Reservoir Dogs (1992)

There is no (talented) director who people love to hate more than Quentin Tarantino, it seems. I don’t think I’ve seen such a long string of 1-star reviews on IMDb for any other film on this list so far, all playing familiar variations of a few major themes: his films are rip-offs, his films are full of violence and bad words, his films have no substance. Tarantino’s one of my favourite directors, and I love the stuff that seems to drive people mad. I like that there’s long conversations about some artifact of pop culture that has zero bearing on the plot, I like that suddenly the cinematography will get weird just for the sake of cool and then will never be referenced again, I like that the violence is front and centre and always shocking, not just visual noise on the screen. His films have become more refined with each installment but his style has never really changed, and it began with Reservoir Dogs.

Six criminals, known to each other only by aliases, are brought together for a diamond heist that goes horribly wrong; we see the events leading up to their meeting and the fallout, where survivors Mr White (Harvey Keitel), Mr Orange (Tim Roth), Mr Pink (Steve Buscemi), and Mr Blonde (Michael Madsen) try to determine who (if anyone) was the rat in their operation. Though many of the scenes are filled with tension, with two (or more) of the actors in the scene drawing pistols on each other and shouting their suspicions, or a wildly dark humour, with the gang of criminals discussing their criminal activity but acting like a bunch of schoolchildren, the film isn’t really an exercise in tension or dark comedy. Likewise, although there’s an undercurrent of moral relativism and Shakespearean “everybody dies” tragic ending, the film’s statement on morality or tragedy is brief at best. There’s a reason Quentin Tarantino builds his films mostly out of part from 70s exploitation films – because he finds them fun, and for the most part they are big dumb fun, films with few expectations to live up to that regularly contain singular standout sections that shine all the brighter from their surroundings of grime and dirt. If you could take enough of those cool elements and mash them all together, a vibrant mixture of “I can’t believe that just happened!” and “You have to see this part!”, then you’d get one hell of a memorable film experience – rarely deep and meaningful but brimming with style.


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