Reservoir Dogs (1992)

imageQuentin Tarantino directs Harvey Kietel, Steve Buscemi and Michael Masden in this independent heist goes wrong thriller.

As calling cards go this is a bold declaration of intent and showcase of talent. The script pops with great exchanges. Its overwhelming distinctive-for-1992 quality netted quite the cast of then unappreciated talents and eye catching faces. There’s never been quite such a well-acted, low-budget genre film. Tarantino’s direction lurks and lingers on these good performances, let’s them shine. And his tricksy structure allows him to slice off as much cliché  as possible so there is rarely a dull moment unless he is purposefully luxuriating in the every day (killing time at breakfast, the washing of hands, stalking Mr Blonde out to his car and back). These mundane pauses, pregnant with threat, before the debates, fights and violence escalate show an author in complete control of pace, character and audience, rather than a one trick pony who merely knows the right movies to sample and the best way to make cool characters sound even cooler. Now having said all that, and it should be obvious I am a Tarantino fanboy, this is not a perfect experience. The various Misters and Nice Guy might be well defined in dynamic but they all do speak in that same voice, with the same concerns and same obscure cultural touchstones. It wouldn’t be until Inglorious Basterds that QT would be comfortable creating dialogue for characters who didn’t spraff away in his unmistakable Tarantino rhythm and argot. And as iconic a piece as it has become, Dogs is not quite Goodfellas or not nearly Pulp Fiction. There no real depth to it, it is a little too tightly wound to exist beyond what is seen and heard. As a writer/director doing loop de loops and nose dives for the spectators, it feels like a practice run and therefore doesn’t quite marvel and charm and thoroughly impress as those outright classics. In fact, by credits roll I felt the more throwaway, derivative types of Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead or 2000’s Ocean’s Eleven now prove more satisfying repeat view capers to these modern eyes. Once you know the secrets and solved the tricks there is very little to it but some funny, hip back and forths – Reservoir Dogs works best nowadays as a very sick comedy… a morgue set farce. But the imperfect debut’s importance cannot be understated; without this no Tarantino, no none of those other rip off films that followed in its wake either. Like Mean Streets, it may have seen better days but it’s scrappy energy and smart experimentation kicked the hatch open so some absolute classics could then escape. Reservoir Dogs dug tunnels like Charlie Bronson.

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