A group of sleazy guys sit around a table discussing why people should pay tips. Harvey Keitel drives his car along the freeway, holding the bloody hand of crime associate Tim Roth, who's been shot in the stomach. At a warehouse, a third associate, Steve Buscemi, shows up and starts debating whether they should take the dying man to a hospital. And so starts Reservoir Dogs, probably the best Quentin Tarantino movie I've seen.
The most notable thing about Reservoir Dogs is how it completely disregards a chronological plot, and how Tarantino completely makes it work. As the movie progresses, the film flashes back to show how all of the various criminals became involved with the project. It then finally gets to the heist itself, but only partially, and ends up back at the beginning of the film. Everything works perfectly. Since then, this has become a trademark of Tarantino's films (along with the use of music), and it's great to see how it all started.
The script is a masterpiece. Though loaded with swear words, the lead characters - Roth, Keitel, and especially Buscemi - explode onto the screen, acting as if they are the part. Good acting and good writing make for a tremendous duo, and I was captivated from minute one. Well, minute three maybe, since the first couple of minutes were a little unintelligible. When the movie flashbacks to Roth's days before the shooting, Reservoir Dogs begins to lag a little, but it is at this point where the movie really begins to show meaning and take form. It starts out as a smart movie without any background, but ends up being a smart movie with a lot more to offer.
The movie is violent and glamorizes it just as much you would expect Tarantino to do. The classic scene is where Michael Madsen tortures a police officer to the background of cheerful music, and he takes delight in it. This scene might show Tarantino's somewhat violent nature, but it also shows his ingenuity. He's come a long way since his debut film, but it still is just as effective and just as intriguing. Reservoir Dogs is violent and profane, but it's also a smart, witty, and powerful film.
Reservoir Dogs is one of the highlights of my collection, especially the new 15th Anniversary Edition DVD. The boxed set, which literally comes in a tin can, offers two discs full of special features, though in reality most of the features are just pointless little pieces assembled to add more to the selling price. "Profiling the Reservoir Dogs" is especially stupid, and "Reservoir Dolls," where the torture scene is reenacted with dolls, is rather pointless. Nevertheless, the DVD does offer a couple good features that examine how others perceive Tarantino's filmmaking, but noticeably lacking is anything from Tarantino himself. If you already own the original DVD I wouldn't bother, but if you don't, there's no harm getting one that comes in a tin can!
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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