Spoiler Warning


Always assume Spoilers and possible profanity in context. These are often adult themed movies.


Monday, March 14, 2011

Reservoir Dogs



What Happens?

Reservoir Dogs opens in a restaurant with a group of guys talking. The group is involved a planning heist and other than the heist organizers, Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney) and his son Nice Guy Eddie (Chris Penn) the men in the group go only by their code names; Mr. Brown (Quentin Tarantino), Mr. White (Harvey Keitel,) Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen,) Mr. Orange (Tim Roth,) Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi,) and Mr. Blue (Eddie Bunker.)

Mr. Brown initiates a conversation about the true meaning of Madonna's "Like a Virgin" insisting that the meaning is entirely physical while Mr. Blonde contends that it's about "meeting a nice sensitive guy." Joe pays for the meal telling the group they can take care of the tip by each throwing in a buck. This starts a debate on the merits of tipping waitresses, as Mr. Pink doesn't believe in tipping just because it's expected. He changes his mind when Joe insists. Joe says "Alright, Ramblers, let's get rambling."



The screen turns to black as we hear a radio program "K-Billy's Sounds of the Seventies" announced by Steven Wright  as the credits start and we see the group walking slow motion in black suits and sunglasses. The credits continue over another brief black screen and we hear Mr. Orange and Mr. White talking. Mr. Orange is panicked that he's going to die and Mr. White reassures him. We then see them in a car with Mr. Orange in a white backseat covered in blood. Mr. White holds his hand and continues telling him he isn't going to die.
Mr. White: Are you a doctor?
Mr Orange: No, I'm not.
Mr. White: Ok, so you admit you don't know what you're talking about. So, if you're through giving me your amateur opinion, lie back and listen to the news. I'm taking you back to the rendezvous and Joe's gonna get you a doctor. The doctor's gonna fix you up and you're gonna be ok. Now, say it! You're gonna be Ok.
When Mr. Orange continues screaming Mr.White insists until he repeats it. They arrive at a warehouse and Mr. White lays Orange down on the ground and checks his wound. White tells Orange he can't do anything except wait for Joe. Orange tells White he's scared and asks him to hold him, which White obliges, continuing to reassure him. Orange begs White to take him to a hospital, but White insists that he can't. He tells Orange that while it's very painful, it takes days to die from a gutshot.

Mr. Pink arrives next and finds out about Mr. Orange. He tells them that Mr. Brown got shot by a cop.Pink insists that they got set up, due to the cops arriving on the scene too quickly. White and Pink discuss the set up situation. White recalls the alarm going off, the cops showing up and then Mr. Blonde started shooting everyone. Mr. Pink corrects him, pointing out that the cops didn't arrive when the alarm went off, but when Blonde started shooting. Mr White asks Pink how he got out. Pink says "I shot my way out."

We then take a look at Mr. Pink's escape. He runs down the sidewalk, pushing through pedestrians, with three cops chasing him on foot. Crossing the road, he gets hit by a car, breaking it's windshield. He uses the surprise to pull the woman driving out of her car as the cops catch up. They exchange shots around a corner and Pink takes the car and escapes.

We go back to the warehouse and Pink asks White if he killed anybody.
White: A few cops.
Pink: No real people?
White: Just cops.
Pink asks "Could you believe Mr. Blonde?" White answers "That was the most insane fucking thing I've ever seen. Why the fuck would Joe hire a guy like that?"
Pink: I don't wanna kill anybody. If I got to get out of that door and you're standing in my way, one way or the other you're getting out of my way.
White: That's the way I look at it. The choice between doing ten years and taking out some stupid motherfucker, ain't no choice at all. But I ain't no madman either. They discuss the rest of the crew. Pink reveals that he has the diamonds so they're not worried about anyone taking them. Pink is concerned that whoever set them up could've given the cops the warehouse location. Pink starts trying to eliminate possible rats. asking White about everyone in the crew. Pink suggests Orange could be the rat, but White gets angry saying "Listen, that kid in there is dying from a fucking bullet I saw him take. So don't you be calling him a rat!" Pink answers "Look. I'm right Ok? Somebody's a fucking rat."

We flashback to Mr. White meeting with Joe. The two are clearly old friends, as Joe asks about a girl named Alabama, White's former girlfriend and partner. White explains they're not together anymore and asks about a telegram Joe sent him. Joe explains "Five man job, busting in and busting out of a diamond wholesaler's." White asks Joe if he can unload the diamonds and Joe tells him no problem, asking about a source White had, who White informs him is in prison for twenty years.
White: What's the exposure like?
Joe: Two minutes tops, but it's a tough two minutes. Daylight, during business hours, dealing with a crowd, but you'll have the guys to deal with the crowd.
White: How many employees?
Joe: I'd say around twenty, security, pretty lax.

Back at the warehouse, White checks on Orange, and Pink tells him, he's getting out of there. White insists that he can't leave Orange as he took a bullet for him. White wants to get in touch with Joe, thinking he can get help. Pink reasons that Joe won't be happy to hear from them. They discuss the situation, White revealing that Orange had begged him to bring him to a hospital. White is hesitant to "turn him over to the cops." but Pink reasons they should do it, since he asked, and doesn't know anything about them.
White: But he knows all about me.
Pink: What? Wait, you didn't tell him your name, did you?
White: First name, and where I was from.
Pink: Why?
White: I told him where I was from a few days ago. It was just a natural conversation.
Pink: What was telling him your name when you weren't supposed to?
White: He asked! We had just gotten away from the cops. He just got shot. It was my fault he got shot. He's a fucking bloody mess. He's screaming. I swear to God, I thought he was gonna die right then and there.I'm trying to comfort him, telling him, not to worry, everything's gonna be ok, I'm gonna take care of him. And he asks me what my name was. I mean, the man was dying in my arms. What the fuck was I supposed to do? Tell him, I'm sorry, I can't give out that fucking information? It's against the rules? I don't trust you enough? Maybe I shoulda, but I couldn't.
Pink: I'm sure it was a very beautiful scene.
White: Don't fucking patronize me!
Pink: Do they have a sheet on you where you're from?
White: Yeah
Pink: Well, that's that then.

Pink insists that since Orange knows so much about White they can't bring him to a hospital. White tells him to back off, saying if they don't, Orange will die. Pink says "I feel bad about that. But, some folks are lucky and some ain't." White punches Pink in the face, knocking him to the ground, and the two of them pull guns on each other. Pink insists that he's acting professional and it isn't his fault.

We then see that they're being watched by Mr. Blonde who's leaning on a wall close by. He says "You kids shouldn't play so rough. Somebody's gonna start cryin'" Pink gets up off the floor and asks Blonde what happened. He asks if he knows what happened to Blue. Blonde doesn't answer, just takes off his sunglasses and looks at White and Pink. White gets mad, cutting off Mr. Pink.
White: Enough! You better start talking, asshole! 'Cause we got shit we need to talk about. We're already freaked out. We need you acting freaky like we need a fucking bag on our hip.
Blonde: Okay. Let's talk.
White and Pink explain they think there's a rat. They tell Blonde they don't think the warehouse is safe anymore and suggest he leaves with them.
Blonde: Nobody's going anywhere.
White: Piss on this, fucking turd. We're out of here.
Blonde: Don't take another step Mr. White.
White: [pointing his gun at and approaching Blonde] Fuck you, maniac! It's your fucking fault we're in this trouble.
Blonde: What's this guy's problem?
White: What's my problem? Yeah I got a fucking problem.I got a big fucking problem! When any trigger happy madman almost gets me shot!
Blonde: What the fuck you talkin' about?
White: That fucking shooting spree! In the store, remember?
Blonde: Fuck em. They set off the alarm. They deserved what they got.
White: You almost killed me! Asshole! If I'd known what kind of a guy you were, I never would have agreed to work with you.
Blonde: Are you gonna bark all day, little doggie? Or are you gonna bite?
White: What was that? I'm sorry. I didn't catch it. Could you repeat it?
 Blonde: Are you gonna bark all day, little doggie? Or are you gonna bite?




White approaches Blonde but Pink runs in between them and tries to defuse things. Pink reasons that Blonde is the only guy they can trust as he's "too homicidal to be working with the cops" Pink tells them they need to work together to figure out who the bad guy is. Blonde starts laughing and says "Wow. That was really exciting" Looking at White he says. "Bet you're a big Lee Marvin fan aren't you?" White laughs, and Blonde says "Me too. I love that guy. My heart's beating so fast I 'm about to have a heart attack." He tells them he has something outside to show them, and reveals he has a cop tied up in his trunk. They reason that the cop may be able to tell them something about the set up. Blonde also tells them that he talked to Nice Guy Eddie, who said he's on his way to the warehouse.

We then cut to 'Mr. Blonde" in the past. We see Joe in his office talking on the phone. He's told that Vic Vega (Mr. Blonde) is outside and Joe asks to send him on. Joe says "Welcome home Vic! How does freedom feel?" Blonde tells him "It's a change. Joe offers him a drink and tells him to get comfortable. Blonde says his parole officer won't let him leave the halfway house. Blonde thanks Joe for sending him packages in prison. He asks about Blonde's plans, when Nice Guy Eddie arrives. Eddie hugs Blonde and apologizes for not picking him up himself explaining that he's had his head up his ass. Blonde says "It's funny you should say that because that's what me and your Daddy were just talking about."
Eddie: That i should've picked you up?
Blonde: No, that you got your head up your ass. I walk in the door and he's like, "Vic,Vic, I'm so glad somebody's finally her that knows what's going on. My son Eddie's a fuck-up. He's ruining the business.  I mean I love the guy, but you know he's flushin' everything down the toilet. I mean, that's what you said, right Joe? I mean, tell him yourself.

Joe: Well, I hate for you to hear it like this, but Vic come in, asked me how business was, and you don't lie to a man who's done time for you.
Eddie: That's very true.
Eddie and Blonde start wrestling before Joe breaks it up, saying "You guys wanna crawl around on the floor, do it in Eddies's office not mine." The two keep giving each other a hard time, until Joe gets serious and tells Eddie about Blonde's parole problem. Eddie suggest he come work for them, but Blonde explains he has to keep the parole officer happy before he can work for them again. Eddie suggests that they get him a job as a dock worker. Blonde doesn't want to work, but Eddie tells him he doesn't have to work, but according to the records he'll have a job. Blonde thanks them and tells them he'd like to do some "real work." Joe tells him "Well, it's hard to say. It's a strange time now." He suggests he go along with the dock worker cover for the moment and they'll let him know when something comes up. Eddie has an idea though, to use Blonde on a job, that they wouldn't normally put him on, since he's always been good luck to them. Joe asks "How would you feel about pulling a job with five other guys?" Blonde says "I'd feel great about it."

We then find Eddie driving in the present trying to call his father, explaining to Joe's assistant that Blonde told him things turned ugly and he took a cop hostage to get away. At the warehouse, Pink, White and Blonde are beating the cop. Blonde finds some duct tape which they use to tape the cop to a chair. White and Pink hit him and White tells the cop he's going to talk.

Eddie shows up and Pink tells him about the set up. Eddie is mad and tells them there was no set up and that it's no wonder the cops showed up with all the shooting. Eddie assumes that Orange is dead but White tells him he isn't yet, but will be if they don't get a doctor. Blonde asks where Joe is and Eddie says he's coming down there and he's pissed. They tell Eddie that brown is dead, but no one knows what happened to Blue. Blonde says "Either he's alive or he's dead, or the cops got him, or they don't." Eddie asks why they're beating on the cop. Pink explains they want to know who set them up. Eddie says "If you fucking beat this prick long enough, he'll tell you he started the goddamned Chicago fire. Now that don't necessarily make it fucking so!" Pink tells Eddie he has the diamonds. Eddie suggests that they go get them as well as getting the cars out of the lot, leaving Blonde at the warehouse. White tells him they can't leave Blonde with Orange and the cop, "because he's a fucking psycho." Blonde claims White has been threatening him since he cam to the warehouse, but Pink and White tell Eddie that the job went bad because Blonde started shooting everyone.Blonde explains "If they hadn't done what I told them not to do, they'd still be alive." Whit starts clapping (Blonde joins in) and says "My fucking hero!" Eddie reasons "What does it matter who stays with the cop? We're not letting him go after he's seen everybody." They stick with Eddie's plan and leave Blonde to watch the cop and Orange.

As soon as they leave, Blonde takes off his jacket and approaches the cop, (Kirk Baltz) who insists he doesn't know about any set up no matter how much he gets tortured.  Blonde gets upset with the cop when he reminds Blonde that his boss said there was no set up, insisting that he doesn't have a "boss". Blonde then says "Listen kid, I'm not gonna bullshit you, all right? I don't give a good fuck what you know, or don't know, but I'm gonna torture you anyway, regardless. Not to get information. It's amusing, to me, to torture a cop. You can say anything you want cause I've heard it all before. All you can do is pray for a quick death, which you ain't gonna get" Blonde pulls out a straight razor and turns on the radio, which plays Steeler's Wheel's "Stuck in the Middle With you." He starts dancing to the song, while making his way over to the cop, slashing his face and then cutting off his ear and asking "Was that as good for you as it was for me?" He holds the severed ear in his hand and pretends to talk into it, asking the cop if he can hear it. Blonde runs out to his car and gets a gas can, dancing his way to the cop again before dousing him with gas as he struggles. Blonde pulls the tape from the cop's mouth and the cop begs him to stop, telling him he has a little kid and he doesn't know anything and won't say anything. Blonde just says "You all through?" preparing to light the gas.

We then see Blonde get shot many times and realize Orange is awake and still has his gun. He attempts to get up but can't. Orange asks the cop his name and he answers "Marvin Nash." Orange tells Marvin that he's a cop, but Marvin says he already knows and he also knows his name is "Freddy something." Orange says "Newandyke, Freddy Newandyke." He tells Orange that they were introduced months ago, but Orange doesn't remember. Marvin asks "How do I look?" Orange says "I don't know what to tell you Marvin." Marvin gets upset about being disfigured but Orange asks him to hold on, as there are cops only a block away. Marvin complains again about the disfigurement and Orange yells 'Fuck you! Fuck You! I'm fucking dying here!" He tells Marvin they aren't making a move until Joe shows up and he should be on the way. So "We're just gonna sit here and bleed until Joe Cabot sticks his fucking head through that door."

We then move to the past and see "Mr. Orange." in civilian clothes, announcing to his police contact, Holdaway (Randy Brooks) that he has an in to one of Joe Cabot's jobs. Holdaway is excited to hear it. He tells Holdaway that Nice Guy Eddie set up a meeting with Joe. Eddie picked him up and he met with Joe and Mr. White. As Mr. White didn't look familiar Orange deduced he was from out of town, and finding out White was a Brewer's fan he further knew he was from Wisconsin. Holdaway tells him to look through the Milwaukee files under armed robbery until he puts a name to White's face. Holdaway asks about a referral from"Long Beach Mike." and whether it helped him get on the inside. "Perfecto." Orange says. Referring to Long Beach Mike, he tells Holdaway, "Do right by him, he's a good guy. I wouldn't be inside if it wasn't for him." Holdaway senses trouble and tells Orange "No. No. Long Beach Mike is not your fucking amigo man. Long Beach Mike is a fucking scumbag. He's selling out his amigos. That's what kind of a nice guy he fucking is, alright?" Holdaway asks if he used "the commode story." and we see see Orange and Holdaway practicing the delivery of "an amusing anecdote about a drug deal." Holdaway has given Orange a script, and instructed him to make it his own and remember every detail in the commode where the story is to have taken place. We see Orange practicing at home alone later trying to make it believable. He practices in front of Holdaway again and finally we see him telling Joe, Eddie, and Mr. White the story. He handles their interruptions to ask for details adeptly. The story turns out to be about him using an airport restroom using a urinal with pot on him and running into a group of sheriff's dept. guys who have a drug dog that barks at him, without losing his cool. The story impresses Joe. Holdaway asks about Joe and Orange tells him he's a cool and funny guy."

We see White and Eddie picking him up. He tells himself before leaving "They don't know. They don't know shit. You're not gonna get hurt. You're fucking Beretta. They believed every fucking word, because you're super cool." When Orange gets in the car we see that they have police tailing them. Mr. Pink is also in the car, talking about the differences between white and black women, claiming that black women won't put up with things that white women will. Eddie agrees and tells a story about a black cocktail waitress named E-Lois, whose husband "did things to her"  until one night "he fell asleep. She sneaks up on him and put some Wacko glue on his dick, glues his dick to his belly." Orange gets into the conversation by pointing out some facts about Pam Grier. The four of them are all laughing and having a good time until they arrive at their meeting with Joe, who says
"So, you guys like to tell jokes and giggle and kid around, huh? Gigglin' like a bunch of young broads sittin' in a schoolyard. Well, let me tell a joke. Five guys, sittin' in a bullpen, in San Quentin, wondering how the fuck they got there. What'd we do wrong, what should we've done, what didn't we do? it's your fault, my fault, his fault, all that bullshit. Finally, someone comes up with the idea; Wait a minute, while we were planning this caper, all we did was sit around tellin' fuckin' jokes! Got the message? Boys, I don't mean to holler at ya. When this caper's over - and I'm sure it's gonna be a successful one, hell, we'll get down to the Hawaiian Islands, hell, I'll roll and laugh with all of ya. You'll find me a different character down there. Right now, it's a matter of business."
He reinforces the importance of using aliases and any personal information. He then assigns them all their color names. Mr. Pink has a problem with his and complains, but Joe tells him that's it. Mr. Pink asks why they can't their own colors and Joe says "Tried it once, it doesn't work. You get four guys all fighting over who's gonna be Mr. Black. They don't know each other so nobody wants to back down. " He tells Pink to be thankful he's not Mr. Yellow.

Orange goes over all the details of the plan with Mr. White in a car before the job. We then flash to them in the car after the job. We see Mr. Brown drive his car into another car with blood in his eyes while White and Orange get out. A cruiser pulls up to them and White shoots the two cops in it dead while Orange watches and Brown dies of his wound. They walk away together, and try to steal a car at gunpoint not realizing the driver has a gun. She shoots Orange, who's on the driver's side. Orange then shoots her dead and we see him in the back like he was at the beginning with White reassuring him.

We move back to the warehouse, with Marvin tied up, Orange lying in the same place and Blonde, dead across the room. Eddie gets back with White and Pink and wants to know what happened. Orange explains that Blonde, slashed the cops face, cut off his ear and was about to burn him alive. Eddie doesn't seem pleased and asks "This cop?" before shooting the Marvin dead.  Eddie says "He went crazy? Worse or better?" Orange then insists that Blonde was "pulling a burn" and was planning to kill him as well and was going to kill the rest of them when they returned and leave with the diamonds for himself. White exclaims "That sick piece of shit." Eddie says "It doesn't make sense." White says "It makes perfect sense. You didn't see how he acted during the job."

Eddie says "You're saying that Mr. Blonde was gonna kill you and then when we got back, he was gonna kill us, take the satchel of diamonds, and scram? I'm right about that, right? That's correct. That's your story?"
Orange says "I swear on my mother's eternal soul that's what happened." Eddie says 'The man you just killed just got released from prison. He got caught in a company warehouse, full of hot items. He could've fuckin' walked. All he had to do was say my Dad's name, but he didn't. He kept his fucking mouth shut. He did his time and he did it like a man. He did four years for us. So, Mr. Orange, you're telling me that this very good friend of mine, who did four years for my father, and in four years never made a deal, no matter what they dangled in front of him...You're telling me that now that this man is free, and we're making good on our commitment to him, he's just gonna decide, out of the fucking blue, to rip us off! Why don't you tell me what really happened.

Joe enters the room, and says "What the hell for? It'd just be more bullshit. This man set us up." Eddie apologizes for not knowing what happened. and Joe says "That's alright, I do."
White then interrupts and says "What the fuck are you talking about?"
Joe: That lump of shit's working with the LAPD.
Orange [struggling to speak] I don't have the slightest fucking idea what you're talking about.
White: Joe, I don't know what you think you know, but you're wrong.
Joe: Like hell I am.
White: Joe, trust me on this. You made a mistake. He's a good kid. I understand you're hot. You're super fucking pissed. We're all real emotional, but you're barking up the wrong tree. I know this man. He wouldn't do that.
Joe: You don't know jack shit. I do. The cocksucker tipped off the cops and had Mr. Brown and Mr. Blue killed.
Pink: Mr. Blue is dead?
Joe: Dead as Dillinger.
White: How do you know all this?
Joe: He was the only one I wasn't 100% on. I should have my head examined, I should have my head examined, going ahead when I wasn't 100%.
White: That's your proof?
Joe: You don't need proof when you have instinct. I ignored it before, but no more.
Joe pulls his gun and points it at Mr. Orange. White then pulls his gun and aims it at Joe. Eddie then aims his gun at White. Pink tries to tell them to act professional. Eddie also urges them to put down the guns and settle things with conversation. White says "Joe, you kill that man, you die next." Joe fires, setting the others off. While they're lying on the ground Pink takes off leaving the warehouse. Joe and Eddie appear dead but White is alive. He crawls over to Orange, cradling his head. He says "Looks like we're about to do a little time." We hear cops outside. Orange says "Larry, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." White puts his gun up to Orange's head, wailing in anguish and the cops burst in telling him to drop the gun. He forces himself to shoot Orange before dying.



What About It?

Reservoir Dogs is a crime movie not terribly concerned with the crime itself as much as how people fall apart afterwards. Like most heist movies, you know things will go wrong the question is really how they'll go wrong and what exactly happens to each of the characters, each of whom has his own motivation and fuse. It's a brilliantly entertaining movie, and it's strength largely lies with the acting and the smart original dialogue. The character's are well enough established that they could all be identified simply by how they say speak.

Mr. Blonde, the psycopath is entertainingly twisted. He doesn't appear to be willing to back down from anything. He doesn't hesitate to kill people as punishment for pulling an alarm, even though he just got out after four years in prison. He enjoys making light of Mr.White, the senior man in the heist crew, calling out his tough guy talk while showing no concern whatsoever that White will back it up. He freely admits to Marvin the policeman that he doesn't care about information, but is going to torture him just because he finds it amusing. Blonde obviously does enjoy torture, and pain is not enough but he also has to disfigure, and with everything he does, inspires him to top himself. Slashing the cops face leads to cutting off his ear. As if to ensure humiliation he has to talk into it making a joke to the man. The pain is not enough. He's compelled to overdo it so much as to nearly make it absurd. Rather than shoot the man after disfiguring him, he remembers a gas can in his car and that's not even enough, as he shows by pulling the tape from his mouth to hear him beg and scream. He treats torture as a performance art even dancing rather than just walking over to his victim, as if he wants him to be strangely entertained by his own pain.Yet, despite his sadistic nature, he is also unquestionably loyal and observant of formalities, at least when it comes to Joe and Eddie. Michael Madsen delivers perfectly, playing his part perfectly cool. The contradictions of the character seem perfectly natural in the performance, and we understand we he worries Mr. White and Pink, as well as why Eddie, can't even imagine he'd betray them. His dancing and twisted deadpan have no doubt altered the world's appreciation of "Caught in the Middle With You" forever.

Harvey Keitel's Mr. White is the centerpiece of the group. He's practical and professional, but not afraid to do what he has to do as he illustrates when he tells Orange how to handle a resistant teller. He has no problem smashing someone's nose with a gun butt or slicing off a finger, but he views these things as tools of the trade, not having any interest in inflicting pain for it's own sake. White would rather hae things go smoothly than have to hurt anyone. Violence is simply a practicality, he's a businessman that wants to make money. He does have a strict moral code however, as we see when he's willing to shoot Joe, his old friend rather than allow him to kill a man he feels indebted to. He forms a real attachment to Mr. Orange, based on little more than his feeling and the fact that Orange took a bullet he thought should have been his. White does want to be respected for his experience and this puts him inevitably at odds with Mr. Blonde, whose fearlessness makes him almost effortlessly the alpha dog. White feels compelled to assert his authority, and is only able to back down due to Mr. Pink intervening. He takes the chance to back off, realizing that asserting authority would require one of them ending up dead. His defining characteristic is that he does have a sense of honor and appropriateness. Keitel is terrific as usual, his performance giving the ensemble a solid center and a stabilizing presence.

Steve Buscemi's Mr. Pink, unlike White and Blonde, has no interest at all in macho posturing. He sees himself as a professional only looking to get paid witout getting arrested. He's not afraid to pull a gun or even shoot a cop, but would much rather not be seen at all. He thinks of himself as the smartest guy in the room, and may well be right as he is the only one who has the slightest chance at getting away. He doesn't threaten anyone and no one sees him as a threat. He's the most nuerotic of the group and he would likely be considered almost paranoid if he weren't a criminal with many reasons that make his worries valid. His decision to stash the diamonds before going to the warehouse, shows his attention to detail. And, if he hadn't done that, it could've been a very different movie as the three active me who don't trust each other stuck in a warhouse with all the diamonds would've certainly increased the tension and the odds that one or two of them would have died sooner. Buscemi is perfectly cast here, and he portrays Pink's nervous restlessness very well.

It's Tim Roth however that's easiest to invest in. Unlike all of the others, he's not a criminal at all, he's only acting like one. To him, these are the bad guys and he wants things to fall apart. But at the same time, he's only human. Holdaway's concern for him acting as if an informant is his friend proves valid, as it becomes clear that he has a lot of respect for Mr.White. In the short time they spend together, he comes to think of Mr. White as a friend and certainly has a great deal of respect for the man, helped no doubt by White not abandoning him and even going up against everyone, including his old friend Joe, rather than let him be shot. Their friendship is a mutual debt of sorts, developing due mostly to circumstance. Orange is closer to a criminal than he realizes and when he shoots the woman who shot him, he crosses the moral line, although he doesn't ever forget his job, although staying alive becomes increasingly important after he's shot. Orange has to shoulder all their concerns while concealing his own hidden agenda, all while the clock is ticking due to his gutshot. He remains enough of a cop, that he can't watch another cop get burned to death, although killing Mr. Blonde puts him in a precarious position. Although his gesture does nothing but give the cop a less painful death, the impulse shows he hasn't completely forgotten himself. But at the end the labels don't matter so much. Revealing he's a cop to Mr. White, reveals that he doesn't view Mr. White as simply a criminal, but he respects him (and owes him) as a man. He has to know that White will kill him, but he respects him enough to put that decision in his hands. The fact that much of this part was acted lying in a pool of blood on the floor makes it that much more remarkable. Roth goes all out, shrieking from his gutshot, to remaining composed attempting to reasure Marvin. In his own chapter we see the difficult line he's walking and he convinces us as well as Joe's crew.

The other performances are all dead on as well, Chris Penn is wonderful as Nice Guy Eddie, playing both a convincing son and number two man to Joe's operation. Lawrence Tierney's Joe Cabot is the perfect no nonsense drill instructor and man with a plan. Kirk Baltz as tortured cop Marvin Nash is also as good as someone could be while tied up to a chair, being tortured and waiting. There's not a weak performance anywhere in the film.

This was Quentin Tarantino's first feature, and a hugely influential modern film, which has influenced many films since. Whether you like him or not, there's no denying that he's a powerful director with his own sense of style, which has been imitated in varying degrees wholesale. Reservoir Dogs certainly revived interest in the possibilities of a crime movie, and once Pulp Fiction came out, Tarantino's stamp changed the crime movie landscape. His snappy, sharp and original dialogue has certainly been recognized as effective, so much that you can't do a low budget crime movie without it anymore. (Well you can, but you wouldn't know it based on what followed it.) He's clearly well versed in action/heist movie conventions as well as storytelling in general and the language of music videos, using all of his knowledge to great effect.

In fairness, crime movies, at least the best ones, have always valued great sharp dialogue and smart characters, but Tarantino adds his own blend of pop culture and obscenity, making it more engaging and almost forcing you to listen, perhaps asking youself "Did he just say that Like a Virgin is about a guy with a big dick?" If that bothers you, Tarantino might not be your best director, but whether you find his dialogue lewd or not, it isn't unrealistic, other than it's concentration, and it is original enough to make you listen to the story. Lewdness concerns aside, even the everyday dialogue is entertaining, sustaining a rapid fire pace, while not seeming rushed. If dialogue can be action packed, then Tarantino has that down. He's also very conscious of  the atmosphere that music adds, choosing songs carefully to fit the scenes they're used for, always adding to the whole. The use of "Stuck in the Middle with You" for the torture scene was great not only in that it fit so well, but because it paused when Blonde went outside, resuming again when he entered the warehouse, implying that outside, there's a whole world unaware of the atrocity occuring right there. In Reservoir Dogs, Tarantino shows that he knows how to get your attention and keep it. You may not even realize that most of the film was just a few guys in a warehouse, guys in a diner, and once in a while guys trying to find a car. You don't notice because it always feels like something's happening even if it's only two guys talking knowing that it's going to fall apart any minute.

Reservoir Dogs is certainly a heist movie, although we never see the heist. And like most heist movies, it's largely about the difficulty of getting independent natured people to work together with greed as a motivator. Of course the difficult becomes impossible, when one of the guys is a cop, and another is a psychopath, but such complications are not unusual in these films. You should know from the beginning that it's not going to work out, the only question, again, is how badly it's not going to work.

The central human story is that of the friendship of Mr White and Mr. Orange. While it's not a happy ending, it is an affirmation that no matter your occupation, you can sometimes be surprised to find honor and decency in another human being. It just might affect you enough that you see the debt as more important than your own life. In this case, it is, but Mr. White doesn't take that lightly either. He doesn't want to kill Mr. Orange, but he must, because he has his code, which was the only thing that made him respectable to begin with. Like any great tragedy, these characters are doomed by the only things that made them worth saving. There's no happily ever after, but at least a couple of them manage to go out with dignity.

20 comments:

BRENT said...

Bugger me! That isn't a review that is a novel!!! But what a great read and there is nothing there I could possibly dispute or add to.
Dogs isn't my favorite Tarantino film as that goes to Kill Bill Vol 1, but it is as you say the film that started him on the road. What is good about Dogs he perfected in Pulp Fiction.
Taratino is my utmost favorite film maker of all time. He is an absolute genius and there isn't a single film of his I don't like, and that includes Jacky Brown.
For me Brown is his most unfortunate film as it followed Fiction and that was a hard act to follow. He was stuffed no matter what he made because the public wanted another film in the same mold. I think it took balls to make Brown and was a correct one in showing that he wasn't confined to the Dogs/ Fiction style of film making.
I still like Resivour Dogs as it was innovative, bloody and the sound track was so cool as they are in most of his films. This is a guy who I believe to be the best film maker in the world today. He is always on the cutting edge of new cinematic techniques and makes absolutely brilliant a-grade homages to b-grade films. Pure genius for me!
( He also isn't too shabby when he collabortes with Robert Rodriquez either! Sin City is an absolute favorite and totally brilliant film which I can praise forever!)

Brent said...

Thanks Brent! I'm very fond of Tarantino as well. I'd be hard pressed to pick a favorite, as each movie is so different, but I've liked them all. I admire the decision to do Jackie Brown as well. It said loud and clear that he was going to do what he wanted and I always respect that. I think of Dogs as almost a mission statement or an announcement of his arrival.

Widow_Lady302 said...

It's hard to sum up a Tarantino movie in many or few words. He is an arrogant prick, but his fevered ego does give rise to some amazing films. Great review.

Brent said...

Thanks! True enough, I can't tolerate him in interviews, but he knows how to make a film.

BRENT said...

Agreed as to him being 'an arrogant prick' to! And an egotistical little shit! I can't stand looking at, or listening to him either...but I'll watch anything he makes!

Paul S said...

I've got good memories of watching a pirated laser disc of Reservoir Dogs about the time it was released.
One thing I could never understand was the uproar about the level of violence in this film. When you watch it, it isn't actually very violent even the Django inspired ear cutting scene.
You make a great point about the soundtrack too Brent, I can never hear "Stuck In The Middle With You" without thinking of this film.

Brent said...

Thanks Paul. I'd agree that it's not nearly as violent as it's rumored to be. I think it was perceived that way because at the time independent films were more "highbrow" so the graphic nature and the violence that does exist seemed more visceral. That and the dialogue constantly flirts with coming violence, lot of guns drawn and almost fired, high tension.

J.D. said...

This is a pretty clever film - even though QT's riffing on David Mamet, THE TAKING OF PELHAM 1,2,3, STRAIGHT TO HELL, etc. but I was shocked when that FILM THREAT article exposed DOGS to be basically a shot-by-shot remake of Hong Kong crime film CITY ON FIRE. That being said, this film shows the makings of what QT would deliver next with PULP FICTION but still my fave film of his JACKIE BROWN, ironically, the one film of his based on book. I find, at times, he gets too caught up quoting other movies and not investing enough of himself in them. What I liked about JB is the laid-back vibe that stressed character development over quick cuts to shocking violence. Of course, it didn't hurt that his cast was right on the money with Pam Grier and Robert Forester who've never been better.

Brent said...

Good calls J.D.! Tarantino has never been bashful about the fact that he doesn't "borrow" but rather straight out lifts. (hadn't heard that about City on Fire) To me, what makes the movie a Tarantino Movie is the style. That said, a Tarantino marathon might tough to take, as he does tend to riff on the same things in every film in different degrees, for example, his obsession with Pam Grier (not saying it's a bad thing, as who else would've done Jackie Brown?) Still, I think one thing that always comes through is that he seems to love making movies. Personally I love Reservoir DOgs for it's characters more than anything, and it's a slam bang start for sure.

Matthew K. said...

Great write up Brent! I just sent it to my kindle so I can refer to it later when I'm watching the flick.

Brent said...

Thanks Matt! Awesome, let me know if it adds to the experience!

Dan Fleming said...

It's true that Tarantino lifts things for his movies, but his films are still unmistakably "his." Watch a snippet from any of them and his signatures are instantly visible. A dick of a human being, but a great filmmaker.

Brent said...

Yep, totally agree Dan. "a dick of a human being, but a great filmaker" is perhaps the best summation of him that I've heard. But, just to play Devil's advocate, I think you'd also have to admit that Tarantino has increased awareness of a lot of Asian cinema.

M. Hufstader said...

Brilliant movie, brilliant review! You definitely get to the heart of what is so great about the characters and the performances, really spot on. Tim Roth, Steve Buscemi, and Harvey Keitel are all excellent, excellent, and excellent, but Michael Madsen really steals my heart in this one. I mean, yes. He's a psychotic, sadistic, crazy man. But those puppy eyes! It's really Madsen's gift--the fact that he can play such cruel roles, but have these sympathetic puppy eyes to go with them. Not to mention, the character himself is complex as hell--we have many reasons we shouldn't like him--like, you know. Chopping off peoples' ears. But he's loyal, and witty, and something of a softy (EX. his defending the Madonna song). In short, Madsen is the shit.

On second note, I find all the hating on Tarantino amusing. He's just a dude who's passionate about his craft. Yeah, he's an egotistical bastard, but I should hope so. If I created work as delicious as Pulp Fiction, I'd be an egotistical bastard about it too.

Brent said...

Thanks! I'd agree that Madsen was made for the role and he is more complex than a glance would reveal. As far as Tarantino hating, I think that Tarantino himself must enjoy cultivating it. I do find it cool though, that most people don't like him, but still give his films their due!

Emm said...

Awesome review! I can't imagine how long it must take you to do your posts though! Hard work indeed.

I used to love Tarantino as he had his heydey right when I was in university and it was trendy for us to all go to his films in big groups. I find they haven't stood the test of time though and I don't enjoy them as much these days.

Brent said...

Thanks Emm! Yeah, it does take a while, but I enjoy it! All the same it's doubtful I'd ever post daily. I know what you mean re: Tarantino, but I do think he's grown as a filmmaker over the years, past the energy of novelty.

TirzahLaughs said...

I love that movie. But its not exactly one you can recommend to family, now is it?

I identified with Mr. Pink. That nervous man who over thinks but sometimes he's right.

Brent said...

Ha. true Tirzah! of course there's little I can recommend to my family. Yeah. Pink was pretty cool! the most entertaining character and the one who came closest to getting away.

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