Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Reservoir Dogs (1992) Review

Fig 1: 'Reservoir Dogs' (1992) poster
The film 'Reservoir Dogs' (1992) is directed by Quentin Tarantino and features his unique style of narrative and content. The plot is of how an armed robbery by an organised crime family goes completely wrong on the job and turns into a bloodbath, with several members fleeing from the scene and arriving at a warehouse designated 'the rendezvous' the hunt for a rat, while laying low from the police, begins. The gritty, bloody and uncouth display that follows demonstrates the unbelievable tension within the group over which has the bigger penis. The characters of the film are each given a codename with which to use during the job and are all portrayed and conveyed with unique personalities and characteristics, seen in the tiny details such as tipping waitresses shown in the very beginning and associations with the colour code-names has, allowing the audience to get a real understanding of each character's motivations and behaviour through the characters themselves and their actions throughout the film instead of drawn out exposition.

"Undeniably impressive pic grabs the viewer by the lapels and shakes hard, but it also is about nothing other than a bunch of macho guys and how big their guns are." ( McCarthy 1992)

The overwhelming presence of male tension that dominates the film's character interactions is both a defining theme as well as a key plot device. It is used and worked hard throughout, with tensions between Mr White and Mr Blonde, Mr Pink and Mr White and finally Eddie, Joe and Mr White all boiling to there highest point because each wishes to be or acts like the alpha male, attempting to over power and dominate the others through verbal or physical aggression. It can quite easily be seen that Mr White is the a major contestant for alpha male status, something that is portrayed by his appearance and conveyed quite strongly through his personality as a experienced criminal but a overprotective father figure as well. He constantly challenges the other members while stalwartly defending the injured Mr Orange, a character who is first seen as a defenceless youngster when judged by his actions and the others opinions but later revealed to be the undercover officer. This bond between Mr White and Mr Orange becomes, what looks to the audience, a father and son relationship with Mr Orange's masculinity removed, as he asks for White to hold him and comfort him, and Mr White's alpha male status dominating, as he stands against all opposition that favour the death of Orange. This relationship itself becomes singularly core to the plot as the film moves toward its final conclusion with Orange's life hanging in the balance, an event that determines the deaths of several characters and something that is hinted at happening regardless once White learns of Oranges betrayal, a heart rending scene that suggestively ends with several gunshots and White's disappearance off camera.

Fig 2: Final moments of White and Orange in 'Reservoir Dogs' (1992)
The unique narrative and way in which Tarantino presents the film's plot and characters is both intuitive and bold, acting as a great underlying strength.

"Undoubtedly one of the best films of the 1990s, and probably one of the best directorial debuts of all time, Reservoir Dogs announced the arrival of one of contemporary cinema's hottest talents -- and he came out shooting." (Film4 2011)

This point can be seen ever present throughout the film, the slow start and portrayal of the characters personalities contrasts the rest of the narrative but works to set ground work for the audiences view of the characters by providing a neutral environment and everyday situation in which anyone could relate to. This makes the charcters appear as more realistic constructs as well as allowing the audience a feel of each individual before throwing them into the blood soaked situation that follows. The low budget assets of this following situation actually play well to this film's strengths, with the average warehouse becoming a grave for many of the cast and acting as the lynch pin around which most of the story and action revolves. Tarantino's signature use of a semi disjointed narrative style plays well for character development, with flash backs of meetings and interactions providing clarity and insight into a few character's back stories as the audience requires for understanding the plot's reveals. This can, however, break up the audiences attention somewhat and slightly reduces the impact of such revelations; the most prominent of these being Orange's back story after his undercover officer reveal, it side tracks the narrative to provide an in-depth look into his personal feelings and drives, although this can be justified as necessary as the audience doesn't really understand his character all that well with his injury and not his personality becoming a focus of his character. That does not simply mean that this late and long explanation fits well into the film's formula and certainly does not mean that it should be blindly accepted by the audience, it largely messes with the plots flow and de-constructs a specific character too much with useless exposition, a move that swiftly moves away from the beauty of how the other characters are portrayed and conveyed which is through strong characterisation, allowing only short sections in which connections and pasts are revealed for the audience's clarity.

Fig 3: Starting restaurant scene in 'Reservoir Dogs' (1992)
 The strong characterisation of the film is supported strongly by its soundtrack, using it to convey much more about the characters realistically than needless exposition would.

"The other, one of the more gruesome scenes, uses the catchy pop-rock of “Stuck in the Middle With You” to soften the moment of a man getting tortured and his ear cut off with an old-fashioned shaver." (Young 2010)

The soundtrack to 'Reservoir Dogs' is composed of an array of well known and unknown tracks, but are used in such intelligent ways that aid in character development and portrayal more than breaking up the dialogue heavy sections within the film. A particular scene, the torture of a kidnapped police officer, is one such scenes in which the audio track used, which is Stealers Wheel's 'Stuck in the middle with you', greatly supports the characterisation of Mr Blonde, a seemingly odd character, that the audience will view during the scene as a psychopath because of the juxtaposition of the light hearted musical track and his sick and twisted actions. The character's enjoyment is clearly portrayed and acts as comedic relief for his serious actions but reveals his sadistic nature fully. This strong example of musical characterisation shows Tarantino's intelligent use of cinematic elements to further portray his characters and their personalities. Another example of this would be after the starting restaurant scene as the criminal ensemble walking down the driveway as the song 'Little Green Bag' plays, this particular choice really portrays the characters with a slick masculine demeanour, essentially showing them off in this manner to draw the audiences attention to these characters but also further expression the film's themes,the character's disposition and associate them with the stereotypical mob impression.

List of Illustrations

Fig 1: 'Reservoir Dogs' (1992) poster [Poster] At: http://www.impawards.com/1992/reservoir_dogs_ver1.html

Fig 2: Final moments of White and Orange in 'Reservoir Dogs' (1992) Directed by Quentin Tarantino [Film Still] America: Live Entertainment. At: http://metaphilm.com/images/pheatures/reservoir-Dogs15.jpg (Accessed 11/02/2014)

Fig 3: Starting restaurant scene in 'Reservoir Dogs' (1992)  Directed by Quentin Tarantino [Film Still] America: Live Entertainment. At: http://i1.ytimg.com/vi/sn9nnOkASDg/maxresdefault.jpg (Accessed 11/02/2014)


Film4 (2011) At: http://www.film4.com/reviews/1991/reservoir-dogs [Online Review] (Accessed 11/02/2014)

McCarthy, Todd (1992) At: http://variety.com/1992/film/reviews/reservoir-dogs-1200429146/ [Online Review] (Accessed 11/02/2014)

Young, Alex (2010) At: http://consequenceofsound.net/2010/04/cinema-sounds-reservoir-dogs/ [Online Review] (Accessed 11/02/2014)

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