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Reservoir Dogs

Review Written by: Blade Le Flambeur
Film: C+
What the MPAA Rating should be: R (for bloody violence and profanity)

Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Written by: Quentin Tarantino
Produced by: Lawrence Bender
Starring: Michael Madsen, Tim Roth, Steve Buscemi, Harvey Keitel, Laurence Tierney
Studio: Miramax Films

Reservoir Dogs is the debut of writer/director Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill) and it shows. Tarantino's dialogue has a style of fast talking, criminal characters who get involved in violent and often humorous situations. Reservoir Dogs starts off by a monologue from Tarantino himself as Mr. Brown commenting on the deeper meaning of the Madonna song "Like a Virgin". He talks extremely quickly and the camera pans around the table, showing different people listening to what he is saying. The monologue that Brown gives is almost a culmination of Tarantino's film-making style and of the film. Its ranting disorganized and obnoxious.

After a stylish opening credits sequence, with "Green Paper Bag" playing the film cuts to Mr. White (Harvey Keitel) and Mr. Orange (Tim Roth) in a car, with Mr. White driving rapidly. Mr. Orange has been shot in the stomach and he is screaming in pain as White repeatedly tries to calm him, eventually yelling at him to say "I'm OK!". The scene is extremely gruesome and is used by Tarantino to get the viewer into this sudden change in pace, and be interested in what is going on. White and Orange eventually get to the rendezvous point in an abandoned warehouse when Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi) comes storming in, yelling about how the heist the men were planning went horribly wrong. Everything was going smoothly until the police arrived and one of the robbers, Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) goes on a shooting rampage, killing several of the employees at the store. As the plot develops, flashbacks for each character's past before the job occur and it is eventually discovered who everyone is. There's Mr. White, a cool type who's done time already and is experienced in the craft. There's Mr. Pink, the ranting, sweaty character who starts of the notion that someone tipped off the police about the robbery and that someone inside the team is a rat. Mr. Blonde is the quiet but psychotic and violent man who in one scene, tortures a man by removing his ear with a blade. Also included is Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney), a renowned criminal and the master planner of the heist. His son is "Nice Guy" Eddie Cabbot (Chris Penn) who helps in the planning of the heist, but eventually gets involved in the hunt for who ratted them out.

With these characters, Tarantino delves into the action headfirst. The heist is never shown, but flashbacks are used to develop the situation before what happened and dialogue is used to convey what exactly DID happen that went wrong. Its the dialogue of Tarantino's films that are distinct, but unfortunately in the case of Reservoir Dogs - the dialogue isn't very good. While the characters definitely have a lot of style and appeal, the dialogue seems to be an excuse for clever pop culture talks and another excuse for Tarantino to use "f*ck" in every other sentence. There's nothing wrong with using vulgar language in a film, but at least it needs to be done to add to the plot rather then detract from it (see Taxi Driver and Glengarry Glen Ross). The whole setup of the plot seems intelligent but its rather murky. These characters are as simple as they seem and nothing more. The performances work, but not on any exceptional level. They basically scream a lot at each other. And swear. While this may seem like a very simple deconstruction of the dialogue in the film, its true. This kind of slang, American language can sometimes be turned into something more effective or intelligent (see Barton Fink) but in Reservoir Dogs its void of that notion. As a director, Tarantino doesn't exactly give a lot. The camera angles aren't anything unusual or stimulating and while he is able to obtain solid performances from his cast, its not enough to hold up the film.

I give some credit to Tarantino for making an entertaining movie, something he always is able to do. I also give him points for the solid performances and the amusing scenes he's able to compose, but overall Reservoir Dogs turns out to be a disjointed and ranting film that doesn't quite go anywhere and isn't quite as intelligent as it seems.

Michael Madsen, Quentin Tarantino, Harvey Keitel, Chris Penn, Laurence Tierney and Tim Roth in Reservoir Dogs.
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