Thursday 17 February 2011

Reservoir Dogs movie review

Reservoir Dogs - 1992
Director - Quentin Tarantino

1) Reservoir Dogs poster

Plot summary / review:

Reservoir Dogs opens in a typical American diner, introducing us to the 'dogs' before they go to their next job, a diamond heist. From the start, Quentin Tarantino demonstrates a zippy, realistic dialogue, full of street slang and profanities, discussing everything from Madonna's 'like a virgin' and local radio stations to societies obligation to tip hardworking waitresses. It then moves onto the infamous title sequence of the team walking to their cars in super cool slo-mo.

2) Title sequence

We are then dropped right into the action. Mr. White (Harvey Keitel) is racing in a car with Mr. Orange (Tim Roth) bleeding to death in the back seat. The handheld camera movement and uncut shot adds to the panic and urgency of the scene as Mr. White almost orders Mr Orange to be ok. They arrive back at the rendezvous, an unused warehouse to meet the rest of the team. Mr White continues to comfort his partner and assure him their boss will arrange for a Docter to fix him up as he passes out in the pain.

3)Mr, White and Mr. Orange

Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi) arrives back first. Obviously riled and agitated Mr. Pink believes their 'bungled' job could have been a set-up and they have a rat in their midst. Tensions rise as they begin to reenact the chain of events and figure out who the rat is. Mr. Pink, obsessed with remaining 'professional', reveals he has the 'merchandise' stashed somewhere as he explains his escape, the camera cuts to his gritty getaway. The conversation almost boils over as they decide the fate of Mr. Orange, Mr. White feeling responsible for him, objects to dumping him at the hospital and making off with the diamonds. As they confront each other, Mr Blonde (Michael Madsen) returns to the hide out.

The film continues to unfold chronologically in the warehouse, but is intersected with the recruitment of each member of the team by veteran crime boss Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney). We discover Mr. Blonde has a history with Joe and his son Nice guy Eddie (Chris Penn). Mr. Blonde has just got out of prison, although he is hot headed and a live wire, he didn't squeal on his employers and served the maximum of his sentence.

4) Boss man Joe Cabot

Back at the warehouse, Mr. White is furious with Mr. Blonde for his reckless, gun hoe attitude on the job. As they square off with each other, Mr. Blonde takes them outside to the trunk of his car to unveil a kidnapped police officer. Nice guy Eddie arrives at the warehouse as they begin to interrogate the officer and tries to handle the situation before his father arrives. He orders Mr. White and Mr. Pink to follow him as they dispose of the amassing cars outside and retrieve the diamonds. He leaves Mr. Blonde to guard the officer and Mr. Orange which, arguably the films most famous scene as he begins to torture the police officer.

5) Torture

Mr. Blonde proceeds to slice the officer with his pocket razor and cuts off his ear, all the while dancing around sadistically to 'Stuck in the middle with you' by Stealers Wheel. The officer is saved by Mr. Orange who regains consciousness and shoots Mr. Blonde. In another flashback, it is revealed that Mr. Orange is in fact an under cover police officer. The rest of the force is ordered to storm the Warehouse only when Joe arrives.

The movie climaxes dramatically with a four way showdown. Eddie arrives back at the warehouse with Mr. Pink and Mr. White, furious at Mr Oranges' make shift story that Mr. Blonde was going to kill them and make off with the diamonds. Joe arrives and is convinced that Mr. Orange is the rat as he was the only one on the team he wasn't 100% on. Mr. White defends Mr. Orange, calmly stating if Joe kills Mr. Orange, he dies next. Eddie angrily demands Mr. White to stop pointing his gun at his father as they all shoot each other. Writhing in pain, Mr. White cradles Mr. Orange who confesses he is the rat. Mr. White reluctantly puts a gun to his head as the police storm the building, he pulls the trigger and the police open fire.

6) Torture

Quentin Tarantino first drew attention from his script for 'True Romance' directed by Tony Scott, but Reservoir Dogs catapulted him into the main stream. His snappy, gritty narrative is excellent throughout with spells of dark humour but always grounded in reality. Going against the grain of traditional movies and ending with a big reveal of the insider, Tarantino exposes him halfway through dramatically increasing the tension. "Mr. Tarantino not only can write superb dialogue, but he also has a firm grasp of narrative construction. The audience learns the identity of the squealer about mid-way through, but the effect is to increase tension rather than diminish it."   (Canby, 2003).

The movie is full of memorable scenes, including the opening introduction, numerous flashbacks of events leading up to the warehouse and most notably the 'torture' scene. "Tarantino exploits audience savvy, preferring to build anticipation, mesmerise, and then cut away at the climax, as in the infamous ear-severing scene. Somehow it's horribly effective and lingers far longer than the usual point blank bloodshed that seems compulsory in other movies." (Haflidason, 2001). Although this technique is not new, (e.g chainsaw scene in 'Scarface') it is extremely affective.

Tarantino is supported by excellent turns from Keitel, Buscemi and Roth who all excel in their roles. However his production staff no doubt had a hand in making his Directorial debut the success it is. "With cinematographer Andrzej Sekula's considerable help, Tarantino has but strong visual on the screen, alternating from ominously moving cameras to recessive long shots to put the action in relief. Sally Menke's extremely impressive cutting keeps scenes tight and the time-jumping plot comprehensive." (McCarthy, 2007). The complex time-line and superb editing makes the films relatively simple plot line completely immersible. Particularly with the father son bond that results between Keitel's Mr. White and Roth's Mr. Orange.


Canby, Vincent. New York Times review. 20th May 2003. Accessed 14/02/11

Haflidason, Almar. BBC Review 17th April 2001 Accessed 14/02/11

McCarthy, Todd. Variety review. 13th March 2007 Accessed 14/02/11


1) Reservoir Dogs poster Accessed 14/02/11

2) Title sequence Accessed 14/02/11

3) Mr. Orange and Mr. White Accessed 14/02/11

4) Boss man Joe Cabot Accessed 14/02/11

5) Torture Accessed 14/02/11

6) Showdown Accessed 14/02/11


  1. The same is true of the violence in the original The Texas Chainsaw Massacre - it has a reputation for being very bloody and explicit, when in truth, it's very restrained. And all the better for it.