie seeing him not only enjoy his aggression as well as never raise his voice or lose his temper. But he’s also given some good characterization that shows even he has somewhat limited standards. At the beginning, when everyone is having breakfast and sharing their interpretation of Madonna’s Like a Virgin, he gives the least sexist and is irritated with Mr. Pink when told he doesn’t tip.
Nice Guy Eddie is also a fascinating character, mainly because he’s savvy enough to know that torturing someone may give up information, but it won’t necessarily be the correct information.
The characters also get a strange sort of penance for their misdeeds that seem to match what they’ve done in the film. During his escape from the jewelry store, Mr. Pink shoots a cop in the arm, only to get shot non-fatally off-screen at the end. Mr. White kills three cops during the course of the film and eventually gets shot thrice. Mr. Blonde has a homicidal rampage, killing several people off-screen and eventually is shot 12 times by Mr. Orange, who also shoots and kills a woman and is shot twice. Nice Guy Eddie kills the cop that was tortured by Mr. Blonde and is shot by Mr. White while he shoots Mr. Orange once and gets shot by Mr. White. It’s an interesting portrayal of how the film deals with characters getting what’s coming to them.
Then there’s the ending, which is remarkably ambiguous, not outright stating whether or not White killed Orange or simply committed suicide by cop. Orange and White’s hands are off screen when the latter fires a shot and it could go either way, even though the film does point more to him actually shooting Orange.
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