Quentin Tarantino is one of Hollywood’s favourite and most nerdy directors. From humble beginnings as a video store clerk and film student, he is now one considered one of the American greats. He made his directorial debut with Reservoir Dogs which, when released, was met with a lukewarm reception. After the successful release of Pulp Fiction, interest in Reservoir Dogs increased and it garnered its own following (including yours truly). Having never seen the film up on the big screen before, I was excited to see it over at George St Cinemas thanks to the peeps at In the House. I walked over to the cinema… in slow motion and to the soundtrack of ‘K-Billy’s Super Sounds of the Seventies’.
MCs David ‘Quinny’ Quinn and Anthony Kierann warmed up the audience before the screening. Anthony decided that it was a good idea at this point to try out his new selfie stick and take self portrait… with the whole audience. Quinny brought some semblance of order back to the theatre by running a very fast game of ‘rock, scissors, paper’ with speed boating tickets as a prize. They then sat down to talk a bit behind-the-scenes trivia of Reservoir Dogs. They mentioned how, for his first directing gig, Tarantino was able to garner extra cash for the production when Harvey Keitel joined the production after reading and really liking the script. Another tidbit which stuck (da dum tsch) was that at the end of shoot days; Tim Roth would need to be cut off the set as the fake blood the production used would harden and trap him to the floor.
The film starts us off in a diner with bank robbers eating breakfast and making small talk before a diamond heist. All six of them use aliases to refer to each other and we learn their names as Mr Blonde (Michael Madsen), Mr Blue (Edward Bunker), Mr Brown (Tarantino), Mr Orange (Tim Roth), Mr Pink (Steve Buscemi), and Mr White (Keitel) alongside mob boss Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney) and his son; Eddie Cabot (Chris Penn). The dialogue is classic Tarantino as the chit-chat between the characters is frenetic, funny, and engaging. Like Seinfeld, but with more focus upon large phalluses and Madonna.
It then cuts to after the heist, where Mr White is driving a bleeding Mr Orange to the rendezvous point in an empty warehouse. As more of the original robbers arrive, they slowly piece together the events of what went wrong and suspicions begin to arise that one of them is in fact selling them out to the cops. Tensions rise, tempers flare, and guns are pointed as they attempt to deduce who among them is the rat.
The story is surprisingly simple in its narrative beats. The robbers have breakfast, attempt the robbery (which we don’t actually see), and then we cut to them coming to together at the warehouse. Tarantino messes around with the film’s chronology by throwing in flashbacks to how some of the characters were picked to join the team. This helps to break up the action and gives the audience time to learn about each of these characters in a more laid back/less gun-filled setting. This intercutting between the present and past creates an interesting pace which helps keep things interesting.
The performances from the actors is also top-notch with some pretty big names finding their way into what was ostensibly an indie film production. Keitel does very well as the veteran crook Mr White and his chemistry with Roth is great as we see the two characters get extremely close as the film progresses. Roth does very well in his role too, even if it largely involved oscillating between the panicked screaming and lying unconscious in a pool of his own blood. Buscemi does well as Mr Pink and he brings a frenetic and neurotic energy to the character which foils well with the respective wisdom and psychopathy of White and Blonde.
Madsen stands out in the film as the sadistic Mr Blonde. His cool demeanour and good looks make a wonderful juxtaposition to the horrific acts he commits in the film. I remember the first time I saw his scene with the captured police officer and having my jaw hit the floor. Tarantino has a way of writing and pacing which means the film can go from humorous small talk to full-blown ultra-violence in the space of a minute. If you are one who is squeamish at the thought of blood and violence, then it might be best if you skip Reservoir Dogs… and every other Tarantino movie while you’re at it.
Most of Tarantino’s direction in this film works to support the excellent performances he gets out of his actors. There are some moments where he does interesting editing and produces some interesting shots such as with Mr Orange’s anecdote about encountering cops in the bathroom. Although there is plenty of blood to go around in this film, there are certainly moments where Tarantino is (relatively) restrained. For instance, in the aforementioned Mr Blonde torture scene, the camera pans away just as the violence reaches a gory crescendo. The audience is instead allowed to hear what is happening which, if you’re someone who has as active an imagination, is probably a lot worse than actually showing the gruesome bits unfold onscreen… although having seen Tarantino’s body of work I can say that it probably couldn’t be much worse.
The soundtrack for this film is rightfully renowned for its track list composed of songs from three decades of American pop music (but mainly focusing on the 70s). Almost all the music which is played in the film is diegetic with a radio always playing a song or other in the background. The in-universe radio show which the characters are shown repeatedly listening to is ‘K-Billy’s super sounds of the 70s’ and by the Nine Divines I am disappointed that we don’t have a radio personality that matches the dulcet tones of Steven Wright’s deadpan voice.
This is a great film which deserves to be seen up on the big screen by any self-respecting cinephile. The dialogue is rapid fire and sharp with copious amounts of profanity and humour to match the gritty setting. Tarantino’s direction supports the strong performances that each of his actors give and he does produce an interesting sequence or two. The soundtrack is rightly notorious for the way that Tarantino combines light pop with the gritty themes of the film. It’s a fun, eclectic, and absolutely engaging crime film which I immensely enjoyed. Kudos to Tarantino and kudos to In the House for screening it!
For other films which In The House is screening, feel free to check out their schedule here.
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