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RESERVOIR DOGS, 1992
Movie Review

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RESERVOIR DOGS MOVIE POSTER
RESERVOIR DOGS, 1992
Movie Reviews

Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Chris Penn, Steve Buscemi
Review by Anthony Suen



SYNOPSIS:

After a failed jewel heist, eight seasoned criminals find themselves doubting each otherís intentions when suspicions arise as to how they were discovered so quickly.

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REVIEW:

Reservoir Dogs, for a film at its time, was revolutionary and unconventional; two words that can describe Quentin Tarantino as well. While his direction may not be the absolute best in the business, his films are never predictable or tacky. He brings a fresh, new, and distinct style to the movies. When watching a Tarantino film, an educated viewer can point out that itís a Tarantino film within the first three minutes. Reservoir Dogs, being his first film, is the perfect exemplar of this distinct filmmaking style. It makes for an undoubtedly immersive experience, and is a unique take on caper movies past and present. While itís not his most famous, it is still worth the watch.

The non-linear plot is surprisingly easy to follow, mostly due to the simplicity of the charactersí situation and the ensemble cast. Throughout the movie, flashbacks give crucial information about characters in a fitting style, and the actual timeline unfolds in only a few hours. The plotís time clock (in the storyís present day) is almost accurate with the screen time the film has. It follows eight professional robbers before and after a failed jewel heist, where they question the cause of the immediate response of the police. Tensions flare and suspicions arise, plus unsettling twists and intimidating angles that make this film a very peculiar thing to witness.

The beginning sequence in the film is (I think) one of the most compelling series of shots in modern cinematic history. It is, of course, early proof of Tarantinoís unchanging style throughout his years. We are immediately introduced to all the characters, eight middle-aged men sipping coffee and smoking cigars in a bright, welcoming diner. The cast consists of incredible actors, including Tim Roth, Harvey Keitel, Steve Bucsemi and Michael Madsen among others. With such an exclusive setting, the characters are what make the story escalate to what it does. Most of the movie is talking, but Tarantinoís narrative style allows for the dialogue to further thicken both plot and character development in a way that truly complements the climax. With these characters introduced, the curiosity starts to begin, and the audience is forced to wonder why eight middle-aged men are drinking coffee and smoking cigars in a diner wearing black suits and ties.

Tarantino doesnít answer the question immediately, but more so flaunts an answer to the audience. He sparks the curiosity and then builds upon it, which is a plus in incorporating a non-linear plot. With most non-linear plots, it can either confuse the audience or draw them in, and Tarantino successfully does it with Reservoir Dogs, not only drawing me in, but pushing the story forward because of it. With each occurrence happening in the storyís present day, we try piece together the events that happened prior, with the help of effective dialogue and convenient flashbacks. It especially works here because he takes his idea of not showing the main plot point in the movie (the actual heist) and forms everything around it instead. On paper it would be strange, borderline ridiculous to omit the main part of your movie, but on screen it makes for amazing Tarantino cinema.

While this film may not be as notorious as Pulp Fiction, it has its moments of overtly violent and gritty sequences, and the Tarantino style of storytelling that has survived with him today. One of the most iconic scenes I found in this film, one being the extremely graphic, thought not gory or ultraviolent torture scene of a capture police officer, the other being a particularly effective slow-motion walking shot during the opening credits. Mr. Blondeís (Micheal Madsen) psychopathic nature reveals itself, and the ear-cutting shot, though off-screen, while make you shift in your seat. Rarely does this film give you periods of recuperation from the endless character tension, and this particular scene keeps you rooted down (though many viewers during the original screenings walked out because of this scene). Itís Tarantinoís way of capturing the audience and keeping them within his grasp for as long as the film seems fit, and in this one, youíll have to sit and wait till the end for the events to unfold. The other iconic shot, which represents the movie in most pop culture images, rarely works even today. Slow-motion walking is a tacky thing to do, though Tarantino couples it with a catchy song by The George Baker Selection. As well as the way he incorporates it with the credits, it makes for a pleasant accompaniment to the otherwise unpleasant film.

With this all being said, it still wonít beat the fame of his later masterpiece. If this film was Tarantinoís experiment, then Pulp Fiction is its finished product. Not to say this film is not great, itís quite the experience to watch. You can feel the tension coming off all the characters, and each event that fuels the other hits us repeatedly. Itís basically a non-stop, high-voltage cinematic jig-saw puzzle. We wait to see whoís who, and we ultimately end up feeling a sense of closure, yet slightly shell-shocked from its conclusion. The film begins and ends with thought provoking scenes, and much of the dialogue provides witty and effective commentary. The flashbacks coupled with the non-linear plot make for a great structure. The absence of close-ups and the incorporation with many still shots and slow-moving dollies contrast well with the snappy character interaction and the dramatic stand-offs. Technically, this film has Tarantino written all over it, as it is meant to be.

Iíd recommend this to anyone who enjoys caper movies in general, or is already a fan of Tarantino. If youíve watched Pulp Fiction, this is a great follow up. Being in the same canon universe as where Pulp Fiction occurs is a plus. Itíd make plenty of sense to watch these two together, as both are filled with thick plots and the same kind of run-and gun violence you can find in action, with the slightly exaggerated and unique characters that keep it interesting. Reservoir Dogs is an all-around classic, and like any Tarantino film, you wonít see anything quite like it again.

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