Reservoir Dogs (1992)

30 May


Smith’s Verdict: ****

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“Reservoir Dogs” was writer-director Quentin Tarantino’s breakthrough effort. Released in 1992, it introduced what would be known now as his famous trademarks—large amounts of sharp dialogue and violence. It’s also known as a milestone in independent filmmaking and was a major influence in independent cinema. How does it hold up? Greatly. It’s still a riveting thriller. The violence is still bloody (while the heavier acts are offscreen, leaving it to our imagination, which is more horrifying); the dialogue is very fun to listen to, with lines such as “Are you gonna bark all day, little doggie, or are you gonna bite?” and also with constant usage of the “f” word as poetry, like David Mamet’s writing; the characters are still enjoyable despite their horrific deeds and the actors playing them are spot-on; the non-linear way of storytelling (which Tarantino would use to greater effect in his next film, “Pulp Fiction”) works in the film’s favor; and no matter how many times you watch it, whether you know the big plot twists or not, it’s still an exhilarating film that grabs you and doesn’t let you go until it’s over.

The film mostly shows us what crime films are afraid to show us, which has since been copied for years to come (hello, Martin McDonagh)—the humor, the conversations about things that aren’t very important, and even the sloppiness. It’s set up in the opening scene, which shows eight men, led by mob boss Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney) who name them after colors (Mr. White, Mr. Orange, Mr. Pink, and so on), eating breakfast at an L.A. diner before they set off on a big heist. They talk about Madonna discography and the importance of tipping waitresses before they embark on their planned mission. It’s a wonderfully well-written scene that introduces the characters and lets us know we’re in for an unusual but fun ride.

The heist is never actually seen, but the aftermath lets us know quickly that it went horribly wrong, as the cops arrived on scene and started shooting, causing the gangsters to shoot back. Mr. White (Harvey Keitel), the cool-headed one, speeds away from the scene with Mr. Orange (Tim Roth), who was shot in the stomach. He takes him to an abandoned warehouse, which is the rendezvous for the whole group, and he comforts him for a while, until the paranoid Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi) arrives. He believes the whole thing was a setup, since the police apparently responded too quickly. He and Mr. White try to figure out how to handle the situation, with one of their gang dying on the floor, several others missing, and the psychopathic Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) having killed many civilians during the heist when police came. Mr. Blonde shows up with a little surprise in the trunk of his car…

The casting for this film couldn’t be more perfect. Each one of the actors does a spectacular job, bringing these characters to life. In particular, Michael Madsen is delightfully sadistic and calm; a scene in which he tortures someone for answers is both hard to watch and fun to watch. Harvey Keitel is calm, cool, and collected; Tim Roth is charismatic; and Steve Buscemi is excellent as a distrustful guy trying to make sense of things. Also effective are Lawrence Tierney as the leader, Chris Penn as his hot-headed son, Tarantino himself as Mr. Brown, and Eddie Bunker as Mr. Blue. Tarantino also gives his characters well-established personalities so that they’re not stereotypes but real people who do shocking things and yet show their humanity at certain points.

There’s a big twist revealed midway through the film, but I wouldn’t dare ruin it for those who haven’t seen it. To see it for the first time is not to know anything about the surprisingly well-developed plot. That way, you can enjoy its many twists and turns. But even if you already know it, you shouldn’t let that ruin it. I’ve seen this movie 10 times already, and I never let my knowledge of the central twist spoil it because it makes way for more interesting developments, flashbacks, and fun dialogue. Also, not only is the film wonderfully-written and intelligent, but it’s also fun to watch. It’s visceral, the cinematography is well-handled, and you can see Tarantino’s early influences from directors such as Scorsese and John Woo while adding some style of his own.

Simply put, “Reservoir Dogs” is an unforgettable movie. It’s funny, it’s chilling, it’s fun, it’s energetic, and it’s just all-around great. It’s a film I could watch numerous times for those very reasons. And Quentin Tarantino has only gotten better since then.

One Response to “Reservoir Dogs (1992)”


  1. My Next Top 150 Favorite Movies | Smith's Verdict - June 28, 2018

    […] “Reservoir Dogs” was Quentin Tarantino’s first film, and boy, did it pave the way for what was to come. His brilliant dialogue crossed with his unique style of filmmaking became his trademark. This film showed the sloppiness of gangsters, as well as what they talk about when they aren’t conducting business (hello, “Pulp Fiction”—#21 on my Top 100). What “Pulp Fiction” didn’t show was this ridiculous large amount of people turning against each other after spending so much time arguing about who’s trustworthy in such a delicate time when anyone could either bail, kill, or be killed. It’s a tense thriller, an even more tense drama, and with a lot of biting dialogue that I can’t get out of my head, no matter how hard I try. (Actually, I take that back—why would I try?) “Are you gonna bark all day, little doggie…or are you gonna bite?” Review: […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: