Saturday, 21 March 2015

Review: Reservoir Dogs

Figure 1: Film Poster (Movie Poster Shop)
  • Native Title: Reservoir Dogs
  • Primary Language: English
  • Format: Colour
  • Year of Release: 1992
  • Budget: est. $1,200,000
  • Film Length: 99 minutes
  • Production Company: Live Entertainment, Dog Eat Dog Productions
    A film by then-unknown director Quentin Tarantino, Reservoir Dogs is the story of a Los Angeles diamond heist gone bad. But instead of a typical progression of a heist, the event is pieced together from the fragments we learn as everyone tries to work out what went wrong, how, and what to do next as the LAPD searches high and low for them.

     While many films explain what happened prior to the present through either flashbacks or exposition, "the film fills in vital information via an assortment of flashbacks. This is an ambitious structure, but Tarantino pulls it off with panache" (Billson, 2015) and there is only one real moment of background exposition that is not backed up by a flashback. The storytelling as a result is fluid, with information coming out as needed but not being a complete infodump when it comes, such as the introductions of how each character in the warehouse was recruited including humour as well as serious business. These flashbacks don't feel like information being forced onto us, but instead feel like stories within a story that make up a rich and well-developed environment without too much worldbuilding.
Figure 2: Actually giving us the image of four county sheriffs in a public toilet makes the whole thing
that much more enjoyable. (Page, 2013)
    The film's language can be something of a guilty pleasure "What makes these characters seem so tantalizingly alive and true? Perhaps it’s simply this: In a civilized world, where people have to watch their tongues on the job, in the classroom, even, perhaps, when speaking to their loved ones, there’s something primal and liberating about characters who can let it all hang out, whose ids come bursting forth in white-hot chunks of verbal shrapnel." (Gleiberman, 1992) In real life, casual conversation - especially when things are tense - is not always something out of Pride and Prejudice or a Shakespearean play and Tarantino, although possibly exaggerating it under the image of macho (each of the characters save for Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney) is old enough to have either grown up or lived their prime in the age of testosterone-fueled 1980s action movies), does well to evoke that young highly strung urban men are loud, confident and sometimes aggressive. But it sells the dialogue-filled film as there is plenty going on to keep you awake.

    People Magazine however, disagree with this idea but in doing so they bring up the other side of the dialogue's richness. "[Tarantino] seems to think, for instance, that your average armed robber-murderer spends his off-duty hours sitting around philosophizing about tipping waitresses, engaging in pompous textual analysis of Madonna songs and playing movie trivia games." (Novak, Gliatto, Kaufman, 1992) Tarantino is on the right track - robber-murderers are people as well. They're lawbreakers sure but why should that prohibit them from talking about movie trivia or expressing their opinions? Tarantino in fact explores his characters and though casual conversation we stop seeing them as dyed-in-the-wool criminals and see them as people we might know, maybe even people we'd hate to see die.

    But it's not just through the dialogue, that the film solidifies its cast members to be hot-blooded and impatient. "Strong violence is Tarantino's passion, and he embraces it with gleeful, almost religious, fervor." (Turan, 1992) there is blood, lots of blood and Mr. Orange appears to spill the most of it as by the end of the film he completely ruined the back seat of a car and ended up red-shirted and surrounded in a pool of his own blood at least a metre and a half in radius. But the most significant scene has to be when Mr. Blonde cuts off the ear off an LAPD officer to the tune of Stuck In The Middle With You with no reason given other than because he was bored. When there are gunfights, either it's one bullet, or what suspiciously feels like more than a single magazine for a 9mm pistol.
Figure 3: If I could sum up the film's atmosphere in one image, it would be this.
    The other intriguing thing to note is that as well as Reservoir Dogs' dialogue being full of enough curses and prejudiced comments to warrant millions of angry letters, it's also smart. The heist members are shown as "The type of crowd that follows the question of "Did you kill anybody?" with a perfectly natural "Any real people or just cops?"" (Turan, 1992) with the other great line in my book by Mr. Pink being "If you ----- beat this ---- long enough, he'll tell you he started the ----- Chicago fire, now that don't necessarily make it ------ so!" as despite their aggression and the comic tone of the film, they know torturing a policeman will get them either nothing or a lie (something that is shown to work in shows like 24). And rather handily establishes that Mr. Blonde is a sociopath as there was no other reason for causing pain to and waterboarding (with petrol no less) said cop other than entertainment value.
Figure 4: Very few interrogations start with the interrogator dancing towards you with a deadly weapon. Solid evidence that
finding out what you know isn't one of their priorities. (Gerasimov, 2015)
    I would rank this film as a guilty pleasure. It's crude, it's brutal, but it revels in its silliness and it's ability to convey very memorable characters from the "We're professionals!" of Mr. Pink to the "allcaps who cares about your ear I'm bleeding all over the floor!" of Mr. Orange. The ending was tense and satisfying and reminiscent of a Greek tragedy where everyone we meet either dies or may as well be dead. Macabre as it sounds, the last bullet of the film feels like an impact to the viewer's heart.

Image References

1 comment:

  1. Once again, a very engaging review Mark! BUT - make sure you proofread before you post, as in your haste to get your ideas out, you are frequently running words together and jumbling the letters... this rather spoils the readers experience of reading about your thoughts.