Reservoir Dogs

DVD Rating: ****

Reviewed by: Gary Duncan

Read Gary Duncan's film review of Reservoir Dogs
Reservoir Dogs

Fourteen years ago a young writer called Quentin Tarantino and his friend Lawrence Bender had an idea for a movie. They called it Reservoir Dogs - a low budget heist flick that Tarantino had written in three-and-a-half weeks.

"We were just a couple of guys out there trying to get a movie made, like millions of other guys in Hollywood," Tarantino recalls. They didn't expect much - they had no track record, no money, no right even to think they could pull it off. Tarantino worked in a video store and had no plans to pack it in.

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What they did have, however, was a killer script. It might have taken less than a month to rattle off on an old manual typewriter, but it was the hottest script to hit Hollywood in years.

But they still had no money. Bender recalls how a production company offered them $1.6 million, but on one condition - it had to have a happy ending, so the final face-off in the warehouse would have to go and everyone would live happily ever after. Another backer offered $500,000, but only if his girlfriend could play Mr Blonde.

Then Tarantino and Bender got lucky. Tarantino sold another script, True Romance, and pocketed $50,000 - a drop in the ocean in moviemaking terms, but enough to get them started. Then they got really lucky. Bender's acting coach's wife knew someone who knew someone who knew Harvey Keitel who read the script and begged them to let him co-produce. Not only that, he wanted to act, too.

It was a major turning point. "Keitel gave us legitimacy," Tarantino says, and the rest is history.

Tarantino pops up on most of the extras and he's never less than fascinating. He's like the Energiser Bunny on acid and could probably fill a whole DVD on his own, without ever drawing breath. He rambles, stammers, stutters, goes off at tangents and does terrible accents, but there's something curiously engaging about him. Despite the success of Dogs and Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown and Kill Bill, nothing has really changed and he's still that same old video store geek, with too much to say and not enough time to say it. Only now, he's richer and the people he once idolised are queuing up to work with him.

He pays homage to some of these in Tributes and Dedications, an eclectic bunch, including Pam Grier, Chow Yun Fat, Roger Corman, Jean-Luc Godard and John Woo. Some critics have accused him of plagiarising the likes of Woo; Tarantino dismisses such claims, but does acknowledge his debt to them. And why not, he asks. One of his influences, the French noir director Jean-Pierre Melville, borrowed heavily from the Hollywood gangster movies of the Forties and Fifties.

Nor does he make excuses for the violence in Reservoir Dogs. "The threat of violence is there, every second," he says. "It's like another character in the room. It's a sword of Damocles, not only hanging over all the characters' heads, but also the audience's and you're waiting for it to drop. At any moment there could be blood all over the walls." Not to mention the ceiling and floor.

Tim Roth, whose Mr Orange is shot in the stomach during the bungled heist, was drenched in so much fake blood that he was glued to the floor. In between scenes, he had to be lifted up and doused down before the goo could set.

Blood also features heavily in the Deleted Scenes, with additional footage of the infamous torture scene. We see it from two different angles, including a close-up of the ear actually being hacked off. It's gory and there's a lot of blood, but we see too much for it to be anything more than a clever, gratuitous trick. Tarantino rightly decided not to use either version, preferring instead to pull the camera away at the crucial moment and let our imaginations do the rest.

Reviewed on: 14 Jul 2004
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Reservoir Dogs packshot
Quentin Tarantino’s ultra-cool reworking of the tired old heist genre.
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Product Code: MP345D

Region: 2

Ratio: 2.35 Anamorphic Wide Screen

Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1

Extras: Disc One: Commentary with Quentin Tarantino, producer Lawrence Bender and selected cast and crew; trailer. Disc Two: deleted scenes; interviews with cast and crew; Class of

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