Last week, I decided to start a new blogging project: reviewing some of the films on my “movie bucket list.” I’ve been keeping track of movies people have recommended to me and classics I haven’t seen, and one of the first items on my list was a film by Quentin Tarantino. I must confess that yes, I hadn’t ever watched a Tarantino film, and as a movie buff, I thought that was pretty much inexcusable. 😉 The majority of people I asked recommended I start with Tarantino’s first movie, “Reservoir Dogs.”
Tarantino is one of our generation’s most distinctive directors; he’s known for creating smart, hyper-violent films with an emphasis on dialogue, and I was excited about seeing my first Tarantino film. (Note: This blog will contain quite a few spoilers about the movie.)
“Reservoir Dogs” is a dark, sometimes disturbing, crime thriller with touches of what was to become Tarantino’s trademark black humor. The film follows a team of criminals who are hired to pull off a diamond heist. However, things end up going badly, and the criminals find a group of cops waiting for them. The criminals quickly deduce one of them must be a police informant, but they can’t figure out who.
Since this was my first Tarantino film, I tried to pay extra close attention to Tarantino’s choices as a film maker, observing how he started forming his signature style. Tarantino is known for his dialogue, and this is definitely a dialogue-heavy film. The movie opens with an extended sequence at a diner, with the characters all sitting around swapping stories. This gives viewers a quick snapshot of who the characters are and what roles they will play in the film. The mood is often tense in the movie, but Tarantino uses dialogue to work in flashes of humor.
Characters also are important to Tarantino, but he chooses to reveal their personalities and motivations slowly. The story is told in a non-linear style; Tarantino jumps back and forth in time, telling a good portion of the story through flashbacks. It took me a bit to adjust to this format, but I think this style choice gives the big twist — the revelation of which criminal is an undercover cop — more impact. It’s also interesting that you don’t see the heist itself.
My favorite characters were Mr. White and Mr. Orange (the criminals go by code names to protect their identities), played by Harvey Keitel and Tim Roth. Mr. Orange is revealed to be the idealistic undercover cop, and Mr. White is the criminal that befriends him. I liked the complex relationship between the two characters. At the end, Mr. White sacrifices himself to prevent Mr. Orange from being shot, even though Mr. Orange is already dying from severe wounds. I think Mr. White had more of a conscience than the other criminals (even though he may not have admitted it), and he recognized that Mr. Orange was a good man. I also liked the always-funny Steve Buscemi’s portrayal as Mr. Pink.
Tarantino doesn’t shy away from violence, another trademark of his movies. There’s a rather disturbing torture scene in the middle of the film; though the camera cuts away before we see the worst of it, it’s still unsettling. Tarantino uses this scene to reveal how dangerous and psychopathic one of the criminals, Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen), really is.
Although I think I’ll probably end up liking some of Tarantino’s other films better, I’m glad I started with his first movie so I can use it as a comparison when I watch his later films. I’m hoping to come back to “Pulp Fiction,” arguably Tarantino’s best-known film, after going through some of the other movies on my bucket list.
Next up on the bucket list, “National Lampoon’s Vacation”! 🙂