A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 566 – Reservoir Dogs

Reservoir Dogs – September 17th, 2011

One of the really fantastic things about this project is that it’s made a reason for me to put in movies that I’ve always meant to watch but never got around to. I’ve mentioned more than a few like that since we started the project and there are a couple more on the list. This movie is one of them and I cannot for the life of me pinpoint a reason why I hadn’t seen it before now. It’s not that I have an aversion to Tarantino or to movies with lots of blood or violence. I love the first volume of Kill Bill after all, and that’s a Tarantino movie that had to have a scene done in black and white because of the rating it would have gotten had the blood in it been in color. No, I haven’t liked all of his movies and yes, I think he’s gotten a little too far up his own ass in recent years, but that isn’t why I haven’t seen it. I haven’t seen it simply because I’ve just never made the time. And that’s part of what this project is for: Making the time to watch what we own.

Of course, I’m watching this while visiting the same friend I mentioned in my review for The Ninth Gate yesterday, so I’m not watching the copy I own. But still, at home Andy is watching our copy and I’m watching the same thing, so it works out in my mind. Anyhow, this was a new experience for me and at the same time not as new as many of the other things I’ve watched for the first time for the project. Mostly because this movie is a bit of a pop culture touchstone by now. You don’t need to have seen it to know the whole “men in suits walking with purpose” thing. You don’t need to have seen it to know the Mr. [color of choice] thing. These are frequent references now. They show up all over the place. They are, in a word, ubiquitous.

After watching this I commented that this movie is almost ur-Tarantino. It has everything I expect from him except a foot fixation. Slightly retro pop culture? Yup. Catchy soundtrack? Yup. Badasses discussing something slightly nerdy? Yup. Non-linear storytelling? Oh yeah. A bit of the old ultraviolence? Of course. What’s amusing is that it’s so early in his work. It’s like every time he makes a movie he looks back at this and says “How can I incorporate a touch of Reservoir Dogs into a new setting?” And then he does it. I’m not saying he makes the exact same movie every time, but watching his movies, you can get a definite sense of common themes. So while I’d never seen this before, in a way I’d seen it in every other movie of his I’ve ever seen before. Which is pretty funny, when you think about it.

It’s a simple movie, plotwise. It’s a heist movie, but with everything on screen taking place either before or after the heist, never during it. In fact, you never see the heist actually happen and it takes most of the movie before you even get to see the events immediately after it that caused what’s going on when the movie starts. And I do have a fondness for nonlinear storytelling and starting in media res. Tarantino seems to like it too. He does it a lot. So we begin with the heist about to happen and a breakfast conversation on the meanings of song lyrics and an argument over social rules like tipping waitstaff. It’s not made clear at the time who these people are or what they’re about to do. We can tell they’re mostly not closely associated but they’re mostly dressed alike and they’re clearly about to do something together. And then the heist is in the past and two of our main characters, Mr. Orange and Mr. White, are in a car. Mr. Orange has been shot in the gut and Mr. White is assuring him that he’s not going to die. They arrive at a warehouse of some sort and are soon joined by Mr. Pink. White and Pink discuss Orange’s status and the botched heist. They agree there must be a rat amongst them.

The rest of the movie bounces between various members of the crew at the warehouse, discussing the heist and arguing about what to do now that it’s all gone south and trying to figure out who the snitch was and flashbacks introducing us to the characters more and showing how they all came to be working this job. Two of them don’t figure in much. Mr. Blue and Mr. Brown are dead by the second scene and their backgrounds aren’t explored. But we do get some backstory on Mr. White, who has a long history with Joe (the man in charge). We get backstory on Mr. Blonde, who it seems has worked for Joe in the past and did time when he was caught and wouldn’t give up Joe’s name. And after we watch the surviving members of the crew argue and threaten each other and torture a cop Mr. Blonde has kidnapped and see Mr. Orange kill Mr. Blonde, we get Mr. Orange’s backstory.

Mr. Orange’s backstory is unique in two ways. One, he’s the snitch. He’s an undercover cop on loan from one jurisdiction to another after getting an associate of Joe’s to vouch for him. So we find out all about that. But then because he isn’t what he appeared to be we also get his attempts to get in good with Joe and the rest along with his talks with the cop he’s working for who gives him what he needs to work undercover. So he gets a good deal more time on screen than anyone else. After seeing him shot, slowly dying on the floor of the warehouse, we get to know him and see how he got there. After all, he didn’t get there because he was a criminal trying to steal diamonds. He got there because he was trying to stop criminals stealing diamonds and things didn’t go as planned.

I have to commend both Tim Roth and Harvey Keitel here. Because the two of them are really the heart of the movie, if this movie can be said to have a heart. Keitel as White reassures Roth as Orange, giving him tips and pointers, helping him run through the plan to make sure he knows his part in it. He assures him he’s going to be okay after he gets shot. He argues that they should take him to a doctor. He’s taken Orange under his wing. Which is what makes the climactic shoot-out all the more effective. For all its shooting and torture and blood and dark humor and catchy music, this movie does have a serious core to it. But since it’s Tarantino at the helm, that serious core is surrounded by everything else. It’s what makes a Tarantino movie a Tarantino movie. I think what makes it clearer that this is early work of his is that the serious core does often take a back seat to the heist plot and the soundtrack and the joking around. But even so, it’s certainly an impressive early work.


September 17, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment

Reservoir Dogs


September 17, 2011

Reservoir Dogs

It’s been a dog’s age since I last watched this movie. I probably haven’t seen it since the nineties. I’ve watched a lot of Tarantino films in the mean time. Kill Bill, Pulp Fiction, From Dusk ‘Til Dawn… I’ve seen all his movies, even the less good ones. In the fifteen or so years since I last watched this movie I’ve become pretty familiar with Tarantino and his style. What I had forgotten in the meantime, or perhaps what I had not realized the last time I watched this, is just how absolutely jaw-droppingly Tarantino this movie is.

How could this possibly be his first movie? It boggles the mind. You would expect that he would build up to this with some smaller films and work to get his directorial legs under him, but no, Quentin right out of the gate he has every trademark of his greatest films right there. (more to come)

September 17, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment