Reservoir Dogs

1992, Movie, R, 99 mins

Review

RESERVOIR DOGS
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RESERVOIR DOGS heralded the arrival of an extraordinary new talent leading a first-rate cast in one of 1992's most original releases. Most of the film deals with the aftermath of a jewelry heist gone awry. The protagonists are strangers who address each other using false names assigned by the heist's organizer, Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney). Wounded Mr. Orange (Tim Roth) is screaming and flailing in the back seat of a car driven by Mr. White (Harvey Keitel). They return to the gang rendezvous, an abandoned warehouse somewhere in Los Angeles, where they meet Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi), who has escaped with the stolen diamonds. Convinced there is a traitor in their gang, Pink proposes to White that they simply leave Orange (who is, unbeknownst to them, an undercover cop) to die and split the jewels. Their deliberations are interrupted by Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen), who has brought along a cop (Kirk Baltz) he took as a hostage. Later, "Nice Guy" Eddie (Christopher Penn) arrives, sent by his father, Cabot, to try and straighten out the mess. Things only get more complicated, however, leading to a climax that is both blood-soaked and, in its formal symmetry, darkly funny.

As in GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS, the actual heist in RESERVOIR DOGS is never seen. Instead, we get flashbacks that etch in the backgrounds of key players White, Orange, Blonde, Eddie and Joe. We also see bits and pieces of the post-heist chase that both punctuate the warehouse scenes with some tautly handled action and reveal further complications underpinning what's going on. RESERVOIR DOGS betrays the influence of Godard in the fragmentation of its narrative, which deconstructs the criminal subculture as a parody of "legitimate" capitalism. The film's look and themes also recall those of Howard Hawks. Avoiding artful, fussy compositions, Tarantino constructs much of RESERVOIR DOGS from simple medium-shot long takes. Tarantino also puts a post-modernist spin on the classic Hawksian theme of professionalism. The gangsters keep debating and defining the meaning of the term, while their actions undercut their words by proving these addled psychopaths to be anything but "professional." For Tarantino, the age of heroic competence is as dead as his characters are at the fadeout. leave a comment

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