Plot: What’s it about?
The 1990’s were largely credited for the rise of independent filmmaking. While some of the forerunners of this movement, like Steven Soderbergh, came out with Sex, Lies and Videotape we had a little-known video store clerk by the name of Quentin Tarantino who changed the game. Armed with a camera, a very small budget (that rose when Harvey Keitel came on board) and a vision, 1992’s Reservoir Dogs burst on the scene. Its graphic depiction of violence was unheard of at the time and it even caused Wes Craven, someone who influenced Tarantino’s career, to walk out of the screening at Cannes. That’s saying something. The success of the film paved the way for Tarantino’s later efforts, most notably Pulp Fiction. I’ll go on the assumption that anyone reading this has seen the film more than once but on the off chance this one has managed to escape you…shame on you.
Likely familiar to anyone reading this, the film is a simple movie about a heist gone wrong (and the heist is actually never seen). We meet the ragtag group of career criminals who are to pull it off as they wax philosophical at a diner. Each given a code name (Mr. Blonde, Mr. Orange, etc.) it would appear they have the perfect plan, but things go disastrously wrong. The man in charge is Joe (Lawrence Tierney) and his son, “Nice Guy” Eddie (Chris Penn). They recruit Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen), Mr. Orange (Tim Roth), Mr. Brown (Quentin Tarantino), Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi) and Mr. Blue (Eddie Bunker) to pull off the crime, but there’s an undercover cop in the mix. Loyalties in the group begin to unravel and many complications ensue. If there’s such a thing as the perfect crime, these guys didn’t get the memo.
Reservoir Dogs has been heralded, praised and copied so many times I’ve lost count. But it’s for good reason. The movie changed the way films were made and ushered in a new era of maverick filmmaking. Not many films can say and/or do that. It’s not for the faint of heart, either. The notorious “ear cutting” scene is perhaps what the movie is most remembered for, though we actually never “see” it happen. Tarantino’s writing and direction are what make the film work and this has resonated throughout several other of his films. Nothing I say is going to have any impact. You’re either a fan of this one or your disgusted by it (likely if you’re reading this, it’s the former). But to have this on 4K (finally) is about the best any fan could hope for. And it was worth the wait.
Video: How’s it look?
I’ve lost count of how many versions we’ve had over the years ranging from VHS to LaserDisc to DVD to Blu-ray and now, three decades after its initial release – 4K. That’s a mouthful. But it’s also been worth the wait. The film has always looked pretty decent on any format, but with this new 4K restoration (supervised by Tarantino himself), it looks like it was made yesterday. Colors pop, detail is off the charts and gone is most of the grain that plagued earlier releases. It offers more depth to several of the scenes and I’ve felt that the movie has always looked a bit flat. There’s more color to flesh tones and so forth. It looks good, but not so good that it looks artificial. When compared to the Blu-ray (screenshots below), it’s clear (pardon the pun) to see some of the differences. We get greater detail, more lifelike colors and the HDR helps to balance some of the levels out. This is a top notch effort.
Audio: How’s it sound?
Reservoir Dogs has had its fair share of dynamic audio mixes over the course of its lifetime. Lionsgate has given us (stuck with?) a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix which, by and large, gets the job done. Previous Blu-ray’s have had a Dolby Digital EX and DTS HD 6.1 tracks. To me, that’s too much. And while at first glance, it might not seem that this movie wasn’t made for this kind of track – think again. Dialogue is, of course, at the heart of the film beginning with an ode to Madonna and inter-spliced with classic hit’s from the 70’s. But the rear channels do some front to back pans, there are gunshots and car chases to boot. It’s not a bad sounding track in the least. Vocals are deep, true and rich. It’s a very good middle of the road compromise, aurally-speaking.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Deleted Scenes – A series of five deleted scenes, including two more alternate takes on the infamous “ear cutting” scene. The film has done just fine on its own for the past three decades, these were wisely left on the cutting room floor (pun fully intended).
- Background Check
- No Protection
- Doing My Job
- Cutting Off the Ear – Alternate Take A
- Cutitng Off the Ear – Alternate Take B
- Playing it Fast and Loose – Originally produced for the 15th Anniversary edition, this features interviews with various film critics and historians, including Sharon Waxman, Peter Markham, Mark Evan Schwartz and Mr. “Aint-it-cool” himself – Harry Knowles.
- Profiling the Reservoir Dogs – We get some fictional histories for some, but not all, of the characters in the film: Mr. Brown, Mr. Pink, Mr. White and Mr. Blonde. Mr. Orange and Mr. Blue are nowhere to be found.
The Bottom Line
Odds are that there’s a Quentin Tarantino film out there for you. For many, it’s this. I’ve always been partial to Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill (Vol. 1 and 2), but I’d rank this as my third favorite. The good news is that the film looks as good as it ever has. And considering the independent roots, that’s saying a lot. There are no new supplements and other versions out there have tons of supplements that weren’t included here. This is one you’re buying for the picture quality only. And many will.