RESERVOIR DOGS–United States-1992
Quentin Tarantino as Mr. Brown
Harvey Keitel as Mr. White
Eddie Bunker as Mr. Blue
Tim Roth as Mr. Orange
Steve Buscemi as Mr. Pink
Lawrence Tierney as Joe Cabot
Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino
I seem to recall a while back that I said that I wasn’t going to review any more non-horror motion pictures on this blog. Yet, here I am with cast photos, a poster and a trailer from Quentin Tarantino’s debut film, Reservoir Dogs. How do I explain myself? How about with “Honey, I had no idea she was your sister?*” or “Yes, this is exactly what it looks like.”
Why am I reviewing Reservoir Dogs? To be honest I didn’t like the film all that much when it was first released in 1992. But like Mickey says in Natural Born Killers when asked if he liked Key Lime Pie; “No, but I was a completely different person back then.” It took the knock-out punch of Pulp Fiction before I was able to appreciate that Tarantino already had us on the ropes with Reservoir Dogs.
The plot is as simplistic as you’re going to get with a heist film; six strangers, their Christian names unbeknownst to one another, pull off a diamond heist that goes south. Two are killed, one is shot and the rest of them smell a rat. We never see the heist and that’s the beauty of the whole thing. Tarantino is more interested in showing us the ‘before’ and the ‘after’ rather than the ‘during’. The beginning of the film opens in a restaurant with our six bandits; along with Nice Guy Eddie (Chris Penn, True Romance, and Rush Hour) and boss Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney, Pulp Fiction, Dillinger) in a moment of male bonding before ‘going to work’. There’s joking, bullshitting, male chauvinism and enough testosterone going around the table to make a stud bull jealous. It’s everything and nothing we’ve ever seen before. It makes you kind of sad that it’s all going to go to hell and fast.
Reservoir Dogs is a film that we appreciate for the smaller parts and come to love when we put them all together. Mr. Brown’s pornographic explanation of Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” (It’s all about a girl who digs a guy with a big dick. The whole song is a metaphor for big dicks.”); Mr. Pink’s near-convincing reasons for not tipping (“I don’t tip because society says I have to.”) The doling out of the color-coded names (“Why am I Mr. Pink?”); the ‘ear’ scene in which Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen ( Kill Bill Vols. 1 and 2, Sin City) gets creative with a straight razor upon the pallet which is Marvin the cops’ (Kirk Baltz) hapless face. (…”I’m gonna torture you anyway…all you can do is pray for a quick death, which you ain’t gonna get.”) I believe this scene may be tribute to both the shower scene in Hitchcock’s Psycho in that we think we see blood when we really don’t; and to Scorcese’s Taxi Driver in that like the scene where Travis Bickle is pleading with Betsy on the phone the camera pans away as it too painful to watch; the camera pans as Mr. Blonde begins to cut and all we have are Marvin’s muffled screams and our own imaginations.
So, that’s why I’m reviewing Reservoir Dogs; to show appreciation for a film that I should have appreciated from the beginning. That sounds weak; but it’s all I’ve got.
*My lame at attempt at being witty. Do not take it literally.
Quentin Tarantino wanted James Woods to play a role in the film, and made him five different cash offers. Woods’ agent refused the offers without ever mentioning it to Woods as the sums offered were well below what Woods would usually receive. When Tarantino and Woods later met for the first time, Woods learned of the offer and was annoyed enough to get a new agent. Tarantino avoided telling Woods which role he was offered “because the actor who played the role was magnificent anyway”. It is widely accepted that the role that Tarantino was referring to was Mr. Orange.
David Duchovny auditioned for a part.
According to an interview on the DVD, Michael Madsen says that Kirk Baltz asked to ride in his trunk to experience what it was really like. Madsen agreed, but decided as he went along that this was time for his own character development. So he drove down a long alley with potholes, and then a Taco Bell drive-through before taking Baltz back to the parking lot and letting him out. The soda he ordered at said drive-through is the same one he can be seen drinking during his character’s first appearance in the warehouse.
Mr. Pink’s numerous references to being “professional” are a reference to movie director Howard Hawks, a favorite of Quentin Tarantino’s.
Edward Bunker, a former career criminal, was the youngest felon to be sent to San Quentin. (He was 17.) He was a novelist and also played cons in other films – Runaway Train, The Longest Yard and Straight Time (which was based on his novel) and worked as a technical advisor on others – Heat, for instance. Jon Voight’s character in ‘Heat’ was based on Bunker.