Joe Cabot (the monumental Lawrence Tierney)’s an old timer who’s been into crime for a long time. He likes to do things his way. This time, he planned the perfect crime. He picks up 6 strangers. They don’t know anything about each other, not even their name. Cabot gives them everything they need to know to rob a jewelry store without any complication.
But when they finally get there, this easy job turns into a bloody mess. They were supposed to meet in a warehouse afterwards, though it’s not clear if anybody will show up… Who’s dead? Who’s alive? Who’s caught? Who’s not?
Mr. White, played by Harvey Keitel, is the seasoned professional of the bunch. He does jobs, but he’s not a psycho. Still, you wouldn’t wanna mess with this guy. Keitel is excellent in the role, he gives his character a lot of depth and he has a really strong presence on screen. In large part because of his incendiary performance, the film feels like this amazing cross between a Shakespearean tragedy and a Scorsese picture. Then there’s Mr. Orange, who spends the whole movie bleeding to death. White gets real close to Orange, who’s much younger, so there’s almost this father-son vibe to their relationship. Tim Roth is really good as Orange, who’s basically in constant pain through every scene, and he also has to deal with this super tense situation like everyone else.
Steve Buscemi is hilariously nervous and on edge as Mr. Pink, and Michael Madsen is just awesome as Mr. Blonde, an arrogant, violent yet painfully cool dude who pisses everyone else off. When he confronts Keitel’s character, we get one of the most intense yet delightful scenes of the film. The other two robbers, Mr. Brown and Mr. Blue, have very little screen time. Blue’s almost a walk-on from Edward Bunker, but writer-director Quentin Tarantino has a bit of time to have fun with the part of Brown, particularly during the hilarious Madonna monologue that opens the film. Finally, Chris Penn plays Nice Guy Eddie, Cabot’s son and partner in business, who’s got kind of a Joe Pesci thing going on, and Randy Brooks has a small, often overlooked but memorable role as a very cool cat of a cop, who dresses, acts and talks like a Blaxploitation star, Shaft or something. I love that guy!
More than anything, “Reservoir Dogs” is extremely well written. Every scene is exciting, every twist is gripping, every character is memorable and the dialogue always snaps, crackles and pops. These guys talk about anything and they have a cool away of expressing themselves, with plenty of different ways of using the F word! Tarantino is also an extremely gifted director, and this first film of his is riveting from start to finish. His camera is really dynamic, there’s not one dull shot, and he also makes great use of sound and especially music, what with all these pop tunes from the ’70s that give a whole new dimension to this violent and tense tale. You have to see the scene during which the harmless Stuck In The Middle With You is used!
“Reservoir Dogs” is truly one of the all-time great gangster films. The performances are all spot on, the script is top notch and the direction is flawless. Tarantino understands what a movie should be: an experience that satisfies you on all levels. Here’s a movie that is always action-packed, where one damn thing happens right after another, until the bloody finale. You better watch it if you haven’t seen it or you’ll be missing cinema at its most exciting.