Reservoir Dogs (1992)
I used to have a lovely VHS Collectors Edition of this that I played to death, maybe too much. Anyway I’ve not watched Reservoir Dogs in years. When Pulp Fiction came out, it was fashionable to say yeah it’s great, but not as great as Reservoir Dogs. The truth is though, I always preferred Pulp Fiction. It was easy on the eye, fast paced, exciting, quotable, full of cartoon characters, but dangerous ones. This is a little different, but Tarrantino’s debut is notable for several things, the non-linear storytelling, that scene in all its shocking nature and... the dialogue. The beautifully mundane dialogue. Steve Buscemi’s stance on not tipping, Tarantino pulling apart Madonna’s Like a Virgin. It’s, well it’s just marvellous, perfectly setting the characters before the opening credits roll with Little Green Bag over those slow motion shots of them all in matching suits, like a giant neon sign ‘This is gonna be cool’, but prepare to have your brain worked over. Then wham!, before the music even finishes, Tim Roth is in the back of a car screaming his head off, covered in blood as Harvey Keitel tries to keep him calm while driving. As far as getting into the action fast, Dogs does not disappoint. Mr Pink (Buscemi) explodes into the safe house with conspiracies of a set up, after an apparent heist. We’re not told what’s happening, there’s no hand holding, it’s a simple story but you have to let it breathe. It’s difficult to watch this now without the knowledge of what’s happened or is going to happen, but the entire premise is to put you right there in the room, trying to figure out what the hell just happened like Pink and White (Keitel) are... whilst Orange (Roth) bleeds out on the floor. The little drip fed bits of info, Mr Blonde (Micheal Madsen) going nuts “Shooting the place up”, it’s tells you as much about events unseen at the heist, as character traits that lead to what’s yet to happen. What I had forgetter about was the camera work, it’s as important as the dialogue, leading you around the room and through the conversation. When it pulls back to Mr Blonde’s shoulder as he watches White and Orange’s stand off, guns drawn and simply says “You kids shouldn’t play so rough” it adds another layer of danger and confusion. Some of the flashback stuff with the crew meeting the brains behind the diamond heist, Joe, does feel added on, extra, non-essential. Especially with Nice Guy Eddie (Chris Penn) and Blonde. I’ll forgive the commode story with Orange though, although it’s superfluous, it’s nice detail and a lot of fun the way it builds. It’s lengthy too, taking us out of the warehouse where things are pretty intense. The lovely nugget all the way through is Orange on the floor, everyone else accounted for or right in the thick of it. Granted we’re kept guessing a little about Blue, but we know Brown (Tarantino) “Took one in the head”. Although that’s not strictly true. What is undeniable is as Blonde takes his jacket off I’m already nervous. I could never watch this scene, it’s beyond harrowing. The cop begging, the gasoline, the dancing toward his prey, the tension is thick and when the switchblade comes out and I’m wondering if I’ll half watch through my fingers. Of course there’s no need really, the camera drifts, the mind filling in the gaps, but it’s still brutal, if only of the coldness of Blonde as he tells the cop what’s about to happen. The music is iconic here, notable too by the lovely breaker as Blonde goes to the trunk of the car, leaving the tortured cop and the music inside. Setting up probably the best back from the dead scene in movie history, as Pink wakes up and unloads on Blonde who’s about to torch the cop. I remember watching this for the first time and being as blown away as Blonde! What follows is glorious, a pieces falling into place finale and if Pink was the show stealer before (he’s my fave), then Roth as Mr Orange is a bloody close second, as it’s revealed exactly who is who and what. It’s methodical, packed with style and charisma and still stands up as a remarkable piece of cinema. A wonderful precursor for his best film which was just around the corner.