Although Reservoir Dogs is considered an incredibly violent film, it really has much less violence than you may realize. In watching the film this time, I decided to count just how many scenes in the picture actually have violence. I counted just eight, one of them being extremely sadistic (the scene where Mr. Blonde, played by Michael Madsen, tortures the cop).
The film starts off with the entire crew meeting at a diner for breakfast in one of the most brilliantly written scenes in film history. We get to listen to Mr. Brown (Quentin Tarantino) explain just what exactly Madonna's song "Like a Virgin" is about, as well as a brilliant discussion on just why Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi) doesn't tip. It's really a great way to introduce all the characters in the film.
We shoot forward to after the job has taken place – and apparently gone wrong. Mr. White (Harvey Keitel) is driving a vehicle. Mr. Orange (Tim Roth) is bleeding profusely and screaming in pain in the back. Mr. White is attempting to keep Mr. Orange calm as they head to the rendezvous, telling him he's not going to die and he's going to be fine and whatnot. They finally get to the rendezvous, a warehouse used to store coffins and hearses, where Mr. White continues to try and keep Mr. Orange calm. Mr. Orange begs Mr. White to take him to a hospital, but Mr. White refuses. He tells him that once Joe (the boss of the operation, played by Lawrence Tierney) gets there, Joe will get a doctor and he’ll be taken care of.
Mr. Pink now enters the warehouse, visibly angry and hollering about the job being a setup. Mr. White disagrees, but Mr. Pink has some very convincing arguments. The police were there within seconds of the alarm being set off. The average response time is about four minutes; they were there in less than one. One thing they definitely agree on is that Mr. Blonde was completely out of line and is a psychopathic killer. Mr. Blonde went on a shooting rampage, killing a lot of innocent people as soon as the alarm was set off. It is felt that if they had known Mr. Blonde's personality, they never would have taken the job.
Mr. Blonde shows up at the rendezvous and, after taking a barrage of insults from Mr. White, informs them he has a surprise for them. He leads them out to his car, opens the trunk, and shows them the cop he has taken hostage. They drag the cop inside, tie him up, and start to beat him to try and get information out of him on the setup. They're really about to start laying into him when Nice Guy Eddie (Chris Penn) shows up. He agrees the cop must be killed, but insists they won't get any information out of him by beating him.
Eddie informs the trio of colors that Joe is on his way and that he's pissed off. If he finds all those stolen cars parked out front, he's going to be even more pissed off. Eddie tells Mr. White and Mr. Pink to come with him to get rid of the cars, and tells Mr. Blonde to stay behind and keep an eye on the cop and Mr. Orange.
Mr. White protests on the grounds that Mr. Blonde is a psycho and can't be trusted, but Eddie insists. As soon as they're gone, Mr. Blonde starts into his now famous torture scene with the cop.
Throughout the film, we are being given background stories on each of the central characters. These scenes, as they are inserted in sections during the present time, show how each character knew Joe, and how they came across the job at hand. This style of shifting between present and past has really become a staple of Tarantino's films and something that his fans have come to expect and love about his pictures.
One thing I love about Tarantino is his ability to get seemingly non-talented or washed up actors to give great performances. In Reservoir Dogs we have great performances by Chris Penn, Tim Roth, and Michael Madsen. Pulp Fiction has the revival of John Travolta, and Jackie Brown has the revival of Pam Grier. QT will take a chance on someone when everyone else in Hollywood thinks they're finished, and that's something to be admired. I think the reason he can do this is the strength of his scripts. While he is a talented director, it's really the scripts that make his films great.
If there were an Academy Award for best soundtrack, Tarantino would win it every time he made a picture. His use of classic rock in his films is incredible. He is able to pick the perfect song for any situation. The use of "Stuck in the Middle with You" during the torture scene is pure genius.
Reservoir Dogs really thrust Tarantino onto the film scene, turning him into an overnight superstar. It's really incredible how someone who dropped out of school in junior high could write such brilliant scripts and direct such brilliant movies. It just goes to show you that education isn't everything.
Reservoir Dogs is really a gritty masterpiece, and something that anyone who can appreciate great writing should enjoy.
Grade: APowered by Sidelines