Today! Because for all I know, you’re the rat –
Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Starring Tim Roth, Harvey Keitel (x2), Michael Madsen, Chris Penn, Steve Buscemi, Quentin Tarantino, Lawrence Tierney, Randy Brooks, Edward Bunker, Steven Wright, Kirk Baltz
And we finally get to some Tarantino! Reservoir Dogs was his first feature film, and the first one I saw, albeit when I was thirteen and obviously couldn’t know what was to come. Like everyone else, I thought it was pretty amazing, just super violent and complex with dazzlingly funny dialogue and terrific songs. This hyper-stylized, off-kilter attitude crime thriller managed to feel like something entirely new, while also firmly keeping a foot in the past history of the genre. It had flashbacks and flash forwards and characters lying to each other but where the audience already knew the truth, and that soundtrack! I had this tape in my old ’87 Firebird all the time when I was in college.
But as much as I still love this movie, the bloom came off the rose a bit when Pulp Fiction arrived, and outdid Reservoir in every conceivable way. This really feels like the training wheels version of his second movie – Pulp Fiction being the groundbreaking masterpiece that it is. Now, I know some people claim to enjoy this movie more – maybe just a backlash against the more popular film, maybe you feel like the follow-up was more a retread than a wholly original new film – so okay, I can buy that. Objectively, I don’t think the case can be made, but what are we talking about here, in this space? Quality? Hell no, preference, and that’s all! So take your Mr. White and Mr. Blonde and Mr. Pink and enjoy!
And there is so much to like that it’s a hard movie to criticize, really. The performances are great (except maybe Tarantino himself, who hadn’t gotten the acting out of his system yet – Destiny Turns on the Radio and From Dusk Till Dawn being still a ways away) and the twisty plot barrels along to the magnificent, bloody climax. So why isn’t this movie higher on the list? I mean, we’ve got plenty of Tarantino to come, but I largely ranked ’em as I tend to rewatch them, and I’ve gotta be honest, this is pretty near the bottom. That’s not to say it isn’t great and I don’t love it, but the above soundtrack story is telling – I listened to that tape to death, to the point that I think of Steven Wright as an actual character in this movie, and not just the faceless K-Billy DJ, while I’ve probably sat and watched this movie three times in the last two decades. Maybe. It’s certainly the Tarantino directed flick I’ve seen least. Maybe in ten years and a few rewatches it’ll jump! See you in 2029, hearty souls!
Many film critics circles and festivals threw nominations at Reservoir Dogs, but it would take Pulp Fiction to fully get Tarantino films on the awards season map. Still – New York, Independent Spirit, Chicago, London all handed out Best First Feature, Best Directors nominations, acting nods for Keitel and Buscemi, Newcomer of the Year awards across the bunch, so it’s not like it wasn’t noticed. But did it garner any MTV style awards for Best Cross Promotion of Madonna Albums, for the lengthy discussion that begins the film? Not to my knowledge!
Harvey Keitel’s turn as Jack Crawford in last week’s #255 Red Dragon marks him as the only new Two-Timer today! Isn’t it amazing we’ve come this far and only now unearth our first Buscemi?! Seems incredible. Keitel spotlight!