Reservoir Dogs

Directed by: Quentin Tarantino

Starring:  Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen, Tim Roth, Steve Buscemi, Chris Penn, Quentin Tarantino

As part of STMR’s Retro Review Series on the films of Quentin Tarantino, this week we turn our attention to Reservoir Dogs.  Released in 1992, the cult film is coming up on its 20th anniversary.  After watching the film recently, I must say it still stands the test of time after twenty years.

Reservoir Dogs is the story of a diamond heist gone awry.  Joe (Law Tierney) is a local crime boss.  He and his son Nice Guy Eddie (Chris Penn) plan a large jewelry store heist with six armed robbers from around the country.  The criminals do not know each other and have been provided aliases.  Mr. White (Harvey Keitel) is a level-headed, experienced robber.  Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) just finished a four year prison stint and Joe is helping him get back on his feet with a lucrative assignment.  Mr. Orange (Tim Roth) is the new kid on the block; and Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi) is quirky, smart-mouthed and fairly practical.  Mr. Brown (Quentin Tarantino) and Mr. Blue (Eddie Bunker) round out the crew.

The caper starts off well enough, with the gang in black suits, having a nice lunch discussing whether Madonna’s Like a Virgin is about a woman with a troubled past who finally found the one, or a woman who met a man so well endowed that her encounter with him was painful. The camaraderie seems real and the crew banters like long lost friends.  Unfortunately, the diamond heist does not go as planned and the cops thwart the robbery.  Pandemonium breaks out as the Reservoir Dogs regroup at the meeting spot and try to figure out which one of the “dogs” is a rat.

Reservoir Dogs is told in Tarantino’s typical non-linear fashion.  It is a prelude to Pulp Fiction in style and subject matter.  It is not as smart and revolutionary as Pulp Fiction, but it is still a fine film.  As the story unfolds, the audience, like the characters piece together who, what, when and how and the intensity and the action build.  The dialogue is sharp and there are a fair amount of twists and turns.

The cast is phenomenal.  There are a couple of standouts for me. Michael Madsen brings crazy cool to his role.  There is something about his appearance and his overall style that harkens back to the 50s and 60s and it works in his role as the viciously violent Mr. Blonde.  He plays a psychopath in a remarkably cool detached fashion.  (Random movie tidbit – there was apparently a rumor that Tarantino thought about making a film with Michael Madsen’s character from Reservoir Dogs and John Travolta’s character from Pulp Fiction called the Vega Brothers.  That would have been ten different kinds of awesome.  Bummer).   Harvey Keitel also dominates during his screen time.  He brings heart and a sense of honor and right and wrong to the film. 

At the end of the day, however, we have seen plenty of heist gone wrong films.  Thus, while the film marked a fantastic debut for Tarantino, it did not exactly break new ground in terms of subject matter.  Reservoir Dogs earns a .03 rating.  I would go with a Bartles and Jaymes Fuzzy Navel with this one.