Reservoir Dogs

January 28, 2012 7 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 orginized crime outfit, located in Southern California. They are very successful, and it’s evident that orginized crime does pretty well if you manage not to get caught. We learn that Mr. Blone 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 it’s successor, Pulp Fiction.

Video: How does it look?

Reservoir Dogs is presented in it’s original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Though with the inclusion of a full-frame version as well, we notice some differences. The way it works is this…Tarantino used both a wide angle lens (hence the aspect ratio) and a full frame lens to film the movie. Some of it was litererally sliced to be inserted in the widescreen version. So, this is a bit of both worlds. While the majority of the scenes are shot in a picture that the widescreen version takes advantage of, you won’t get the “whole” picture unless you watch both versions of the film. Also, this was one of the first DVD’s out, and put out by Live (now Artisan). At the time they were not doing 16:9 transfers like they are now, but this is a popular-enough movie that another version (hopefully a SE) is bound to come out.

Audio: How does it sound?

A vast improvement over the Dolby Surround laserdisc, the fledgling DVD format showed us that movies that sounded average on VHS and LD could sound a LOT better on DVD. The remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 track has a lot of dialogue, as do most of Tarantino’s movies, but the surround effects and soundtrack make full use of the digital sound. A particular point I want to make is that the “Stuck in the Middle of You” song, which is the movie’s benchmark tune, sounds especially good in the 5.1 remix. A nice mix.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Unfortunately Reservoir Dogs has been released as basically a movie-only disc. With the inclusion of a trailer and some production notes (which some studios are still doing), there isn’t much else to be found on this disc. Rumors have abounded for years that a Special Edition of this film will be available, and how cool would a Quentin Tarantino commentary track be. It would certainly benefit Artisan to be working on a special edition of this, I know I’d buy it.

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