Updated: Aug 4, 2021
The film that started it all! Quentin Tarantino makes his directorial debut in 1992 with his film, Reservoir Dogs. Yes, “the movie where the cop gets his ear cut off.” It goes as follows: as a teen/young adult, Tarantino worked at a Los Angeles VHS rental store known as Video Archives. This is where the now legendary director made his initial film industry connections and friends. Now keep in mind, Tarantino is a true writer before he is a director, and at the start of his budding career, he had written and sold the screenplay to the 90s cult classic, True Romance (1993) for $30,000. Now knowing a few industry friends through Video Archives, and a micro-budget of $30,000, Tarantino planned to shoot Reservoir Dogs with close to nothing. This is until Harvey Keitel got word of the project and liked the script so much that he signed on as a co-producer, ultimately making it easier to find more funding. They eventually raised $1.5 million, found and cast Steve Buscemi, Michael Madsen, and Tim Roth, and consequently, Reservoir Dogs was born.
With a simple story paired with smooth and witty dialogue, Tarantino does a great job of allowing the audience to care about the characters… even the rat (spoilers ahead). Right off the bat, within the first scene, we see early tones, techniques, and the “Tarantino genre”. The Tarantino genre is the way that the director’s style is so unique and telltale, that any novice viewer can indicate that a movie was created by Quentin at a quick glance because of its distinctive nature. This holds true so often that it feels that Tarantino almost has his own genre himself.
Nonetheless, Reservoir Dogs opens with what Tarantino knows best - - captivating dialogue! The scene starts with a group of diamond thieves sitting around a table at a diner talking about God knows what! A Madonna song? That Steve Buscemi does not like to tip waitresses? Whatever it is, but it is so damn intriguing. Over seven minutes later and a snazzy credit montage, the gang heads out for their heist on a jewelry store—a heist that we never see! Then boom! Mr. Orange (Tim Roth) has been shot in the gut and is bleeding out in the back of a car, as Mr. White (Harvey Keitel) rushes to a safe point. The duo bust into an empty warehouse, and shortly after Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi) joins them. (See what’s going here? They’re all named after colors.) The men discuss the possibility of a rat, believing the heist was set up by the cops, as Mr. White tries to comfort the dying Mr. Orange. Soon after Mr. White and Mr. Pink draw guns on each other over deciding if Mr. Orange needs medical attention or not, Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) intervenes and reveals a hostage policeman. Yes, he is the one to cut the cop’s ear off!
After a series of events, the gang one by one turn and point fingers at each other. Tarantino creates an environment similar to the one of 12 Angry Men. The film’s setting really only takes place in one building structure, and even more explicitly within one room, as a group of men turn, point fingers, and try to convince one another of a common idea. Eventually, they all turn and shoot at each other simultaneously, resulting in death. Do not simply glaze over it like that, but it’s Reservoir Dogs! You had to have seen it!
Tarantino does a great job of setting up his career with an all-star debut film! Despite the violence, the director tells a somewhat wholesome message of what extent a stranger will go for another stranger when paired together while facing death. This message is just disguised through blood and gore—something you should get used to by watching the genre that Tarantino has created. Besides a few of the cutaway flashback scenes in the office, that oftentimes slow down the film’s pace and can feel dragged out, the barebones of this project are almost perfect. With a simple plot and minimal locations, I would recommend this film to any beginner filmmaker for a 101 on what to do for your first project.
Story/Plot – 18/20 Direction – 20/20 Acting - 19/20
Cinematography – 19/20 Score/Soundtrack – 19/20