Wednesday, November 23, 2011
#243: Reservoir Dogs
Quentin Tarantino has said in quite a few interviews that the thought to make a heist movie first came to him when he was working in his DVD rental store. Looking up the column of heist movies, it occurred to him that it had been a while since anyone made a heist movie and that set him about thinking what a good screenplay in this genre might entail. I guess he first went about sketching a good set of characters, weaving a desperate angle for each of them to get motivated to be a part of the heist and then let things go horribly wrong and see if things resolve themselves. Some say, he simply copied Ringo Lam's City of Fire. Whatever that source have been, the point is, did he make it work ? The answer to that is "Oh hell fucking yeah!" ( This is a Reservoir Dogs review. Can't do without it!)
Reservoir Dogs is the story of a bunch of guys out to take out a bank. Someone comes up with idea in the group that they should be named after colors so we have Mr. White, Mr. Brown, Mr. Blue, Mr. Blonde, Mr. Pink and Mr. Blue. And while they're going about discussing who gets what color, you sitting across the other end of the screen watching these guys sip coffee think, 'What a cool bunch of guys...'. Well, Reservoir Dogs is bathed in cool from start to finish. There are cool dialogues, cool characters, cool insults and cool bosses. What's not cool is that there's a suspected mole among the men. But then that is also the trick QT has up his sleeve till the very end. The movie, practically half of which is shot in a warehouse hinges on the audience guessing who is the mole.
Apart from a slick sequence of the bank robbery, Reservoir Dogs derives most of its brilliance from the work of three key men - Steve Buscemi, Harvey Keitel and Michael Madsen. Between the rational and statemanly Keitel and the panicking Buscemi lies the calm but maniacal act by Madsen. The three jostle for the audience attention and while Keitel and Buscemi get your sympathy, Madsen provides the shock value. The editing by Sally Menke is razor-sharp in a non-linear narrative and Tarantino is not only controlling the key moments of the story but keeping the energy levels really high through the movie. Roger Avary his co-screenwriter is due his credit for making some scenes leap out of the screen with their latent intensity in this 1992 Cannes Palm D'Or winner.
Reservoir Dogs is my go-to movie in times of depression, anger and happiness. I can watch it any number of times and I know loads of people like me who think the same. Most filmmakers in their lifetime don't get to make a film as emphatically outstanding as this. Tarantino got it right with his first. That's the genius of the man.