Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Premise: A group of jewel thieves turn on each other when a heist goes bad and they suspect one among them is a police informant.
What Works: To fully appreciate Reservoir Dogs, it is important for audiences to understand how different the film was from anything else being made at the time. The previous decade of film had been marked by the rise of a new studio system that exerted corporate control over studio product, and film production partially returned to an assembly-line mode, where artistic expression was sacrificed for the sake of wide audience appeal. Reservoir Dogs was among a handful of films that broke through the malaise of studio films, shaking up the cinematic form and breaking free of genre conventions. The film has an almost punk rock attitude about what it’s doing to cinema; the unusual camera angles, the nonlinear sequences, extreme violence, and colorful dialogue were a rejection of the cinematic norms of the time. A good example of this is the now infamous torture scene, which is disturbing because it sets lighthearted pop music against extremely violent scenes of cruelty and the result makes audiences enjoy and even laugh at things they know they shouldn’t be laughing at. Aside from the historical context it was created within, Reservoir Dogs remains an entertaining and impressive piece of film. Its scenes are staged and edited together quite well and they pop with a chaotic energy that the film still emits. The performances are also very strong, especially Steve Buccemi as Mr. Pink, Harvey Keitel as Mr. White, and Michael Madsen as Mr. Blonde.
What Doesn’t: Reservoir Dogs is a little clunky in parts. Tarantino’s dialogue requires actors who can convey its rhythms but in Reservoir Dogs the actors don’t always find that rhythm. Some of it may be due to dialogue that is so long and strung out that it’s hard to deliver, and Tarantino smoothed out these issues in later films.
DVD extras: The 15th Anniversary edition includes a commentary track, a documentary, featurettes, tipping guide, deleted scenes, and interviews.
Bottom Line: Reservoir Dogs remains one of Quentin Tarantino’s best films. Although it is not as ambitious as his later work, it is much more focused and has fun with the gangster genre while also delivering a solid story.
Episode: #253 (August 30, 2009)