Release Date: 23 October 1992 (USA)
Cast: Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Chris Penn, Steve Buscemi, Michael Madsen, Lawrence Tierney
Running Time: 1hr 59min
Reservoir Dogs is an American crime film, and the first movie of the legendary Quentin Tarantino. You’ve most likely seen something made by Tarantino at some point, and this is his debut effort. It follows eight criminals and a botched diamond heist. The main players are known only by colors – Mr. Blonde, Mr. White, Mr. Orange, Mr. Blue, Mr. Brown, and Mr. Pink. There is also Nice Guy Eddie, and his father, Joe Cabot.
The heist is a disaster from start to finish, and, after a shoot-out with the cops, Brown and Blue are killed, and Orange is shot in the stomach. The rest of the men convene at an abandoned warehouse to discuss what went wrong! Pink has hidden the diamonds but won’t reveal their location until they get some answers. And the men consider that one of them could be an undercover cop.
During the heist, Blonde snapped and murdered several of the hostages and some cops. He has also taken a cop, Marvin Nash, hostage, and proceeds to torture him as the others, minus the injured Orange, leave to find the diamonds. The psychotic Blonde revels in the torture, cutting off the cop’s ear, and is about to set him on fire when he is shot dead by Orange. It is then revealed that Orange is an undercover cop, and he says the police will arrive soon.
The rest of the men return to wait for Joe and Orange tries to convince them that Blonde snapped and tried to kill him. Eddie kills Nash in a rage and accuses Orange of lying. Joe arrives, and a standoff ensues when Joe attempts to kill Orange; Pink flees with the diamonds. Joe shoots Orange, White shoots Joe, Eddie shoots White, and White shoots Eddie. As the police sirens close in, Orange confesses to White that he is a cop. White presses his gun to Orange’s head. The police burst through the door as the screen fades to black and gunshots sound.
Few films have had as much of an impact on modern cinema as Reservoir Dogs. Sure, Tarantino’s follow-up effort Pulp Fiction was more popular and revered, but many, this writer included, consider Reservoir Dogs to be his best work. What it is that makes the film work so well remains hard to place. It is very low budget, has a limited location, and we never see the heist take place. But Tarantino weaves his magic through words and clever direction and creates something unforgettable.
At his core, Quentin Tarantino has been so successful because he manages to get to the heart of what makes movies cool. This is a movie full of snappy dialogue, ultra-violence, great twists, and some hysterical moments. Though the movie looks its age these days, it is still a powerful reminder of the Golden Era of independent film and the Miramax-dominated ‘90s.
Reservoir Dogs popularized the techniques of non-linear narrative, as well as the caper/heist movie. It also began Tarantino’s great record for casting actors who aren’t well known – Tim Roth, Steve Buscemi – and coaxing great performances out of them. Harvey Keitel as Mr. White is definitely the biggest star here, but the movie belongs to Michael Madsen and his psychotic Mr. Blonde.
This is the movie that defined an era and gave birth to a new generation of independent filmmakers. It also set Tarantino up for the stellar career he would go on to enjoy. It’s time to go back to where it all began – sit down and get comfortable ‘as K-Billy’s Super Sounds of the 70’s weekend just keeps on truckin…’