Saturday, November 03, 2012

Reservoir Dogs

Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, Reservoir Dogs is the story about the troubling aftermath of a botched heist as its surviving criminals tried to figure out what went wrong as they also deal with someone who could be the informant. The film is an exploration of men trying to deal with who they are as well as the fact of how a heist went wrong as they all start to turn on each other. Starring Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Steve Buscemi, Michael Madsen, Chris Penn, and Lawrence Tierney. Reservoir Dogs is a gripping yet mesmerizing film from Quentin Tarantino.

In the aftermath of a diamond heist gone wrong, Mr. White (Harvey Keitel) drives a getaway car with a wounded Mr. Orange (Tim Roth) at the back as he’s bleeding heavily as they both return to an abandoned warehouse to hide out as Mr. White hopes to get Mr. Orange to the hospital. Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi) arrives where he and Mr. White discuss what went wrong as Mr. Pink claims it was a set-up. After talking about what happened where Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) had killed many people at the place, Mr. White thinks that there was an informant who revealed everything before Mr. Blonde had started going nuts. Mr. Blonde finally arrives to the warehouse as he is waiting for a message from their boss’s son Nice Guy Eddie (Chris Penn) while Mr. Blonde revealed to have a captured a police officer named Marvin Nash (Kirk Baltz) whom they beat up to reveal the informant’s name.

Eddie shows up with news that his father Joe (Lawrence Tierney) is upset as he joins Mr. Pink and Mr. White to retrieve the diamonds that Mr. Pink had hidden leaving Mr. Blonde to deal with Nash. Upon their return, Eddie, Mr. Pink, and Mr. White make a chilling discovery where Joe arrives with some accusations leading to a standoff for all involved.

The film is essentially the story of a heist gone wrong where surviving criminals and their superiors try to figure out who set them up and where did everything go all wrong. In the course of the story, there’s the back story of three men who are involved the heist as one of them is revealed to the informant and how that man infiltrated himself to be part of this botched heist. While it’s a plot that is simple, Quentin Tarantino chooses to create a story that isn’t just about the troubled heist but the men themselves who are involved. Notably as they each try to figure out what went wrong where they all start to target each other.

In this gang are a boss, the boss’s son, and four survivors of this heist. A boss who is old school and pulls no punches. The boss’s son who is quite sadistic but also wanting to ensure nothing goes wrong. A veteran criminal who has grown concerned about his younger associate dying from his wounds. The wounded criminal trying to stay alive as he’s bleeding to death. A psychopath who is proven to be a liability as it raises many questions for those in this warehouse and there’s a weaselly criminal who is trying to keep everyone in check as he’s the only professional in the entire heist.

Quentin Tarantino’s screenplay has a unique narrative structure that helps tell the story where it doesn’t follow traditional conventions. Instead, it employs a somewhat non-linear style to help tell the story of these men trying to figure out what went wrong though the actual heist is never shown. The main narrative of these men pondering what’s wrong in an abandoned warehouse is often cut back to another moment where it tells the back story of the three men where one of them is the actual informant in the film’s third act. Through some stylish, playful dialogue, the film’s screenplay carries not just a sense of humor but also a language that is part of this unique criminal world that everyone is surrounded by.

In the course of this story, there’s bits in the film where the men talk about a radio program that is playing songs from the 70s led by this DJ (the voice of Steven Wright) as it often serves as transitions for the narrative while being played in the background to reveal a lot about the personalities of these men. Even where they would often talk about all sorts of pop culture references and such that includes the film’s opening scene where Mr. Brown (Quentin Tarantino) talks about the meaning of Madonna’s Like a Virgin in a very funny moment while Joe reads his old phone book.

Tarantino’s direction is very exciting for the way he presents the film from start to finish such as the opening scene where everyone is eating breakfast where Mr. Brown talks about Like a Virgin that is later followed by Mr. Pink’s monologue about not wanting to tip. Tarantino maintains a sense of intimacy while having the camera move around slowly to establish who these men are as they’re set to embark on this heist. This would then lead to some very chilling moments of Mr. Orange lying in the back of a car bleeding heavily as Mr. White is driving and trying to comfort him. It’s a scene that’s to reveal what’s to come as Tarantino pulls no punch in some of the film’s graphic violence that would include a graphic torture scene involving the cop Nash.

Tarantino does employ a lot of stylistic shots such as the brief scene of Mr. Pink running away from the cops with a bag of diamonds where Tarantino uses lots of tracking shots to capture this chase and some very direct camera work to capture the intensity of the violence. Even as Tarantino creates some unique wide shots to capture an entire group and setting into one frame where he would up the ante in the film’s climatic stand-off between several of its characters. Overall, Tarantino creates a suspenseful yet engaging film about a troubling aftermath of a botched heist.

Cinematographer Andrzej Sekula does excellent work with the film‘s colorful cinematography from the sunny look of the daytime exteriors to the mood that is set in the scenes at the warehouse. Editor Sally Menke does amazing work with the editing by using lots of rhythmic cuts to play out the intensity of the action and dialogue along with the way she sets up the cutting style for the film‘s narrative. Production designer David Wasco and set decorator Sandy Reynolds-Wasco do superb work with the set pieces from the warehouse the whole gang stay at to figure out what is going on to the look of Joe’s office.

Costume designer Betsy Heimann does wonderful work with the costumes from the look of the suits the men wear to the clothing that Nice Guy Eddie wears. Sound editors Stephen Hunter Flick and Geoffrey G. Rubay do terrific work with the sound from the intimacy of the warehouse to the way the radio sounds in some parts of the film. Music supervisor Karyn Rachtman does a brilliant job in assembling the film’s 70s inspired soundtrack as it features music from The George Baker Selection, Blue Swede, Joe Tex, Bedlam, Harry Nilsson, Sandy Rogers, and Stealers Wheel in some very key moments of the film.

The casting by Ronnie Yeskel is incredible for the ensemble that is created as it features some noteworthy small roles from producer Lawrence Bender as a young cop, Randy Brooks as the informer’s mentor Holdaway, and Kirk Baltz as the captured cop Marvin Nash. Other notable small roles include Eddie Bunker as the old-school criminal Mr. Blue and Quentin Tarantino as the witty Mr. Brown. Lawrence Tierney is great as the old-school boss Joe Cabot who doesn’t pull any punches about anything that has to be done. Chris Penn is superb as Joe’s son Nice Guy Eddie who tries to ensure everything goes right while also proving to be very sadistic.

Tim Roth is amazing as Mr. Orange who deals with being wounded while being the most low-key guy of the group. Michael Madsen is brilliant as the psychopathic Mr. Blonde who is cool when very quiet but has a very dark side in the way he deals with things. Steve Buscemi is excellent as the frustrated Mr. Pink who tries to maintain his professionalism amidst the chaos that is happening. Finally, there’s Harvey Keitel in a marvelous performance as the veteran Mr. White who tries to piece everything that’s happening while becoming gravely concerned for the wounded Mr. Orange.

Reservoir Dogs is an outstanding feature film debut from Quentin Tarantino that features a brilliant ensemble cast that includes Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Steve Buscemi, Michael Madsen, Chris Penn, and Lawrence Tierney. It’s definitely one of the great crime films of the 1990s as well as an engaging piece into the world of heist and the criminal underworld. It’s also a film that remains exciting and full of witty dialogue and lots of action. In the end, Reservoir Dogs is a triumphant film from Quentin Tarantino.

Quentin Tarantino Films: Pulp Fiction - Four Rooms: The Man from Hollywood - Jackie Brown - Kill Bill - Grindhouse-Death Proof - Inglourious Basterds - Django Unchained - The Hateful Eight - Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood

Related: The Auteurs #17: Quentin Tarantino - Growing Up with Quentin Tarantino

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