Reservoir Dogs

(Quentin Tarantino, USA, 1992)


Reservoir Dogs must have been the most hyped cinema release of 1992/3. If you watch it expecting the most nail-biting thriller ever made, the most profane and brutal movie of the '90s, the most incisive critique of violent masculinity, or the greatest screen performance from Harvey Keitel, you will surely be disappointed.

In one respect, however, the hype was perfectly correct. Reservoir Dogs is a marvellous film – brash, clever, often hilarious, and completely absorbing.

This knockout debut by writer-director Quentin Tarantino is based on an old premise familiar from many a crime movie: a gang of hoods, mostly strangers to each other, are involved in a heist that goes horribly wrong. Once it becomes clear that there is an informer in their midst, the players left alive work out their suspicions and allegiances in a vast, empty warehouse.

The charm of this film is very particular. Tarantino has not fashioned a taut, suspenseful action epic in the style of John Woo. Rather, it is a loose limbed, deliberately ragged film, full of narrative holes and mysteries.

The plot recedes so that we can observe these male dogs at work and play: telling stories, yelling abuse, comparing tastes in pop culture. The ensemble cast (including Tim Roth and Steve Buscemi) is superb, and Tarantino's ear for dialogue is wondrous.

Reservoir Dogs is not really about anything at all, apart from an almost adolescent enthusiasm for swaggering actors and genre movies. Even its most coldly outrageous moments (including a scene of psychopathic violence meted out by Michael Madsen) show that Tarantino is already a dab hand at putting a song, a camera movement and a performance together to create indelible cinema.

MORE Tarantino: Jackie Brown, Kill Bill – Vol. 1, Kill Bill – Vol. 2, Pulp Fiction, Inglourious Basterds, Once Upon a Time … In Hollywood

© Adrian Martin January 1994

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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