Reservoir Dogs was Quentin Tarantino’s directorial debut and key aspects in the film are tropes that run throughout his filmography. Music and the soundtracks for his films are key components that give them their character, and the songs in Reservoir Dogs are no exception. While the opening of the film felt slow, with muffled conversations, the pace of the film drastically picks up after the opening credits. Tarantino plunges the viewer into the action with an unexpected cut to Mr. Orange (Tim Roth) bleeding out and wailing in the back of a car. Reservoir Dogs is a film about a heist that goes terribly wrong. The focus therein lies in the criminals attempts to uncover the truth.
Predominantly set in a warehouse, the space means that the focus is on the characters and their state of mind. Through their body language, walk and dominance of the space the characters show their thought process: Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi) is constantly pacing around. The way the film is framed adds to this as wide shots are used often to highlight the characters sense of being trapped in the space and not knowing what to do. Using a wide shot and showing the characters scattered in the space shows their individuality, differing perspectives and agendas. The characters clash constantly in the film and the use of space in the film heightens this sense of conflict and drama.
While the film is mainly set in the warehouse, there are cut scenes to events surrounding the heist, such as characters escaping when things go badly. The film is edited such that context and depth are given to characters through flashbacks. This occurs a few times to show when Joe (Lawrence Tierney) recruited the members for the job. Time jumps help progress the story and the fact that the heist itself is not shown adds intricacies and nuance to the storyline as the viewer never sees those events unfold and consequently only has the characters’ dialogue to interpret.
The film has an amazing cast, and I found Tim Roth (Mr. Orange), Harvey Keitel (Mr. White) and Michael Madsen (Mr. Blonde) to be outstanding in their roles. The relationships between the characters and their dynamics was an integral part of the story and what makes it fascinating, as there is a range of different connections. Some characters have known each other for a long period of time and there is a loyalty there, while others have only come together for this job. How the characters interact feels grounded and genuine. They jest with each other but are also quick to turn on each other when things go sideways.
Some of the characters in the film do repeatedly use the ‘n’ word and personally it didn’t feel necessary, yet the film is a period of intense emotion and conflict due to the failings of the heist and therefore it feels realistic that some of these criminals would use that language. Adding to this, the film has no female voice, and there are many instances in which women are objectified by men in crude and sexual ways. But once again it works in the context of the film, and what the film is trying to achieve in terms of focusing on the thieves and the fallout of the situation.
Intertwined in these moments of intensity are scenes of violence and sadistic torture. Michael Madsen (Mr. Blonde) inflicting horrific pain while dancing to ‘Stuck in the Middle with You’ creates a tone prevalent in much of Tarantino’s work, in which characters are removed from the brutality that they commit.
Reservoir Dogs has great acting and a captivating plot with characters, that while criminal, have a certain charm about them that intrigues you. Tarantino’s style and the comedic elements of his writing add to the fabric of the film.