Quentin Tarantino’s first film, Reservoir Dogs, was a little indie film that made a lot of noise at Cannes and Sundance in 1992. With a few guys, thoughtful camera work and one hell of a screenplay, he created his first feature film, which has become an iconic piece of independent film and when talking about Tarantino. Sadly, the Academy gave Reservoir Dogs no recognition
The nonlinear story begins with a group of men sharing conversation over breakfast. We get a sense of the guys, their casual conversations over the idea behind Madonna’s Like a Virgin give us a sense of vulgarity, and their discussion on tipping shows that at least some of them have a heart.
Then it cuts to the aftermath of the heist. Mr. Orange (Tim Roth) is writhing around, shot in the gut and bleeding all over the backseat of a car as Mr. White (Harvey Keitel) drives. It seems the police were tipped off. Only question left is, who is the rat?
Chapter by chapter, the story is pieced together. There are flashbacks, appropriately titled by character, revealing how each member of the heist knows the leader, Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney). Eventually, we see the plan, each man receiving their colored code name, and how the heist went horribly wrong.
The most memorable scenes, however, are in the present. At their hideout, some junky garage with a broken toilet in one corner and plastic wrapped caskets standing up on end in the other, Mr. Orange is slowly bleeding to death on a ramp. Mr. White is trying to comfort him, Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi) is becoming suspicious of everyone. When Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) enters, sipping a soda like he was just out for a walk, tensions rise. He unnecessarily shot civilians, now everyone thinks he’s a psychopath. Only time will tell how just how violent Blonde can be.
That brings up the infamous Stuck in the Middle With You scene. If you have never seen Reservoir Dogs, stop reading, you do not want this to be spoiled at all. Mr. Blonde takes any idea on being casually psychotic and pushes it further than happy imaginations can go. His dance to the song is gleefully diabolical and builds up the tension perfectly. The camera cuts away, and we hear the screaming as Blonde goes in with his razor and when we’re brought back, we’re horrified at what he has done. Then the camera follows him, to his car and back, and reveals at the last minute what he has brought back. Immediately, we see his plan and if his little amputation sent our stomachs churning, we cannot even imagine how gruesome his next act could be.
Reservoir Dogs is an essential when studying Tarantino films. Though it was his first film, his style is clearly defined here and he has kept true to it ever since. The violence is startling. The dialogue is vulgar, but phenomenal. The soundtrack rocks and is unforgetable. And the order in which the story is presented, perfectly escalates to the tipping point. It’s an unforgettable ride, Tarantino’s first and one of his best.
“Why am I Mr. Pink?”