It is hard not to be fan of the work of Quentin Tarantino when you watch his very bold first entry into the history of film: the violent, crude, confident and testosterone-filled Reservoir Dogs from 1992.
It had taken me far too long to get to it, and I had high expectations. Fortunately, these were not only met, but they were exceeded. What I watched seemed to come from an auteur that had been in the business of making movies for years, if not decades. Tarantino gets every single one of his actors to perform at their best and the script he wrote was as tight, funny and clever as every single one he has made ever since.
Harvey Keitel, who Tarantino had always admired, performs at his very best as Mr. White, matching if not surpassing his work as a pimp in Scorcese’s Taxi Driver, a film that Tarantino has long heralded as one of his favorites. Keitel was not only the centerpiece of the cast, but he made the film possible, raising money as a producer so that a long line of great actors could become a part of the project.
Tim Roth plays Mr. Orange as Mr. White’s sidekick. Their quick friendship gives heart to the end of the film, showing them as men of honor despite the violence and the sacrifices that they are willing to make to get the job done. The two of them together are incredible to watch, expertly tiptoeing the line between drama and comedy.
The great Steve Buscemi plays Mr. Pink who, in a hilarious scene, and a typical Tarantino comedic side-note, demands for his code name to be changed, which is quickly dismissed and brushed aside much to his disappointment. As always, Buscemi is perfect for the role, showing me once more that he is one of the most underrated actors of his generation.
Equally perfect is Michael Madsen, who has made a career playing “wise tough guys”, but in this case, with an added layer of psychopathy that risks to derail the entire heist and elevate the stakes for everyone involved. Last but not least is the performance of Lawrence Tierney as Joe Cabot, the robbery’s mastermind, who blends dark humor with a military-like sense of discipline that inspires fear and respect on everyone in the gang.
Like we would soon find in Pulp Fiction, and nearly every film Tarantino has made since, he has an ease to manipulate sequencing, using flashbacks and jumping around with the timeline of his stories to keep them entertaining, unpredictable and suspenseful. However, as confident and daring as his script is, Tarantino was forced to limit Reservoir Dogs to a handful of sets. It is said that the budget was indeed so low that actors were forced to use their own wardrobe to shoot the scenes which, if you look closely, includes Steve Buscemi’s black jeans instead of the suit pants that everyone else had to wear.
Curiously, Tarantino opts for the story to take place before and after the bank heist that goes array. In doing so, he chooses the role of the storyteller, which fits him so well, relying purely on the exquisite dialogue to piece together the story, and to keep us at the edge of our seats while we discover what exactly took place bit by bit. At the end, it all pays off, giving us a finale that is surprising and satisfactory, possibly the best of all of his fine films.
♦ Candidate to the Blog of Big Ideas’ Top 250 Films Ever ♦
PS. The Blog of Big Ideas is now 3 years old. The birthday was actually about a week ago, but I’ve been so incredibly busy that it has been impossible to post anything lately. Hope that changes in the future. Thanks to those who have stuck around to read and share your thoughts on film.