Reservoir Dogs (Blu-ray)

January 28, 2012 9 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Quentin Tarantino burst onto the movie scene some eight years ago with this little movie. Although he had tried many screenwriting attempts before this, and has acted after, this was the first jewel in his crown. Reservoir Dogs is basically like Pulp Fiction, toned down. Toned down, is a weird way of saying it, I mean how many movies out there have a scene in which a man’s ear gets cut off, all to the tune of “Stuck in the Middle of You”? Not many, I’m guessing…Though not nearly as long as Tarantino’s masterpiece (Pulp Fiction), Reservoir Dogs is the before, during and after vision of a bank robbery gone bad.

In what has become Tarantino’s signature style, we meet the characters, and are then greeted by a “Frasier” like black screen with only their alternate names (i.e. Mr. Blonde). And the story goes like this…We meet Mr. Orange (Tim Roth) and Mr. White (Harvey Keitel) as Mr. Orange has just been shot. Flailing about in the blood-soaked back seat, they meet at the designated spot. No one being there, they are even more convinced that there was a rat in their ill-fated jewel robbery. There was, and it was none other than the victim, Mr. Orange. There’s really no secret being told here, as a major part of the movie is devoted to how and why Mr. Orange gets in good with the group, all while being undercover. We then meet Mr. Pink (Steve Buschemi), who is convinced that there has been a setup and accuses almost everybody of being involved. His high energy and natural edginess make him a natural for the part. One of his better roles.

We meet perhaps the most popular character of the movie, Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen). Blonde is an ex-con (several times over) who has just been released from jail after doing 4 years. Right out of the shoot, he agrees to join this little caper and it seems, in one way or another, that it’s his fault that it all goes wrong. All of the men have one thing in common, they all know or have known the men responsible for setting up the heist for quite some time. Nice Guy Eddie (Chris Penn) and Joe (Lawrence Tierney) are a father and son organized crime outfit, located in Southern California. They are very successful, and it’s evident that organized crime does pretty well if you manage not to get caught. We learn that Mr. Blonde and Eddie go way back and that Blonde’s real name is Vic Vega (there has been debate if he was a brother to Vincent Vega played by John Travolta in Pulp Fiction).

After meeting all of the central characters, we learn how they were recruited, what the job was and how it was supposed to go off (obviously without a hitch). What was supposed to happen was that they steal the diamonds, during business hours and dealing with a large crowd. Evidently what happened, we are never shown the actual robbery itself, is that all hell broke loose. Mr. Blonde went crazy and started shooting everyone, a few of the men were killed and it was a free for all, which brings us back to where we started. Perhaps the most controversial scene in the film occurs when Nice Guy Eddie, Joe and Mr. White are all at a standoff with each other (see Figure 1). Nevertheless, Reservoir Dogs is a very great piece of filmmaking and I personally like it better than its successor, Pulp Fiction.

Video: How does it look?

“Reservoir Dogs” has benefited from a new MPEG-2 HD transfer that was minted last year for the new standard DVD release of this film. The movie is correctly framed in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio that looks, for the most part, outstanding. I’ve seen this movie in just about every incarnation from VHS to laserdisc to DVD to Blu-ray and this is, by far, the best the movie has ever looked. “Reservoir Dogs” was also one of the first films to appear on the fledgling DVD format about a decade ago and for comparison’s sake I whipped out my old, old, old copy. This new transfer blows all previous versions out of the water. Colors are stronger, the image more well-defined and a better use of contrast. Suffice it to say that if you’ve wanted to see “Reservoir Dogs” looking as good as it can, this is where you’ll have go. I also compared it against the recent standard DVD (15th Anniversary) edition as well and though that transfer is a lot closer in terms to this Blu-ray version, this one is still noticeably better. Props to Lion’s Gate for giving us a wonderful-looking transfer here.

Audio: How does it sound?

As is the case with most all of Lion’s Gate catalog Blu-ray releases, we get a DTS HD soundtrack and a Dolby Digital EX soundtrack. The movie was never really made to encompass dynamic sound, but I have to admit that I was fairly impressed here. There’s an ambiance present that I’ve never really noticed before and I liked that. The sound doesn’t sound processed either, it’s a very rich, true sounding mix that really amplifies the film. Dialogue is right on the money too and you’ll get to hear every “F” word that’s uttered in crystal clarity. Again, I compared the audio to a few of the previous editions and it is very evident that a lot of work went into this mix. It shows and it’s a good reason to upgrade.

Supplements: What are the extras?

To get all of the supplements intended, you’d have to pick up the new 15th Anniversary Edition standard DVD. It’s a two-disc set that comes inside a metallic gas can (or mine did, anyway). The supplements on the Blu-ray release are noticeably lacking and that’s about the only bad thing that can be said about this disc. Basically we have a documentary, a featurette and a trivia track. The “Pulp Factiods Viewer” works like any trivia track but it has some pretty cool information contained in it. Then we head to the documentary, “Playing it fast and loose” with some archived footage and interviews with Tarantino and a general look back at the influence of the movie on modern cinema. Lastly we have “Profiling the Reservoir Dogs” which takes a look at some of the key players in the movie. And that’s it. As mentioned before, the standard DVD is the way to go for supplements, but if you just want “Reservoir Dogs” to look and sound as good as it can – this is the version for you.

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