Concise Review: Reservoir Dogs (1992)

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At his best Quentin Tarantino provides fascinating interpretations of schlocky and often overlooked genre fare. No where is this more apparent than in his 1992 directorial debut, Reservoir Dogs. The premise of the picture suggests that it is a heist film. However, it plays like a trashy exploitation film combined with the depth and richness of an engrossing crime drama. The genre synthesis is rewarding as it gives rise to an interesting theme that Tarantino revisits through the course of his career.

Tarantino loves grappling with the idea of people taking on a persona. Essentially, the film is a meditation on the nature of how one acts during a crime. All the characters are assigned code names while additionally being provided with strict instructions on their conduct and what they cannot reveal to their colleagues. Part of the drama and tension comes from how the characters deal with these rules. For example, Mr. White (Harvey Keitel) chooses to his disclose his first name to bleeding and close to death Mr. Orange (Tim Roth). Whereas, Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi) chooses to stay professional in the face of escalating problems, in the aftermath of the diamond robbery.

The one objection that could be raised against the picture is in its filmmaking. The film can be accused of being stagey, but Tarantino employs interesting uses of close-ups, 360-degree angles shots and scene transitions that counter this potential problem. There is no doubt that the film lives by its screenplay, in a way that few other films do. The coherency of the script is commendable, and its plot developments and twists are sublime. It is a picture that marked a new voice in independent cinema and it remains an important call to arms picture, which reinforces Tarantino’s obsession with the self-constructed and appointed persona.

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About Sartaj Govind Singh

Notes from a distant observer: “Sartaj is a very eccentric fellow with a penchant for hats. He likes watching films and writes about them in great analytical detail. He has an MA degree in Philosophy and has been known to wear Mickey Mouse ears on his birthday.”
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