Reservoir Dogs (Dir. Quentin Tarantino) (1991)
Pound for pound, Tarantino’s first film is easily his best, a tight, hip and brutal slice of underworld life, as a diamond robbery goes awry and the question is whether there’s a rat in the ranks. Full of flash-backs and flash-forwards, it fills out the back stories with real wit and fervour.
And the performances crackle. Lawrence Tierney as the crime boss is scotch over gravel. Harvey Keitel, stoic as Mr White, is perhaps the central character, along with rookie Mr. Orange (Tim Roth). Steve Buscemi as the snakey Mr. Pink is terrific – so is Chris Penn as ‘Nice Guy’ Eddie, and Randy Brooks as Orange’s handler.
And then, of course, there’s Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen). A combination of Travis Bickle and Charles Manson, he convinces us that it really is amusing to him to torture a cop. The Varnished Culture doesn’t like torture scenes but this one is in context and it does have a degree of style, especially as it is accompanied by ‘K-Billy’s Super Sounds of the Seventies’, Mr. Blonde’s personal favourite.
Tarantino has become a byword for flashy violence, but here it doesn’t seem gratuitous, nor opportunistic. These are career criminals, operating in a sink of paranoia, with egos to match. There are script weaknesses and improbabilities (why don’t the rat and the cop scarper while they have the chance? Why do the crooks assemble at the rendezvous when they suspect the jig is up?) but it holds together well, so look past the stuff not quite nailed and lap this up, or, as Blondie would say, “Are you gonna bark all day, little doggie, or are you gonna bite?”