Reservoir Dogs

****

Reviewed by: Gary Duncan

Reservoir Dogs
"Tarantino's talent for dialogue is what catapults Dogs into instant-classic status."

Quentin Tarantino wrote, directed and starred in this ultra-cool heist story that achieved instant cult status and spawned a million poor imitations. He plays Mr Brown, a two-bit con, hired by crime boss Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney) to carry out a jewellery store robbery with five other usual suspects: Mr White (Harvey Keitel), Mr Orange (Tim Roth), Mr Blonde (Michael Madsen), Mr Blue (Eddie Bunker) and Mr Pink (Steve Buscemi).

They're a motley crew of small-time losers and it's no surprise when things go wrong. White, Orange and Pink manage to make it back to the rendezvous, a deserted warehouse out in the sticks, but Pink is convinced the whole job was a set-up. One of the crew is a rat, but which one?

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The heist-gone-wrong story is nothing new, but this is a heist movie with a difference. We don't see the robbery. We see the build up - Joe putting his team together, giving them their "cover" names - and we see the fallout, after it all goes wrong, but not the job itself. It's like a whodunnit without the murder, but who needs a heist when you've got a razor-sharp script and a red hot cast?

Madsen, in particular, stands out as the sadistic Mr Blonde, who has just served a four-year stretch for Joe and he didn't squeal. Joe rewards him with a place on the crew, but when the heist is ambushed, a trigger-happy Blonde loses it and starts shooting innocent bystanders. Pink gets his hands on the diamonds, but it's Blonde who really hits pay dirt when he snags himself a hostage. Not just any old hostage, however. A cop. So when Blonde takes him back to the warehouse, you suspect it's not to share a few beers and watch Kojak reruns till the wee hours.

Instead, he ties his victim to a chair and uses him as a punch bag. He makes a half-hearted attempt at pretending he's trying to punch some information out of the sap, but soon gives up all pretence and carries on hitting him just for the fun of it.

"I don't really give a good fuck what you know, or don't know," he says, matter of fact, "but I'm going to torture you, anyway."

What follows is "that" scene. If you've already seen it, you'll know what I mean. If not, suffice to say it involves Blonde's switchblade and the cop's ear. You can probably guess the rest.

Tarantino's talent for dialogue, however, is what catapults Dogs into instant-classic status. Dogs is a heist film without a heist and an action film without much action. Instead, Tarantino lets his characters talk. And, boy, do they talk - bullshitting, wisecracking, seeing how far they can push each other. Brown pontificates on the underlying meaning of Madonna's Like A Virgin. Pink explains at great length why he doesn't tip. They're regular guys, talking about regular-guy things. Only they're not regular guys, they're cold-blooded killers who shoot first and ask questions later.

Thanks to some inspired casting, this air of danger is never far away. Tarantino, despite his bravado, has probably never picked up anything more serious than a parking ticket, but real-life "dogs," Tierney and Bunker, both did time, with Bunker holding the dubious distinction of being the youngest ever inmate of San Quentin, before making it onto the FBI's Most Wanted list.

Reviewed on: 14 Jul 2004
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Quentin Tarantino’s ultra-cool reworking of the tired old heist genre.
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Director: Quentin Tarantino

Writer: Quentin Tarantino, Roger Avary

Starring: Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Steve Buscemi, Quentin Tarantino, Eddie Bunker, Chris Penn, Lawrence Tierney, Randy Brooks, Kirk Baltz, Steven Wright

Year: 1992

Runtime: 99 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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