Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Quentin Tarantino has inspired dozens of imitators since he made Reservoir Dogs. It’s kind of become a genre in its own right (See the Boondock Saints for one well executed example) as the hip, self aware gangster movie. I like to think of Tarantino as equal parts Kevin Smith and Martin Scorsese when it comes to dialogue and action. Reservoir Dogs for Tarantino was for his career as Mean Streets was to Scorsese. Both movies were “test runs” for their respective directors leading up to each one’s first early masterpiece, Pulp Fiction for Tarantino and Raging Bull for Scorsese. Reservoir Dogs was something very new and different when it had come out. Since the Tarantino genre had not become a genre yet it was very strange to see actors in an action movie spend so much time talking about other action movies, songs, and various pieces of pop culture.
Acting wise this movie has one of my favorite casts ever. Steve Buscemi is perfect as the motor mouth Mr. Pink in a role that is kind of similar to the one he played in Fargo a few years after this movie. Harvey Keitel, a Scorsese veteran from Taxi Driver and Mean Streets, is equally at home in this fast talking hoodlum world. Keitel always comes across as a quick witted and cerebral kind of con artist, which serves him well here. Chris Penn and Michael Madsen are also natural fits here as well and have great chemistry together. Madsen especially has perhaps the most famous scene of the entire movie in which he dances to a famous 70s tune while slicing off a captive cop’s ear, while another undercover cop looks on. That cop is played by Tim Roth, who is another actor who is perfectly at home in this type of movie.
This movie was criticized when it first came out for having its characters do more talking than anything else. To me that misses the point. We’ve all seen countless crime capers. I loved that we barely see any of the robbery that is the centerpiece of the movie. By the time the movie starts said robbery is already over and the rest of the movie just kind of jumps around timeline wise to catch the audience up to what is going on. Of course people betray each other, tons of bullets fly and characters die left and right. That is not the heart of the movie though.
The heart of the movie is in the marriage of the dialogue and the actors. Buscemi and Keitel riff off of each other effortlessly, as do Penn, Madsen, Roth, and everyone else. My favorite scene takes place before any of the big action takes place, at a diner where the entire crew has met for breakfast before the big heist. There’s conversations about the meaning of “A Rainy Night in Georgia”, Madonna, and the virtue or lack thereof of tipping your waitress. These kinds of scenes were mesmerizing the first time I saw them and they still hold up remarkably well, even after they have now been copied more times than I care to remember.
Daily Inquiry: Who is your favorite Tarantino movie character? (No points awarded for guessing mine…)