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Reservoir Dogs (1992)

reservoir-dogs (1)

Reservoir Dogs (1992) – After a simple jewellery heist goes terribly wrong, the surviving criminals begin to suspect that one of them is a police informant.

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This post was originally written for a blogathon run by Chris (Terry Malloy’s Pigeon Coop) & Mark (Three Rows Back) and was designed to showcase the debuts of famous directors. Hence this review is mainly gibberish and me poorly describing why Tarantino’s debut is amazing, and how good he and the film is. Please try and enjoy it anyway!

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What can I say about Reservoir Dogs that hasn’t already been said a million times, by people much more respectable than me? Not a lot, but I’ll throw some stuff out here anyway. For those that don’t know, the plot goes a little something like this: a diamond heist goes bad and the thieves are left to pick up the pieces back at their warehouse headquarters, all the while suspecting that a traitor in their midst sabotaged the operation.

Tarantino’s style can be seen immediately in the opening scene, and it showcases what most people associate Tarantino with; dialogue. The conversations his characters have in all his movies, I mean, you can tell a Tarantino film just by tuning in to a conversation. The smallest, most subtle things take on so much meaning, and for me no one writes like this man. I didn’t see the film on its release (as I was 10 years old) but I can imagine people watching it, wondering who the hell this Quentin Tarantino guy was, writing, directing and acting in his debut movie. Then the opening scene kicks in and we are listening to some guys talking about random things like tipping and the subtext of Madonna’s Like a Virgin song. It just holds and demands your attention, then the guys leave, the suave crew walking out of the diner in slow motion, set to the George Baker Selection’s super cool Little Green Bag. Wow. You’re just hooked, and here we are over 20 years later, the effect has not diminished at all.

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I love how within this opening scene, where the issue of tipping the waitress comes up and Mr Pink’s refusal to tip, sets into action a discussion that not only tells us all we need to know about these characters but even foreshadows the events of the film. Spoilers follow……but shame on you for not already having seen the movie!! Mr Pink won’t tip, showing he mostly cares only about himself (I’ll be honest, his argument is solid and I hate tipping). Mr White believes the waitress works hard and deserves a tip, which shows despite being a criminal he cares for people, which is what leads him to be so blindly trusting with regards to Mr Orange. Mr Blonde offers to shoot Mr Pink for a joke, foreshadowing his sociopathic tendencies. Mr Orange tells Joe that Mr Pink refused to tip, playing the part of a rat, which he is. Joe pressures Mr Pink to tip and he does, showing Mr Pink is ultimately a coward. All that is gleaned from an argument about a tip. That is great writing, and a standard which he has continued throughout his career.

tipping scene

It’s a heist movie where we never actually see the heist. People always assume it’s a horrendously violent film, yet apart from the police torture scene – the camera even cuts away from the ear slicing – it really isn’t that violent. Most of it is set in a warehouse, with a small cast. These would be quibbles and issues I have with plenty of other films, yet with Reservoir Dogs I can’t find a bad thing about it. Everything from the dialogue to the cast to the music is not only perfect, but something which is synonymous with all of Tarantino’s films. He finds random music in Japanese clothing stores. He takes washed up actors and gives them the part of a lifetime. But mostly he just does what the hell he wants, when he wants.

As a fan, the one thing I love more than anything else Tarantino wise is that all the characters from his films are alive and real to him. They all play out in his head, and by doing so he has created an intricate, instantly recognisable movie universe – one which boasts a family tree of miscreants that overlap between movies in weird and wonderful ways. This chart shows the links, and it just emphasises the detail and thought that goes into everything he writes.

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These connections – however subtle they may be – bear little effect on the plots of Tarantino’s movies. Instead, they’re like easter eggs that reward observant onlookers: in-jokes that might mean nothing to us, but mean the world to their creator. Even in his early work, Tarantino was building his own giant playground, in which not only his individual movies co-exist, but their characters’ paths cross and intersect behind the scenes.

I could go on and on about it, but I’m merely scratching the surface. Ultimately Reservoir Dogs is a work of genius by a debut director, and a film which although he has bettered in my opinion with Pulp Fiction, will easily stand the test of time. I’m hungry, let’s get a taco.

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86 Comments

  1. As you know, Tyson, this is one of my all-time favorites. I saw it when it first came out, then some months later bought the VHS tape (yes, VHS tape) and brought it over to the house of a friend of mine. I immediately made him sit down and watch it. He was as blown away by it as I was. To some first-time viewers today, I might seem like a style that is now common, but it was pretty new stuff back then. Tarantino redefined cool, and it hasn’t changed much over the past 20 years.
    Also love the connections between various characters throughout his films.
    Nice review,
    Bill

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    • VHS you say? What are they? 😉

      I have seen and heard lots of people say he redefined cool, and whilst I didnt see it until a bit later in the 90’s, I was blown away by the style. As you say, his work is still top drawer, and his films whilst all being cool are all so different. The man is a genius, and I always try and make people watch Reservoir Dogs just to show how far ahead of his time QT was.

      Thanks Bill 🙂

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  2. As you know, I’ve read this already but top work nonetheless, man.

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    • Yep, I know, just felt it should be in its rightful place here too, already classed up Mark & Chris’ sites 😉

      Thanks Mark 🙂

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  3. theipc

     /  October 3, 2013

    Very nice, Hustler. This use to be one of my favorite movies but, over time, it’s diminished and now I kind of find it irritating. Excellent work though!!

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    • I dont understand how it can have diminished?! Irritating? You should (if you havent already) review it and explain, because I’m seconds away from calling the people to lock you up in a padded cell 😉

      But thank you!!! 🙂

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  4. Ah, loved this one!

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  5. Still one of the most fresh and ferocious film debuts ever. Great look at it, Tyson. Well done.

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    • Definitely, was so pleased to have got the chance to write about it for the boys’ blogathon. The best debut in my eyes. Thanks Michael 🙂

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  6. I’ve already said this, but top work on this mate and thanks for getting involved with the blogathon.

    Oh and I hate tipping too 🙂

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    • Thanks Chris. Thought I’d leave it a while before I posted it here, don’t want to repeat myself too much but felt it deserved to go on my site as it’s not often I give out 9/10’s!

      Tipping, must be a British thing that we hate it. Just not our culture luckily. Thats the worst bit about travelling in my eyes. People so forceful now, asking how much you want to tip, if you want change for a $20 meal from a $50 (of fucking course I do!!) 🙂

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  7. I brought the gas can edition of this on DVD.

    I’ve seen 6 of those if you include CSI

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  8. garryarmstrong

     /  October 3, 2013

    Love the stylish, funny review. The charts are ever so educational. Where’s my sniffin’ glue??

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  9. Thomas Priday

     /  October 3, 2013

    Great review for a bad film. I’m disappointed in you, Tyson 🙂

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    • Always nice to see you stop by Thomas, but we both know you are a) wrong b) a fool for not liking this movie! But thanks anyway 🙂

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      • Thomas Priday

         /  October 3, 2013

        Haha, I don’t think so. How are things?

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        • Agree to disagree. But you’re wrong. What’s not to love here?! 🙂

          Anyway I’m good thanks, baby due in 6 weeks so just counting down now. How’s things with you?

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        • Thomas Priday

           /  October 3, 2013

          Eh, it’s just a pretty bland film when it all boils down :p

          That’s great. Congrats again. Things are good here; I got to uni about 2 weeks ago — loving it!

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        • Haha, bland, you joker 😉

          And thanks, can’t wait!! Glad you’re enjoying uni, I imagine your too busy partying to watch films?!

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  10. Excellent work as usual.

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  11. It’s lovely!

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  12. Love the breakdown in the ‘tip’ conversation you give here – its the things that people don’t see in Tarantino’s films that make them great!

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    • Thanks buddy. Always does things in the minute details does QT! Such a pleasure to watch his work, and they always hold up to multiple viewings.

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  13. Nice review. Reservoir Dogs is a personal favorite of mine and gave “Stuck in the Middle With You” a new meaning. Tarantino’s best after Pulp Fiction.

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    • Thanks mate. Yeah I should really have said more about the soundtrack but it is excellent. I still listen to the album.

      And yeah, Pulp Fiction is his best work for me too, that’s a definite 10/10 🙂

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  14. Once again, fantastic work Tyson. I really enjoyed your review and it’s just as good second time around.

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  15. Abbi

     /  October 3, 2013

    Great review and I love all the little connections. Back when I used to write fiction my characters were forever playing bit parts in each other’s stories. So much fun!

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  16. Loved your write up. Haven’t seen it in a decade, so glad for the reminders why I loved it in the first place. I can’t believe I haven’t seen ‘Out of Sight’ ! What a great, twisted mind Mr. T has! I only wish he’d stay out of his own films. He can’t act for shit.

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  17. Tom

     /  October 4, 2013

    …..I haven’t seen this film……………. :/

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  18. This movie is just awesome. Plain and simple. Good review Tyson.

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    • Exactly. I can’t believe a couple of people here have admitted either not seeing it or they didnt like it. Fools 🙂

      Thanks Dan

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  19. Great review for a great film.

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  20. Hey Tyson! I never knew about all those characters connecting and overlapping in Tarantino films! The same sort of thing happens in Elmore Leonard novels, which I love and have read several times over; a main character in one novel is mentioned by someone else in a later novel, or a minor character (or his relatives) have minor parts over several novels. Very fun, and like you said, cool Easter eggs for those of us who appreciate such things!

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  21. I don’t know if I could trust a man who did not like Reservoir Dogs.

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  22. Still my favourite Tarantino and one of my all time faves. Such energy, verve and flair.

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    • Doesnt quite beat Pulp Fiction for me, but still with you as one of my all time faves. Cheers Alex 🙂

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      • Pulp Fiction is an outrageously superb work of cinema but what William Miller said had it nailed on for me. I can still remember seeing it for the first time and thinking I had never seen anything like it before. When you have a space, I’d really like to do a Desert Island article choice soon.

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        • I appreciate what your saying. I was slightly late to it, then Pulp Fiction followed straight after I watched it basically and that pipped it. Just. Both incredible though, obviously 🙂

          I’d love to feature your desert island choices! Just drop me an email – tysoncarter@hotmail.co.uk

          Add any images you want and Ill get it posted up. Cheers 🙂

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  23. The dialogue is center stage in all of Tarantino’s movies, no doubt. I loved this movie the first time I saw it and I still love it just as much today. I credit Reservoir Dogs as the origin for my unexplainable crush on Michael Madsen.

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    • He was a good looking man back in the day. Age and alcohol havent been too kind but he still carries himself well 🙂

      Although seeing him on UK Big Brother broke my heart a little…….

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      • Hahaha, yeah I should have specified that my crush is specific to the Michael Madsen of 20 years ago. And I had no idea he was on Big Brother UK!! Oh, that is just so sad.

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        • I cried a little when they said his name and out he walked. Couldn’t believe it. To be fair, he came across quite well on it and finished 4th or 5th I believe. Still, deserves better!

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  24. Nice review Tyson. The paragraph about the tipping scene was eye opening. I’m gonna use that on people so I look super intelligent. Or something. 😀

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    • Thanks buddy. I remember Tarantino saying something about it, and the table scene spelling it out, so I paid lots of attention and always think about it that way. Just think of me when you use it 😉

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