Imagine living with someone for nearly 18 years and in that time watching many, many movies, some of them your favourites, some of them theirs and some of them movies that neither of you have ever seen before. During that time you’d pretty much know what films each of you haven’t seen and surely there should be no surprise? Well, looking through my “100 Must See Movies” my partner, whom I have three children with, announced she’d never seen Reservoir Dogs before!
Now this confused me, I’m certain I’ve watched it since we met (I obviously watched it before we met), and thats not to say we only ever watch films together as thats not always the case (work, sleep, life etc means thats not always going to happen, not to mention individual tastes, there are films she loves I dont enjoy so will do something else when she fancies watching them, as is the case for every couple out there). So one day recently, once the kids were at school, I cooked us up a meal and we sat down and watched the film that introduced the world to Quentin Tarantino.
Reservoir Dogs wasn’t my first Tarantino, I think that was technically From Dusk Till Dawn, its also technically a Robert Rodriguez movie as he directed it (Tarantino provided the script), which also started a lifelong infatuation with Salma Hayek. Anyway, onto the film itself.
It’s a very simple affair and going back to it now we’re reaching what feels like the end of Tarantino’s career (there’s been alot of noise about Once Upon A Time in Hollywood being his last movie, but then I’m sure that happens with every film he makes) you can see alot of the stuff thats become what people look for in a Tarantino movie.
Most notable, and obvious, is the dialogue, there’s something very distinctive about Tarantino’s dialogue. Not just the language used, but the references being thrown around, but the tempo of the dialogue is always the giveaway in his films. It’s very fast paced, back and forth, everyone trying to out do each other throughout. It grabs the attention but it can also be exhausting and whilst it felt fresh in Reservoir Dogs, that element of each character trying to be a bigger character than the last makes it difficult to want to see more of these characters. I get that their not really supposed to be likable, with Mr White being the only one with any semblance of some humanity, but it also makes them feel very one dimensional. He does get better at this, but we’re not looking at his other films, we’re looking at Reservoir Dogs.
He does like to let them act though, they really are given every opportunity to show us just how good they are and its no real surprise that he’s managed to work with most of the long-term big names in Hollywood at least once with many of them returning for multiple films. Here whilst the two characters we, arguably, spend the most time with are Harvey Keitel and Steve Buscemi, who both put in excellent performances, the two stand out performances in my opinion are Tim Roth and Michael Madsen (the latter of which appears in many of Tarantino’s movies). It’s easy to say that Roth over-acts the dying man, but I think thats the point. Yes he’s dying and desperate, but he’s also trying to be a believable criminal, he’s the only one who’s background isn’t known to their boss and, being an undercover cop, he has to make sure he’s not found out or no one is going to get him the help he needs.
Michael Madsen seems to excel at playing an unhinged, menacing bastard and thats more than obvious here. You always get the sense that one comment is enough to push him over the edge, but not into the mad shouting crazy man that you’d expect in any other movie. No, Madsen is cold, calculating and appears to enjoy seeing people suffering, be it physically or emotionally. He knows what buttons to push to get someone to that point, but also enjoys playing the game to get them there rather than just simply pushing and pushing. He’ll push, back off and give the impression that its not him thats the problem, its everybody else, then applies the tension again.
There were a few points where I had to explain things to my partner, or remind her who was who, but she did seem to enjoy it. She was a bit confused that Tarantino didn’t show the heist at first but then grew to understand that that wasn’t the point of this film, that thats every other heist film out there and I did say that if she wanted to see something like that we could always watch something like Heat or Ronin (I think she’s seen the former, but I’ve never watched the latter with her). Overall though I think she enjoyed it and, for me, its one I love returning to mainly because of the performances mentioned above (though its not my favourite Tarantino, that goes to Deathproof).