Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Reservoir Dogs Review: A Fine Example Of Brilliant, Controversial Directing...

Film: Reservoir Dogs (directed by Quentin Tarantino)
MPAA: R (Restricted)
Starring: Harvey Keitel
Tim Roth
Michael Madsen
Steve Buscemi
October 23rd, 1992

Very few modern directors are more revered, or as controversial, as Quentin Tarantino. Classified by some as a genius of cinema, and by others as a creepy, violent guy, Tarantino has been making movies for a long time. And it all started in 1992 with Reservoir Dogs. The film, lauded by some as a classic of independent film, and by others as an example of the degradation of American media, is a perfect debut for such a director as Quentin. And, by in large, Reservoir Dogs stands up to the test of time.
Reservoir Dogs follows the story of a botched jewelry heist, perpetrated by thieves with color coded titles, such as Mr. Blonde and Mr. White. Where some movies may focus on the heist itself, this film is more concerned with the reaction of the thieves to events after the robbery. A fellow conspirator is shot, and the remaining men are afraid that they have been infiltrated by a rat. What follows is a dark, frightening, and macabrely comedic thriller about bad men in bad times.
The movie moves at a very acceptable pace. At times, scenes go on for longer than usual, usually because of humorous, pop-culture-reference laden monologues about by-gone actresses or why a certain character doesn't conform to social norms. Within five minutes, a viewer is already exposed to a ton of pop-culture references, and witty, vulgar banter. However, Tarantino's now-trademark talent at making interesting dialogue keeps even the most over-long scenes well worth watching. At the same time, a lot of restraint is shown by the director at times where the movie could stop for relief but instead keeps rolling at quite a quick pace.
One of the main components of most films is characters, and Reservoir Dogs has some fine talent recruited. It's a true testament to the acting abilities of the cast, that every character is played very well. Sure, they may fill cliched archetypes of a psychotic ex-con or a criminal bound in honor among thieves, but they work so well that you don't notice. Despite not even receiving proper names beyond the aforementioned color-coded titles, each character has a special feel. I really have to applaud Michael Madsen's portrayal of Mr. Blonde, a character that has been driven insane (presumably by a recently completed prison service). Though I don't want to spoil anything, Madsen perfectly combines sly humor with menacing insanity in a way reminiscent of a character like The Joker. And, of course, Mr. White (played by Harvey Keitel) very successfully brings some grounding to the often off-the-rails story.
The cinematography employed by Reservoir Dogs is fairly intriguing. Rather than using a lot of complex back and forth camera work for the spitfire conversations, Tarantino opted for wider shots at unique angles. In one scene near the beginning, there is a conversation between two characters shot down a hallway. I love this scene because it doesn't seem like a conventional Hollywood thriller decision. Instead, it feels natural and real, something a great camera shot can do very well. All in all, the cinematic camera angles work well, and at times they even excel beyond serving a function. However, I do have to caveat this saying that I think at times different camera shots could have been employed for better effect, and a little more complexity wouldn't hurt.
Finally, there's the reason Quentin Tarantino is so revered, his controversial content. As is stated at the top of the review, the film is rated R. This is very evident, in many different ways. For example, the dialogue at no point attempts to be anything but vulgar. Words like fuck and dick and anything else you can think of are used frequently, and often they are overused. If you are worried about language, this movie- or any of his films, really- aren't for you. I'm not however, and so I'm really only interested in the violence. The film is very, very unapologetically violent. A main character is constantly bloodied throughout the film thanks to a gunshot wound, and as the film progresses his condition steadily declines. Near the end, all his clothes are soaked red and he lays in a pool of blood, in absolute pain. Then, of course, there is a famous torture scene, which I won't go into in depth because of spoilers. Let's just say, it's deranged and brutal. That being said, all of it makes contextual sense. At no point does the director attempt to mislead you into thinking the characters are good guys, and all of their actions can be explained as actions committed by ruthless criminals.
Over all, Reservoir Dogs delivers a unique crime caper, character study, comedy, and thriller packaged into one. If you have a weak stomach, this film may not be for you, but if you can handle it, the acting, cinematography, and entertaining dialogue more than make up for any queasiness felt while viewing.

Final Verdict: 4 Out Of 5 Stars (Must Watch)

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