Quentin Tarantino is now an established director in Hollywood, having had a string of commercial and critical success’, the release of his films are treated with a similar sense of anticipation as those of Ridley Scott and Martin Scorsese. This, however, was not always the case. In 1992 he released his first feature length film, that he also wrote called Reservoir Dogs. From a budget of only $1.2m, raised by co-producer and star Harvey Keitel, it only took just over $2m at the US box office based on almost no marketing, however it was embraced in the UK where it took over $6m. After his later success with Pulp Fiction, it was rereleased and was able to take even more.
Drawing inspiration from Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing, with elements from other 1970s pulp films, Reservoir Dogs introduced the cinema-going world to Tarantino’s non-linear film structure. While he did not create it, he did popularise showing a narrative out of order to increase dramatic tension and it can be seen in a host of films and more notably television shows. Reservoir Dogs follows the aftermath of a failed bank heist and takes place almost entirely in the gangs’ hideout after the event, with brief flashbacks highlighting their individual stories.
As in The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3, the ˜Dogs’ themselves are named after colours to hide their true identities, but are made up of a slew of famous character actors: Mr White (Keitel), Mr. Orange (Tim Roth), Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen), Mr. Pink (Steve Buschemi), Mr. Blue (Eddie Bunker) and Mr. Brown (Tarantino). Such a fine cast of actors, given Tarantino’s whip-smart dialogue and forced to create tension and atmosphere with almost no props (other than a chair, a knife, a gun etc.) create a very low-budget, almost stage approach to the action. But because of their skill and innate chemistry it works wonderfully. Reservoir Dogs is at all times, disturbing, violent, hilarious and utterly engaging.
The standout memorable scene belongs to Madsen’s Mr. Blonde, who dances to Stealer’s Wheel will mutilating a cop for no other reason than he enjoys it. The combination of threat, music and superb performance make this one of the most iconic scenes in Tarantino’s collection. The soundtrack is almost as impressive as the film-making, as with all of Tarantino films. Reservoir Dogs‘ cracking retro 1970s soundtrack, full of lesser-known classics, which have since found fame off of the back of the film, helps place the action in the twisted and genius world of Tarantino’s creating and it’s difficult to imagine any other songs doing the job.
It’s no wonder that off the back of such a debut feature that Tarantino went on to make the superior classic Pulp Fiction. However without Reservoir Dogs leading the way we would never have got to see Vincent Vega and friends.