ADSactly Cult Movies: Reservoir Dogs

in #cinemalast year (edited)

When you sit down to watch a Quentin Tarantino movie you know what you’re in for - violence, a lot of it, and, of course, fast-paced action and witty dialogues. However, that applies to today’s movie goers, but things were completely different 27 years ago when a virtually unknown Tarantino presented his debut feature-length movie, ’Reservoir Dogs’.


A small-budget independent movie, ‘Reservoir Dogs’, premiered at the 1992 Sundance Festival and caused quite a shock, on account of its violence and profanity-laden script. The movie got a limited theater release, made a modest profit, as most critics decried the violence, even though praising Tarantino’s otherwise brilliant script. And, of course, the cast. Although it was his debut movie, Tarantion managed to secure the participation of some of Hollywood’s finest actors - Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth and Steve Buscemi. Tarantino also plays in the movie, as one of the gang members.
‘Reservoir Dogs’ is a heist movie, shot in neo-noir style, and reminiscent of many other heist films. Critics have since pointed out that , with this movie, Tarantino honors an established Hollywood tradition. Many other famed directors before him started with a heist movie - from Woody Allen with “Take the Money and Run” to Wes Anderson’s “Bottle Rocket”or Bryan Singer’s “The Usual Suspects”.


“All you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun”is a popular film industry saying. Tarantino goes beyond that - there is no girl in his gang of thieves and, although there’s plenty of guns, the heist itself is not showed on screen. One reason, quoted by the director himself, is insufficient funding, but the real reason is probably that Tarantino didn’t care much about the action part. There were already plenty of other movies presenting bank robberies or jewelry heists. It’s hard to be original about that. So Tarantino focused on the thieves and the complicated relations between them, presented in flash-backs. The film starts with the greater part of characters shrouded in mystery. They don’t even have names, they’re introduced as Mr.White, Mr. Pink or Mr.Orange. Secrecy is essential to the success of the operation, an idea also used decades later by the film-makers behind the hit-series ‘La Casa de Papel’(Money Heist). Instead of colors, the robbers in the Spanish TV show use cities as nicknames: Berlin, Moscow, Tokyo. (Hint: If you haven’t seen ‘La Casa de Papel’, you can find it on Netflix!)


An important part of ‘Reservoir Dogs’ is devoted to exploring what’s behind the masks characters use, how do they relate to one another and the obsessive question of whether there’s a cop among them.
Tarantino impressed the critics with his alert dialogue, not an easy feat considering that there are pretty long scenes with no real action, just talk.
Another thing critics loved is Tarantino’s mastery behind the camera.

There is not a single dull shot in the movie, from the opening scene continuously circulating the breakfast club, to the slow-mo Wild Bunch credit sequence, to the brilliant pan-away during the cutting of the ear (…) There’s a method to Tarantino’s style; every frame is calculated and every line of dialogue serves to set the action in motion. The film never slows down, and Tarantino makes great use of dozens of long tracking shots.”

One of the questions that’s been bugging me is how does one unknown would-be writer and would-be actor get to make such a movie and the answer is luck. Originally, Tarantino wanted to shoot the movie in black-and-white on a small budget ($30,000), with his friend Lawrence Bender playing the part of a cop. It was Bender who gave the script to his drama teacher, whose wife happened to be friends with Harvey Keitel. The actor liked it so much he helped Tarantino secure funding for his project and convinced Steve Buscemi to agree to play in the movie.

Reunited, 25 years later, at the Tribeca Film Festival

Many of the movie’s loyal fans only discovered‘Reservoir Dogs’ after Tarantino’s next film, the 1994 ’Pulp Fiction’, another neo-noir crime movie, which turned out to be the director’s first box-office hit.
‘Pulp Fiction’ got seven Oscar nominations and Tarantino won the Best Original Screenplay. Obviously, people got curious to see his previous works, there was a surge in interest for ‘Reservoir Dogs’ which became a cult movie,mostly thanks to home-video.
Oddly enough, before becoming a film-maker, Tarantino actually worked in a video-rental store. Legend has it the title of the movie came from one client who wanted to rent out Louis Malle ‘s movie‘Au revoir les enfants’, but mispronounced the first words as ‘reservoir’.
The film industry has changed a lot since Tarantino’s debut and Tarantino did his part to change it. In 1992, some walked out of the theaters after the ear-cutting scene. Today we’ve grown accustomed to seeing much more gore on a regular basis and nobody blinks an eye. Tarantino is also credited with using pop-culture references in his scripts. In his opinion, movie characters talked to much about the plot.

“Most of us don’t talk about the plot in our lives. We talk all around things. We talk about bullshit.”

No wonder that, caught up in the midst of a heist gone terribly wrong, the gang members in “Reservoir Dogs” end up talking about Pam Grier, Silver Surfer comics, Madonna lyrics or Aerosmith.
According to many film critics, “Reservoir Dogs may just be the best heist film made in the ’90s and arguably, Tarantino’s best film.”

Post authored by @ladyrebecca.

References: 1, 2.

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I must confess that I have not seen the film, I prefer the more romantic films, however my husband is a fan of Tarantino and his films, and I have some references to them when he tells me. I really liked the synthesis you made of Tarantino's work in this very well-developed post. Thank you for sharing it.

Maybe you should give Trantino a try, too... :)

Tarantino in one of my favorites! And it just happened as you say: first I saw 'Pulp Fiction' and then I was curious about his previous work. "Reservoir Dogs" is not one of my favorites, but I recognize its value within Tarantino's cinema, who, as you say, has the fame of being a pioneer in the use of pop culture references in his scripts. Another of the things Tarantino is famous for is filming in record time and economizing as much as possible by repeating very few shots. "Reservoir Dogs" was shot in 35 days. Quite a record, although he must also have thought about the poor budget. Greetings and thanks for this post, @ladyrebecca.

I don't know... I find Reservoir Dogs more memorable than other Tarantino movies, but then I do have a poor memory :))

I don't know if Reservoir Dogs is Tarantino's best movie, but it is certainly a must-see.
I think that Tarantino must be the only director whose movies are actually numbered and anticipated like the Harry Potter books were.
I think sometimes he goes over the board with violence (The Hateful Eight), but we can't deny the artistry behind every movie.
I am looking forward to watching Once upon a time in Hollywood

Yes, I'm looking forward to seeing his latest movie... I'm curios what he makes of the Sharon Tate murder and how it fits in with the other characters in the movie.

There is no doubt that Tarantino is one of the most irreverent and controversial American filmmakers. That's why the positions of viewers and critics are often disparate. In some cases, they even provoke the rejection of their productions. I understand that it is not easy to assimilate their violence, which can sometimes be a little gratuitous. With Tarantino it happens, as with some other filmmakers, that beyond its character of action cinema, dynamic, what can make it "entertaining", his films are a constant homage to his favourite cinema (Italian western, thriller, war cinema, etc.), and in this sense a wink to the spectator and his skills.
Reservoir Dogs is a debut according to what will become his work and career, and hence its importance. With the limitation of not having been able to see his last two films, my preference remains for Pulp Fiction. Not so much because of its history, but because of the self-representative and metafictional game, with the incorporation of renewing elements in the cinematographic art.
Grateful for your good post, @ladyrebecca.

it is not easy to assimilate their violence, which can sometimes be a little gratuitous.

You're probably right, but on the other hand it might be that even watching a violent movie is somewhat liberating. After all, we all carry around a lot of stress and we cannot afford to act out our frustrations...

Thanks for the review.

Ironically, I acquired the DVD a couple of years ago, but have yet to watch the film. I'll make it a point now.

I have a love/hate thing with Tarantino's films, and while I love his pop culture and cinematic references, along with his excellent grasp of film history, too often the violence crosses over into being entirely gratuitous in my opinion.

As an example, while I loved Pulp Fiction, and consider it to be a fine piece of filmmaking, I considered the film Hostel to be ultra violent trash with few, if any, redeeming qualities.

That said, I'm very much looking forward to seeing Once Upon A Time . . . in Hollywood, both because I grew up in an L.A. suburb near where the story takes place, and because I saw a short interview with Tarantino and Leonardo DiCaprio on the making of the film.

One of the (many) actors on whom Tarantino based DiCaprio's character was Pete Duel, aka Pete Deuel, who starred in the buddy western series Alias Smith and Jones, which was loosely based on the film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Tarantino had been a huge fan of the series growing up, as were my sister and I, and he was very affected when Duel, at age 31 and at the height of his fame, took his own life.

DiCaprio is too young to remember the series, but he agreed that, once he delved into Duel's work and life, along with the rest of the reference material that Tarantino gave him, it gave him a much better handle on how to play the character.

Looks to be one hell of a ride, and somewhat less violent than Tarantino's usual fare.

Of course, Sharon Tate is a neighbor in the film, soooooo . . .

Thanks for providing some context for his latest movie... I've read some reviews of the European premiere, but I didn't know it was based on real persons... except for Sharon Tate, of course!

Classic!!!!! One of my top 10 gangster films

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Cool.... I'd say it's in my Top 10, too!

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