Top 20 Favourite Films #15: Reservoir Dogs

Contributor: Rick McGimpsey


It is no secret that Quentin Tarantino is one of my favourite filmmakers of all time. He is witty, clever, and intriguing with a talent for writing dialogue that few filmmakers have. Bad dialogue is why, I believe, many modern films rely too heavily on action and special effects to push the story forward. There is no denying that Michael Bay and Zack Snyder have played major roles in influencing current action/adventure cinema, but they cannot write dialogue if their lives depended on it. Special effects and visual eye-candy is where their skills lie.
Dialogue is Quentin Tarantino and his ilk’s forte. He can make a film move forward without a dull moment just with the dialogue alone. The pacing of his films do not drag even with an hour of characters simply talking. This is a trait few filmmakers can pull off. Kevin Smith, I would argue, is another writer similar to Tarantino in that regard.
All of Tarantino’s films have excellent screenplays and his film debut, Reservoir Dogs is no exception. It is smart, funny, and intense; leaving the viewer at the edge of their seat waiting to see how the series of events pan out.

In the film, a gang of part-time thugs and criminals who have no previous acquaintance with each other are gathered together by a mastermind (played by the ex-con turned actor himself Lawrence Tierney) to pull of a jewel heist. The plan is to hire criminals who don’t know each other to lower chances of a rat getting too much information about them. He even gives them colour-coded names such as Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen), Mr. White (Harvey Keitel), Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi), Mr. Orange (Tim Roth), Mr. Brown (Tarantino himself), etc.

When the heist gets botched and three of the gang are shot (two of which are killed) it becomes apparent that they have a police informer in their midst.
In an ongoing series of horrific events in which paranoia, criminal psychopathy, and panic leads to a kidnapped police officer being tortured and killed and a Mexican standoff in which accusations of betrayal and being a police informant get tossed around all lead up to a violent point where most of the thugs end up killing each other.

What I enjoy about Reservoir Dogs is the intense dialogue and acting which keep the viewer interested without depending on constant shoot-ups and fast-paced action sequences. In fact, the heist is never seen on screen. We only see the before and after. And we don’t need to see it because it would only slow down what we are meant to see which is the characters arguing and descending into paranoia. Most of Reservoir Dogs’ runtime is set inside a warehouse remindind me of the work of Hitchcock or Sidney Lumet who could interest the viewer in films with limited sets and action. One has to be a good writer to make a film like that work. Otherwise, you would only get a boring forgettable movie with a small budget standing out like a sore thumb. Tarantino is one such writer.

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