Reservoir Dogs

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Director: Quentin Tarantino.
Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino.
Starring: Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen, Steve Buscemi, Tim Roth, Chris Penn, Lawrence Tierney, Randy Brooks, Kirk Baltz, Eddie Bunker, Quentin Tarantino, Steven Wright.

“Somebody’s stickin’ a red hot poker up our asses and I wanna know who’s name’s on the handle”

Before becoming a cinematic sensation, a young Quentin Tarantino worked in the film rental store Video Archives in Manhattan Beach, and would often recommend little-known titles to customers. On one occasion, he suggested Louis Malle’s Au Revoir Les Enfants, to which the customer mockingly replied, “I don’t want to see no Reservoir Dogs.” And so the title of Tarantino’s blistering debut film was born. It was originally planned as a $30,000 personal film with his friends, before Harvey Keitel showed an interest in the script and came onboard as the star and co-producer which helped hike the budget up to $1.5 million. The rest, as they say, is history. Tarantino had finally made his mark on the movie map and has since become one of the most highly praised directors of his, or any other, generation.

Crime lord Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney) and his son Nice Guy Eddie (Chris Penn) assemble a crew of trusted criminals who they appoint with colour coded aliases to protect their identity: Mr. White, (Harvey Keitel), Orange (Tim Roth), Pink (Steve Buscemi), Blue (Eddie Bunker), Brown (Quentin Tarantino) & Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen). Their plan is simple: rob a jewellery store and make off with the diamonds to a prearranged rendezvous. However, the robbery doesn’t go down well and those that are left alive suspect that they have a police informant amongst them.

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Few debuts have made as much of an impact on cinema goers as Reservoir Dogs. It heralded the arrival of an energetic new writer/director and opened up the floodgates to numerous crime imitations throughout the 90’s. Few, if any, achieved the same impact. However, there were some that criticised Tarantino for being a plagiarist. There were obvious references to films like Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing, John Huston’s The Asphalt Jungle, Joseph Sargent’s The Taking of Pelham 123 and most notably Ringo Lam’s City on Fire. Without a doubt, Tarantino was influenced by these movies but stealing is a very unfair accusation. Now, many years – and several more films down the line – I think it’s fair to say that Tarantino has an extensive film vocabulary and often pays homage to some of his favourite filmmakers. Film knowledge may be deemed esoteric by some but in Tarantino’s case it helped him craft three of the best films from the 1990’s – along with Dogs there was, of course, the highly regarded and award winning Pulp Fiction and the vastly underrated Jackie Brown. And besides the point of plagiarism, it was Tarantino’s dialogue (entirely his own) that received the most praise for it’s true originality. This is where Reservoir Dogs’ strengths lie as whenever his characters talk, it’s fast and natural and the words seem to jump right of the screen. The opening scene alone grabs you from the offset (which you can read or view here in its entirety).

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If it wasn’t for the non-linear, chronology of events it would essentially be a chamber piece. Set largely within the confines of an abandoned warehouse, each character talks through what actually went wrong during their bungled heist. The heist itself is never witnessed as Tarantino decides to focus on the aftermath of the robbery rather than the event itself but it’s the sharp and descriptive dialogue that allows these events to come to life and each of the actors are allowed to spout their words with as much colour and vibrancy as their blood stained shirts.

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There are many highlights amongst the ensemble but the three that stand out the most are the solidly reserved Harvey Keitel (in probably the most underrated and less showy role), a highly-strung and opinionatedly energetic Steve Buscemi and the charismatic psychopath Michael Madsen. If I had any issues with the cast at all, it would be Tim Roth’s tendency to overplay his work. He, by no means, delivers a poor performance but too often over acts and his personal section of the story interrupts an otherwise precisely structured flow. This is a small gripe as Tarantino has a solid handling on the material and executes it with the deftness and skill of a director twice his age. On this evidence alone, his extensive, esoteric knowledge of film certainly paid off.

Heavily influenced by the likes of Martin Scorsese and Brian DePalma, among many others, Tarantino was certainly not the first to use non-linear storylines, Steadicam techniques or distinctive soundtracks but he was a luminary to ambitious young directors that followed and a lot of that came from this breathtaking film that set a whole new benchmark. One critic described Reservoir Dogs as “…a bloody, brash, brilliant heist thriller that grabbed audiences by the lapels and kneed them in the crotch“. I couldn’t have put it any better myself.

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Mark Walker

Trivia: Eddie Bunker (Mr. Blue) was a former career criminal and 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). Steve Buscemi also went to direct “Animal Factory” another of Bunker’s novels. and Bunker worked as a technical advisor on others – “Heat”, for instance. Jon Voight’s character in ‘Heat’ was based on Bunker.

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73 Responses to “Reservoir Dogs”

  1. Mark! How ya doin’ buddy? Good to see you around.

    Great film to pop up with, still one of Tarantino’s best for me.

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    • Hey Bro! I’m good, man! Thought I’d post a little something today since I’ve been absent for so long.

      I wrote this a few weeks back and thought it such a great film to return to blogging with!

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      • Awesome stuff, well I look forward to seeing you around the place mate, although I’m still only a part timer at the moment.

        Sorry to see about the referendum mate, some nasty scenes following it too.

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      • Yeah, I’ll be doing my rounds soon enough. Still not sure how much I want to commit to the blog but I will be a lot more active than I have been.

        Referendum was a shit, mate, and those horrible fascists are a minority in Scotland. For the most part, people were very positive and the streets where alive with enthusiasm and positivity before that. That what I hope to see again!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent review of a solid film Mark!

    Hope that all is going well by you!

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    • Hey Zoe! Cheers! All is well. Thought I’d return to blogging with a classic and try and get a feel for the place again. Need to dust a few cobwebs down and see where it takes me! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • YAAAAY it’s great to see you back here, hopefully some more. Hustle up and get dusting, I miss my Trivia Tidbits! 😀

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      • Haha! I’ve a few more reviews up my sleeve. I might have been away but I was still writing on occasion. Trivia Tidbits will also resume soon enough! Fear not!

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      • 🙂 I am looking forward to more stuff in my reader from you!

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      • I appreciate the support, Zoe. You should start to see more of me now. The Scottish referendum is now over and I have to try and pick myself up from that. Blogging will do nicely!

        Liked by 2 people

      • I was going to ask you how that all went. I saw the majority was a no overall.

        Blogging is a great way to be sure!

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      • It was a No but the fight isn’t over yet. Half the population are fighting for it. Scotland will be Independent one day. It’s not a matter of “if” but “When” 🙂

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      • Yep, seems they aren’t ready to sit back and take it, and that’s really cool! Sounds like you got very involved there!

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      • I was heavily involved. That’s why I took the result so hard. Anyway, we live on to fight again. Scotland has definitely changed. Politics are at the forefront of most people’s minds right now. It’s very positive!

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      • I am so happy to hear that, always nice when things start changing, people become more aware. Do you work in politics or anything like that (if I may ask), or was this just a personal endeavour you undertook?

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      • Entirely a personal endeavour. I was doing it for my kids future and to be rid of a UK govt that doesn’t represent Scotland in the slightest. The shit is about to hit the fan now from Westminster but the Scots seem up for challenging them again! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • I respect that. I am a firm believer in “if you don’t vote, you don’t get to bitch”. Well, here’s wishing you all the best that this all turns around soon enough, for the sake of your kids and Scotland!

        At least you guys have fighting spirit! 🙂

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      • We genuinely feel like we’ve been duped. Well, I seen through their lies and deceit but many others didn’t it would seem. Those that voted against it are now regretting their decision though. The fight goes on!

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      • WHOOP!

        It was a pretty close vote though!

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      • Yeah, it was very close. There’s actually now an investigation into the vote being rigged. Corruption and media bias was rife. 😦

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      • Awwww come on now! That sucks! Corruption’s everywhere, not just here by us 😦

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      • Totally stinks. Ballot papers issued were invalid, meaning people’s votes might not have counted. Postal votes were opened before they should have been, Westminster parties making promises they haven’t delivered and numerous videos on you tube were the votes were either being messed with or mixed up in favour of a No vote. It was rigged, man!

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      • Whoa, and I thought they were bad out here! That’s not even remotely fair. I hope they investigate this and sort it out, set an example for the rest of the world!

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      • Here’s hoping. I’ve been chatting to an American journalist who’s fighting for it and she’s on her way to Scotland next week to raise it further. We only have until the end of the month to appeal though, otherwise we have to accept the result! 😦

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh my goodness, that’s not a lot of time! You guys can do it though I am sure!

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      • It looks unlikely as the police and the electoral commission are trying to bury it. Calling us all conspiracists and liars. Hey ho! Scotland will get its chance again.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. daveackackattack Says:

    This is my favorite Tarantino film. I actually saw Au Revoir Les Enfants (good movie) in the theater in college but I never heard about the naming of Reservoir Dogs. Pretty cool. Everyone picks Pulp Fiction as they’re favorite but I keep coming back to this one. Helluva first feature. Nice write up Mark.

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    • Cheers Dave! I’m slightly swayed towards Pulp Fiction myself but it is a very difficult choice. Dogs is outstanding and I’ve also got a soft spot for the underrated Jackie Brown.

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  4. Hey Mark, nice to see a post from you and always enjoyable to read about such a great film. Some of Tarantino’s best lines are in Reservoir Dogs, and I’m long overdue a re-watch as I haven’t seen it in about a decade. On a side note I watched an old film noir from the 1950s the other day and it had Lawrence Tierney in a starring role. His wallet would have had Bad Motherfucker written on it back then.

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    • Hey Stu! Good to hear from you, man!
      Yeah, I rewatched Dogs on my blogging break and it was as good as I remember. Outstanding film and I’d agree that Tarantino’s best dialogue is to be found here. True Romance is pretty great on that front too, though.

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      • That’s another one I really ought to watch again before too long. Still think of it as a Tarantino film and easy to overlook what a great job Tony Scott did as a result.

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      • Without a doubt Tony Scott’s best film and with a screenplay as good as it was, it would have been hard for anyone to fuck it really. Great movie!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. daveackackattack Says:

    Since Zoe brought it up sorry to hear about the “No” vote. It looked so promising with the polls at the end were appearing to tip in the favor of a Yes vote. It would of been great to see Cameron lose just for being so cocky as to think the Scottish people would just roll over. They really, really don’t want to give up that North Sea oil do they? We seem to have an oil problem too.

    Just curious about your thoughts about giving up the pound. I read that seemed to be a sticking point for people. Is the Euro a viable option or what else is out there?

    I think part of the thing with Pulp Fiction is I can’t stand Bruce Willis and I’m not a big fan of Travolta either. Now Sam Jackson is the man and he really made the movie for me. So that’s kinda where I stand on that.

    If you’re a fan of Tarantino check out the movie Thursday with Thomas Jane. It’s the best Tarantino knock off IMHO.

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    • If you check my comments for Zoe, there was very dubious things going in Dave. The whole thing is being investigated for being rigged. Many Scots are calling for a judicial review or a court order for a revote. Unlikely to happen though.

      People were lied to in their droves. Especially the older population and now instead of the oil lasting 20 years (like they said) it’s now miraculously going to last 120 years. It’s rotten to the core, man!

      I’m not that big on Willis or Travolta either if truth be told but I think it’s two of their best roles. No denying Jackson for sure.

      Haven’t heard of Thursday but I’ll check it out. Thanks for the tip buddy! 🙂

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    • Sorry, I omitted my answer on the pound there Dave but that was never going to happen. That was a threat by Westminster that they couldn’t even carry out. The pound is as much Scotland’s as it is England’s and even if we didn’t continue using it, it would have plummeted the rest of the UK into even more austerity as Scotland would not have been held liable for its share of the UK debt. There’s was no way that was going to happen but the Westminster politicians got their way by frightening a lot of people into thinking so.

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      • daveackackattack Says:

        Oh no problem Mark. I was just curious as I was getting my news online from the BBC, The Times and The Guardian. So take that for what it’s worth. I can remember a graph in there showing the oil running out and how Scotland will become unstable w/o the pound. I guess it was good to see a major metropolitan city like Glasgow support the Yes vote. I will be curious to see if they deliver on the enhanced devolutionary powers that they promised. Then again if they don’t deliver that will only sway voters from the no side. Now that Cameron’s let the cat out of the bag it only seems like a matter of time. Especially with the youth vote being a resounding yes and the unionists dying off.

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      • All of the YES voters in Scotland are boycotting the BBC and many newspapers like the ones you included. They all tried to strike fear into Scots to vote against. The Sunday Herald was the only newspaper that came out in support. I’ve also just recently joined the SNP who have now had a massive increase in new members and they are now the third biggest party in the UK. It’s exciting times. I don’t think Cameron will keep his promise on new powers. If anything he’s already started stripping away money from Scotland and hammering the poor again. I’m telling you, man. It’s far from over. The YES campaigners are now calling themselves “The 45”. It’s a movement to show solidarity with 45% who voted for independence and we’re moving on to try and achieve it again. Scotland has woken up politically.

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  6. Can’t hear Little Green Bag or Stuck in the Middle With You being played without imagining this film. Wonderful appreciation, Mark.

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  7. Nice review Mark, it’s good to have you back again. Your reviews have been missed.

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  8. Indeed sir, great to have you back! I need to send you a link to that post I was bitching and moaning about the other day lol. There’s not much to see but there are a few funny comments. A little snarking at one another is healthy every now and then, no?

    Would you believe I still haven’t seen Reservoir Dogs, though? Terrible. I actually thought Tarantino began with a different film, but indeed this would appear to be it. Must crack into it soon. I’m thinking I should have an entire month dedicated to nailing down all his films. He’s iconic.

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    • Thanks buddy! Feels good to get a post out again, man! Was dragging my heels too much there for a while.

      You haven’t seen this yet? Sacrilege sir! You must get on this. It’s top drawer stuff. Still, without a doubt, one of QT’s best moments.

      By all means, send that link. I’d like to have a little peak at all that snarking 😉

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  9. Hi Mark! Glad you popped back in and gave such a strong review to a strong film. Steve Buscemi was my favorite character. An amazing debut, for sure. The blogosphere wasn’t the same without you.

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  10. Hey Mark! Nice to have you back; and with a classic to boot! A big favourite with yours truly this; the only film I’ve watched at the cinema four times. Don’t be a stranger bro!

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  11. Nice to see you back. An excellent picture for sure and I’m always stunned on how low of a budget Reservoir Dogs was filmed on.

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    • Thanks Charles! I love this movie like many others do and it’s a great example of what can be achieved in film. Money isn’t everything but a great script will take you very far!

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  12. Glad to see you back Mark! Hope you’ll be blogging more. Sorry tho mate, this one is too violent for my feeble nerves, I think the razor torture alone would make me pass out.

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    • It feels good to get back into it again, Ruth. I’ve a few posts already written so I should be around for a little while longer. The problem is getting round everyone else’s posts now.

      Completely understand that this wouldn’t quite be to your tastes but I absolutely love it. One of Tarantino’s best for sure!

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  13. Nice review, Mark. Definitely a classic, and I can’t ever hear “Stuck in the Middle With You” without thinking of this film. Awesome stuff. B)

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  14. I have to echo what le0pard13 and Chris already said. The Stealers Wheel classic “Stuck In The Middle With You” is forever identified with this film. As far as iconic music moments in Tarantino films are concerned, it’s my #3 after ‘Misirlou’ in Pulp Fiction and Cat People (Putting Out Fire) in Inglourious Basterds.

    Great review!

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    • Tarantino certainly knows how to compile great soundtracks doesn’t he. His choice of songs are always spot on. I love “Across 110th St” from Jackie Brown too.

      Cheers Mark!

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  15. Great to see you back Mark. And what a movie to return with! Excellent write up.

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    • Thanks Natalie. I’d been meaning to review Reservoir Dogs for quite some time so without the pressure of blogging all the time, I felt I could tackle it and enjoy it. Fantastic film!

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  16. You’re right, I am happy with this rating!! Still a ritual to watch this at least once every year, superb movie and the soundtrack is regularly played to get my little girl dancing, she loves it 🙂

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    • I told you you’d be happy! It’s one of my favourite films. Top class stuff. Hadn’t seen it in ages, to be honest but it was great to revisit it. Used to dance my socks off to that soundtrack myself on occasion.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Great review. I love Tarantino and this movie, but I admit he rips off whole chunks of other movies especially City on Fire. That said, the dialogue is so unbelievably good and the way that events culminate make it an original twist on derivative material. This is ultimately QT’s greatest gift: presenting us with movies that hearken back to films we enjoy yet somehow making them feel new and innovative. Glad to see you back.

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    • There’s no doubt that QT rips off other movies but I totally agree with you. He makes it his own and brings a new vibrancy to it. Dogs is perfect example of that.
      Cheers Dell, it’s good to be back. Now all I have to do is start visiting others’ sites more. 😉

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  18. jackdeth72 Says:

    Welcome back, Mark:

    It’s great to see you back in the saddle. And with such a choice review!

    What’s cool about ‘Reservoir Dogs’ is Tarantino’s twisty take on the 1960s French New Wave heist film gone bad. Filled with a rogues gallery of tough guys and bad asses (Physical, verbal and otherwise) and giving them the chance to stretch, push limits and romp and play.

    Mood and atmosphere to burn. And a bit ironic. Since most of the premiere offerings of French New Wave were those directors’ takes on earlier U.S. offerings of less than stellar quality.

    Lawrence Tierney quietly rocks as the Headmaster of this School for Wayward Boys! While Buscemi plants and waves his freak flag as one of Hollywood’s grand “Pompous Jerks”. And may be the sole surviving bad guy. Keitel is Keitel in a conflicted, defining role. While Tim Roth and Chris Penn show surprising depth.

    Excellent catches on Trivia, as well!

    Very nicely done!

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    • Thank you Jack. It’s always nice to receive such welcomes.

      I wanted to return with a real favourite of mine and Dogs was always due a revisit and review from me.

      I couldn’t argue with any of then point you make at all. The only (very small) gripe I had was Roth. I found that he tried a little too hard sometimes. Still, his performance, for the most part, was strong.

      Thanks for stopping in, as always, Jack. 🙂

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  19. God damn! Look at all these fucking comments! A successful return indeed!!

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  20. […] wake of the man from Knoxville, Tennessee (and L.A.’s South Bay) efforts. Mark Walker’s review and his look at that now classic opening “Why I don’t tip” scene bear that out. […]

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  21. […] you can imagine Reservoir Dogs remaining completely within its warehouse setting and all the characters adopting a Mexican […]

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