Reservoir Dogs (1992) is the directorial debut of Quentin Tarantino, focusing on a mob heist. Tarantino appears on-screen alongside Michael Madsen, Tim Roth and Harvey Keitel as six criminals, all with pseudonyms and strangers to each other, are caught by the police and the gang are forced to shoot their way out. Realising that one of the gang is a traitor, they must figure out who caught them.
As a film that features murder, crimes and gangs, you better have strong action and believable gun fights showcased, and this film does that. The action is gritty, the violence looks real and you truly get to see the harsh realities of violence like this, with several bloody deaths involved. The stakes are real with this film, and you never feel at ease for a moment as you know something brutal is always arising.
It is clear that right from his directorial debut, Tarantino knows how to make a film. The editing is sharp is distinctive, having a clear voice but also using techniques that many other directors would avoid, such as non-linear story telling. The framing throughout the film is superb, and each shot feels important and well done. It really is a beautifully made film to watch. It is also superb that most of this is achieved in a single location of the warehouse, a setting that is so barren yet fills the entire screen.
What was shocking about this film to me, going in for a first watch, is that Reservoir Dogs is really a piece on character studies. I did not expect there to be this much dialogue dragging the film, and it will highly benefit from a re-watch to understand all of the character’s motives. It’s a little overwhelming at times how much personality is shown on screen at the same time, and some characters do come off a little bit cliché for my liking. What sells these characters are the acting, which is superb right from the start. It is over the top, dramatic and loud, and it was great.
I know that several of Tarantino’s films are comedies, but I did not expect this one to have that sort of humour in it. It was balanced very well amongst the dramatic moments, and were mainly used to elevate the character development throughout the story. The “Stuck In The Middle With You” moment is something I have seen floating around the Internet for years, yet questioned how it would work in the situation. Yet, the music choices worked alongside the tone of the film and also helped elevate the visuals alongside it.
This is a very simple story, and whilst it is told excellently through the acting and the narrative, it does feel repetitive and overdone as a story. For me, I kept comparing the story to a game of Cluedo. You have to pick someone out as the culprit, and they all have colours as their names. Sound familiar? However, this is perhaps a good project idea for Tarantino to start off with a familiar concept that has been done in films several times before, just so he could gain his footing as a director and understand his direction and vision going forwards.
In a first watch of the film, the opening sequence of the film is very jarring to watch. Whilst it may prove more effective in later watches, I found the opening sequence to contain little information and I couldn’t connect to the characters right off from that. I also found it off that we are introduced to several characters, and then we do not see them again until the events are revealed at the end of the film. On a first watch, this film can sometimes feel overwhelming as you try and piece all of the information together.
I was worried when starting the Taranthon that I would come out and dislike his first film, making me dread the other eight that I need to watch. However, this is certainly not the case. Reservoir Dogs is a film that I can see myself re-watching and enjoying more on a second viewing. Tarantino in his directorial debut already knew what style he wanted, how to balance tone and make a visually beautiful film to watch. This has only gotten me more excited to check out the rest of his filmography.
Have you seen Reservoir Dogs? Is it one of Tarantino’s best works, or is there another one you are waiting for me to watch and review? Let me know in the comments below and let’s have a conversation.