Okay, I know I said I was going to try to be less critical in my reviews. I have also commented that when it comes to Quentin Tarantino’s work, I am less a fan of his early stuff. There are a lot of people who like Reservoir Dogs (1992). It is a movie I heard a lot about in high school. It was something the “cool kids” were into, whatever that means. In any case, I had friends that enjoyed it. I am the kind of guy who, within obvious reason, will give something my friends like a chance, particularly if they recommend it. I did so for this film as a younger person, when I was in my late teens or early twenties. I did not enjoy it at that time. I recently re-watched it thinking that maybe my cinematic pallet has changed, which it has, and I will see something in it that I missed. It was the same result. Read on to find out why.
Reservoir Dogs starts with a group of men, most of whom are dressed similarly, sitting around a table talking about nothing in particular. Whatever it is that they are discussing, it has nothing to do with what has brought them together, but we will get to that in a moment. I guess this is character development? For example, one of their number, Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi), launches into a long soliloquy about how he does not believe in tipping servers at restaurants. Does this have anything to do with him being a professional criminal? Beats me! At any rate, they are there to pull off a heist, and they leave the diner to do so. We then cut to Mr. Orange (Tim Roth) in the back seat of a stolen vehicle. In case it is not obvious, the film’s timeline is not linear, so that is another strike against it. Back to our story, Mr. Orange is panicking because he has been shot in the stomach and believes he is about to die. He is being reassured by one of his associates, Mr. White (Harvey Keitel). They are on their way to a prearranged location where they are all supposed to meet following the successful stealing of jewels. The first person to arrive after them is Mr. Pink. It should be noted that we never see the actual job they pull in a jewelry store. Instead, we are told about it throughout the course of the movie. Mr. Pink immediately gives voice to his suspicion that they were set up because, again as we are told, the police were waiting for them when they emerged with the loot. This led to a shoot-out that resulted in a few of their number being killed. Mr. Pink thinks they should flee before the authorities get to their current location, but Mr. White wants to make sure that Mr. Orange receives medical care. As they debate what to do, they notice that Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) has entered the room. He appears alone, but that is because he has not showed them what is in the trunk of the car he came in. Mr. Blonde has captured a cop, Marvin Nash (Kirk Baltz), because he also believes somebody has ratted them out to the police. Mr. Blonde’s theory is that Marvin will tell them who among the criminals is the snitch. Before that information can be truly beaten out of him, Nice Guy Eddie (Chris Penn), is contacted. He and his dad, Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney), are the ones who planned the operation and recruited the men to do it. He is understandably not pleased that everything did not go as he anticipated. The silver, or more accurately, jeweled lining is that Mr. Pink managed to make off with the diamonds and stashed them on the way to their rendezvous. Thus, Nice Guy Eddie has Mr. Pink and Mr. White help dispose of their stolen vehicles and retrieve the gems. While they are away, Mr. Blonde takes this opportunity to torture Marvin. There is no reason for Mr. Blonde to do this, he is simply sadistic. He is stopped short of lighting Marvin on fire by Mr. Orange, who comes to long enough to kill Mr. Blonde before he can put flame to the gasoline. While there have been other, more or less pointless flashbacks explaining who this particular group of criminals is, it is this point that we get Mr. Orange’s backstory. This one is germane because he is actually an undercover police officer. That is the long and short of it, anyway, though there is a bunch of needless celluloid spent on explaining how he wormed his way into Joe’s crew. What it does do is show why he would murder Mr. Blonde. As such, when the others return from their car disposal duty and obtaining their pilfered goods, they find an even bigger mess. Mr. Orange gives a story about Mr. Blonde wanting to double cross them. Nice Guy Eddie does not buy it, and after plugging Marvin with a number of bullets, says that Mr. Blonde was someone he and his father trusted. That is when Joe gets to the scene and tells them that he is sure that Mr. Orange is the rat. Mr. White comes to Mr. Orange’s defense, and soon everyone is pointing guns at one another, except for Mr. Pink who is hiding. The tension ends with a burst of gunfire, with Joe and Nice Guy Eddie dying instantly, Mr. Orange is shot a few more times, and Mr. White is mortally wounded. Mr. Pink reverts to his original intention of snatching the diamonds and leaving. As the police finally get to the warehouse in which most of this takes place, Mr. Orange admits to Mr. White that he is a cop. The last thing we hear are more gunshots as trigger happy officers open fire.
I am sure if you read that synopsis of Reservoir Dogs that you can understand why a practicing Catholic might not enjoy it. There are also a number off-color jokes made about race that go along with the difficult viewing. What makes it even more unwatchable is the constant stream of dialog. Like I mentioned in the introduction, it would be one thing if they always spoke about matters relating to what they are about to do. Yet, every character has a moment where they wax philosophical about what you and I would discuss if sitting across from one another at a diner. I hope we would not be about to attempt a heist because you would be on your own, but I would pray that you would change your mind. I also mentioned early on that I wanted to give the film another chance because there are many who enjoy it. I cannot image why, but then again, you know what they say about taste. In my mode as a Catholic film critic, I try to find aspects of a film to which I can relate my Faith. There are no good candidates here. One might say Mr. Orange. While I suppose he can be commended for saving Marvin, at least for a moment, Mr. Orange also murders an old woman as he and Mr. White take her car. Granted, she is the one who shoots him in the stomach, but so much for turning the other cheek. Finally, he unnecessarily kills one of their fellow robbers.
So, yeah, there is no reason to watch Reservoir Dogs. Between the gratuitous bloodiness and violence, foul language, racial jokes, and poor behavior in general, I do not recommend this film in the slightest. What worries me most is the love that people have for it. Why? Do you want to be like them? They are not even good criminals, let alone people. Watch something else.