Reservoir Dogs (United States, 1992)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

Reservoir Dogs grabs you by the throat and digs its claws in deep. From the moment that the unwitting viewer tumbles into the realm of Lawrence Tierney's gang of eight, they are hopelessly trapped there until the final credits roll. As the first outing for actor/director/ writer Quentin Tarantino, this is a triumph, displaying all the marks of a longtime virtuoso of the genre.

A jewelry store robbery has gone wrong - badly wrong - for the thieves. One member of the gang is dead, and several are missing. The survivors, including Mr. White (Harvey Keitel), Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi), and a critically-injured Mr. Orange (Tim Roth), are holed up in a warehouse, trying to figure out how to salvage the situation. Dissention and suspicion run high, as White and Pink discuss the possibility of a traitor in their midst, and the tension escalates when Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) shows up with a little surprise in the trunk of his car.

The cast, which includes Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, and Michael Madsen, is first-rate, and the parts the actors have to play are fully fleshed out. Tarantino invests each member of his group with a unique and multi-faceted personality. Not content with stereotypes, the writer/director digs deeper, bringing out the humanity in even someone as viciously sadistic and reprehensible as Mr. Blonde. To go along with the characters is a surprising plot, filled with wonderful little twists and turns, and pervaded throughout by the sense of not knowing what's around the corner. The non-chronological manner in which the story is told is confusing at first, but everything eventually sorts itself out.

Tarantino's directing influences, from John Woo to Martin Scorsese, are all in evidence, and their synthesis creates a high-voltage style that's entirely his own. The writing is crisp and clean, providing line after line of snappy dialogue designed to leave the viewer alternately pondering and laughing aloud. The gallows humor and dark comedy are among many of Reservoir Dogs' defining elements. This is one of those rare motion pictures that's both intelligent and visceral at the same time.

Highly recommended with one caveat: those who are squeamish about blood should be wary. While the gore in this film isn't gratuitous, there's a great deal of it, and one particular torture scene is chillingly and vividly depicted. Gripping and gut-wrenching, Reservoir Dogs is likely to stay with you for a long time.

Reservoir Dogs (United States, 1992)

Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen, Steve Buscemi, Tim Roth, Lawrence Tierney, Christopher Penn, Quentin Tarantino
Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino
Cinematography: Andrzej Sekula
U.S. Distributor: Miramax Films
Run Time: 1:36
U.S. Release Date: -
MPAA Rating: "R" (Violence, Profanity)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1