And so on ‘R’, only 2 days after Pulp Fiction, we take to Quentin Tarantino’s directorial debut – Reservoir Dogs.
Released in 1992, this dark crime thriller follows the tale of an attempted robbery by a group of criminals and the direct aftermath as the team regroup to try and understand what went wrong.
The film has the traditional Tarantino ensemble cast featuring Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Steve Buscemi, Harvey Keitel and Chris Penn amongst others, in what is actually a very small, all male, cast.
For a ‘heist’ movie, it interestingly shows nothing of the actual robbery, however weaves the classic QT non-linear storyline before and after the event, revealing more and more about the mysterious characters involved in the failed theft.
The character names are replaced (as part of planning the crime) by colours to ensure anonymity and so their names include Mr White, Mr Orange, Mr Brown and the somewhat undesirable Mr Pink.
What plays out in this film is all of the indicators for Tarantino’s future career. The film opens with the thieves in a restaurant and a 2 now famous pieces of ‘rant dialogue’ plays out in the scene – the first about the true meaning of ‘Like a Virgin’ by Madonna, and the second on the relative virtues and society expectations about tipping waitresses. Both show the writer already established with an ability to pen these near monologues and weave them into group situations.
The soundtrack also shows what he was capable of doing by taking classic, largely 70’s hits, and again placing them at key moments in the film to create incredibly memorable scenes. ‘Stuck in the Middle of You’ by Stealers Wheel especially combined with Madsen preparing to do something quite terrible, would become a classic moment in recent cinema history as the music works to offset the violence of the situation.
Combining with the song choices, he also had comedian Steven Wright (with his monotone accent) voice introductions to the songs as part of a fictional radio show – ‘K Billy Super Sounds of the 70’s’. Again the comedians voice playing against the dark situation playing out.
The leader of the group, Mr White, is played by Harvey Keitel for whom this film represents one of the high points in his career (alongside Bad Lieutenant, Taxi Driver, The Piano to name a few others). Keitel is fantastic in this film, not only adding the biggest name at the time to the cast, but also being the centre around whom the plot opens up.
Tarantino the actor also feature in the film, although less than he would in Pulp Fiction, however his contribution in the delivery of the aforementioned Madonna speech, is highly memorable.
Whilst the theme of this film would not be wildly different to some of his later films, the important thing to remember here is the context of the film being independent and with a tiny budget of approx $1M. But all of the film shows the promise of Tarantino. The absolute style and cool of the early shot of the men walking in their black suits as a group, stands out a mile.
This must be regarded as one of the greatest debut films of all time.