*Warning some of the quotes in this movie review contain explicit language*
Initial release: October 23, 1992 (USA)
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Running time: 1h 39m
Budget: 1.2 million USD
Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino, Roger Avary
Starring: Lawrence Tierney, Michael Madsen, Tim Roth, Harvey Keitel and Steve Buscemi
What happens when there’s a rat amongst a group of eight acquaintances performing a diamond heist? It goes south that’s what. The question is, when two are presumed dead and another is lying on the floor of the rendezvous warehouse bleeding to death, how do the others react? Everyman for himself or strength in unity? Reservoir Dogs, the heist movie without a heist, is the brilliant directorial debut from Quintin Tarantino about the trials and tribulations of masculinity and loyalty.
“It's about some cooze who's a regular fuck machine. I mean all the time, morning, night, afternoon, dick dick dick dick dick dick dick dick, dick!”
“How many dicks is that?”
This script is ballsy; ballsy but brilliant. The movie opens to eight guys drinking coffee in a diner dressed to the hilt in black suits and ties with crisp white shirts. Despite the clothes being suave, the men wearing them are anything but and this is clear from the very first line. “Like a Virgin is all about a girl who digs a guy with a big a dick. The whole song is a metaphor for big dicks.” The conversation continues in a similar vein. As the conversation flows the camera traverses the circle of acquaintances. Showing us shots through the gaps in the bodies, moving back and forth, the camera mimics the conversation highlighting the intricacies of each character. Despite this scene being most recognised as the one in which Steve Buscemi , playing Mr Pink, exclaims “Uh-huh, I don’t tip,” while great, this part isn’t even in my top three favourite things about the scene. With racist, sexist and homophobic slurs a plenty the seemingly innocuous discussion of the hidden meaning behind a Madonna song has a way of acting as a looking glass into the state of American Masculinity in the early nineties but it still applies twenty-three years later. One of the brilliant things about Tarantino’s early work is just how grounded and realistic the dialogue is. If you were to go down to almost any pub and find a group of guys talking, you wouldn’t be surprised to hear them having a conversation cut from the same cloth. Not only is the conversation real and human, it is incredibly revealing of the individual characters and the moral code with which they stand by, foreshadowing the events that will unfold.
With a script brilliantly grounded in realism Tarantino somehow finds a way to subtly tie in a great soundtrack without distraction or disruption. Throughout the whole movie we hear talk of “K Billy’s Super Sounds of the Seventies” followed by the radio broadcasting bringing music into the movie, not in the background like most other directors choose to do, but in the foreground, acting as part of the story itself . It’s this mechanism that makes the movie realistic, and subsequently relatable. We are not watching a fantasy with music bursting out manipulating our emotions subversively, we’re watching a story of masculinity, of male bravado, of friendship and one in which music plays a big role. It also creates one of the most iconic and horrifying scenes to grace the big screen. Without trying to give away too much information this scene, involving a classic seventies track and a missing ear, causes most to turn away from the screen (a friend of mine genuinely leaves the room for this part) but for some, including me, the scene induces laughter, laughter at just how utterly brilliant it is.
Brilliantly written, brilliantly directed and brilliantly acted.
It was Tarantino himself that said “don’t go to film school, go to film” and what better film to learn from.
Five stars, an absolute must watch.