Reservoir Dogs (1992)

reservoir dogs

“Are you gonna bark all day, little doggy, or are you gonna bite?”

The Scoop: 1992 R, directed by Quentin Tarantino and starring Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, and Michael Madsen

Tagline: Let’s get to work

Summary Capsule: A bank heist goes wrong, and the criminals feel compelled just to stand around and talk about it.


Justin’s rating: Quentin… will… you… ever… just… shut… UP?

Justin’s review: And once again, Justin launches himself out on the raft of antagonism into the sea of popular opinion (the older I get, the worse the metaphors, peoples). I am just in that minority, I suppose, that consider Tarantino’s films to be yapping pieces of flim-flamery, all sound and fury, signifying nothing but his own ego.

We start Reservoir Dogs with a very Tarantino-esque discussion (for the uneducated, think Seinfeld’s “talk about nothing” conversations, only six times longer and not as funny) as the main characters discuss whether or not to pay the tip. The tip! In Our World, this discussion would last maybe thirty seconds, complete with a burp. QT’s World, ten minutes. Maybe longer. Then the credits roll, and we assume that these bad boys are going to get the action rolling, right?

Not… exactly. QT loves jumping around in a movie’s timeframe, disrupting our sense of continuity and begging a lot of people to resort to LSD usage in order for it to make sense. Thus, we start after the action has taken place, where the bad boys are in a warehouse talking and talking and talking and (whoops! a bit of action! someone in the editing room made a mistake!) talking and talking…

QT’s fans will tell you that they love his movies for exactly that reason: the dialogue. But when the dialogue threatens to dominate completely, I might as well be listening to it on my car radio. Pop king or not, Reservoir Dogs is pointlessly boring with sporadic bits of action, and QT should have retired after making it.

Andie’s rating: 4 out of 5 ways to torture a cop

Andie’s review: Okay, the only reason it got 4 instead of 5 for 5 is cause Reservoir Dogs is a little slow. Not to the point where I turned it off, but with all the flashbacks and stuff… let’s just say it could’ve clipped along a little better. That aside, I loved this movie. It had cool action and great characters.

Basically, a bunch of guys are assembled to carry out a diamond heist. None of them know each other and they all have aliases. The movie starts after the heist, because something went wrong. The cops got there too soon and there was lots of blood. So the rest of the movie is a series of flashbacks introducing each character and trying to figure out what went wrong.

Michael Madsen turns in a very creepy performance as Mr. Blonde, the guy who doesn’t care who he hurts. You’ll never listen to “Stuck in the Middle With You” the same way again. Tim Roth (who is a very good looking guy, even when he is covered in blood) is Mr. Orange, a fairly likeable guy who forms an odd bond with Mr. White, Harvey Keitel. The best performance is from Steve Buscemi (he is just plain awesome in every movie he does) as Mr. Pink. Some outstanding scenes include the opening scene in the diner, the scene where Mr. Pink argues why he has to be Mr. Pink instead of another color, and most of the scenes in the warehouse. This comes highly recommended.

Drew’s rating: It ain’t the size of the dog in the fight; it’s the size of the fight in the dog.

Drew’s review: Here’s the mistake I made with Reservoir Dogs — I went into it expecting too much. For years it resided in the “oh yeah, I’ve heard about that” area of my mind. You know the place, where you file all those “you know, I really need to see that… someday” flicks you constantly hear referenced in pop culture conversations, and may even be able to quote some lines from, but have never actually seen. I kept hearing things like “brilliant grasp of dialogue” and “brutally intense” and “so gritty, so realistic.” Add in the fact that the guys in Swingers basically worship the ground Tarantino walks on and RD in particular, and come the 10th anniversary DVD release, I knew I HAD to see this movie. I rushed to the store, chose a hue (pink, for those curious — Buscemi was the only actor I recognized, though now I wish I’d picked a less conspicuous color), and raced home to experience the magic.

And two hours later, I found myself watching the credits roll and thinking, “That’s IT?”

It’s my own fault, really. When you build movies up to be the holy grail of cinema in your mind, you’re gonna be disappointed. I have no doubt there are kids today who see even the almighty Star Wars trilogy and have the same reaction. But it WAS a letdown. Maybe it’s because I already knew too much about it — I’m sure the infamous Mr. Blonde ear scene was shocking at the time, but watch Itchy and Scratchy do it a couple of times and it’s just another random act of violence, a lot less gruesome than you imagined. Maybe I was expecting a more intricate structure, focused on unraveling a mystery rather than examining, in a roundabout way, the concept of honor among thieves. All I can tell you is that Reservoir Dogs was not at all what I anticipated, which greatly disappointed me at the time; yet the more I consider it, the more I think I prefer it that way.

In terms of plot… well, there isn’t one. OK, there is, but it’s really just an excuse to get a bunch of paranoid tough guys in a room and have them play off each other for a while. Which is fine, assuming you have talented actors, and therein lies one of RD’s biggest strengths. Orange, Blonde, Pink — it’s a veritable Lucky Charms of killers, and they all pull off their roles terrifically. A common criticism of the movie is that it’s all talk, little action, and in a way that’s true; but if you’re going to have people talking to each other for two hours, you could do a lot worse than this collection of brutal, unfeeling, but intelligent dirtbags.

Personally, I’d only ever seen Steve Buscemi in the “wired, neurotic funny guy” role before, so his playing a true scum-of-the-earth type was a major change; but to his credit, one that worked extremely well. (How can you not love seeing the guy waving around a gun that weighs more than he does?) Harvey Kietel makes Mr. White a fascinating, multidimensional character — here’s a man who’ll go out of his way to save his wounded comrade, yet will then calmly smoke a cigarette and comb his hair while the guy’s bleeding out in the next room. And as for Michael Madsen as the sociopathic Mr. Blonde — well, like he says on one of the DVD interviews, you’ll never watch Free Willy the same way again.

Overrated? Probably, to some extent. Here’s the thing, though — you clear your mind of preconceptions and just watch the movie for what it is, and it really is a very strong film. Like I said, great actors, clever dialogue, interesting cuts and flashbacks. Tarantino burst out of the gate with a very distinctive style, and it would be easy to dismiss RD as the epitome of style over substance. But that would be doing it a disservice, because there really IS a great deal of substance to it. It’s not the greatest movie ever made. It doesn’t have lots of complex, winding subplots, or any surprising revelations about the nature of human existence. But what it does have is extremely intense, emotional acting, both funny and very visceral scenes, and yes, dammit, plenty of style. My advice? Don’t go in expecting to be knocked out of your seat… you may not be. But go in expecting to like it, and there’s a good chance you will.

Just remember: Blondes really do have more fun.


  • Tarantino wanted James Woods to play a role in the film, and made him five different cash offers. Woods’ agent refused the offers without ever mentioning it to Woods as the sums offered were well below what Woods would usually receive. When Tarantino and Woods later met for the first time, Woods learned of the offer and was annoyed enough to get a new agent. Tarantino avoided telling Woods which role he was offered “because the actor who played the role was magnificent anyway”. It is widely accepted that the role that Tarantino was referring to was Mr. Orange.
  • Reservoir Dogs has more taglines than any other movie I’ve ever seen. Aside from the one up top, others include:
    “Every dog has his day.”
    “Four perfect killers. One perfect crime. Now all they have to fear is each other.”
    “Five total strangers team up for the perfect crime. They don’t know each other’s name. But they’ve got each other’s number.”
  • The budget for the film was so low, many of the actors wore their own clothing during the movie, including Mr. Blonde’s cowboy boots and Mr. Pink’s black jeans. In addition, the car driven by Mr. Blonde was Michael Madsen’s actual car at the time.
  • Not exceptionally relevant, but Steve Buscemi would go on to play a somewhat similar character on the fifth season of The Sopranos. Who knew Mr. Pink was related to Tony S?
  • How Mr. Orange loses more blood throughout the movie than you’d think any three people would have in them?
  • Why does all of the movie’s promotional material refer to it as “the perfect crime,” anyway? This ain’t Mission: Impossible, it’s just a standard jewelry store robbery. Seems kinda misleading.
  • Early on, Mr. Pink explains in great detail why he doesn’t believe in tipping waitresses. In Pulp Fiction, Steve Buscemi has a cameo has a waiter.
  • The warehouse that most of the film takes place in is full of coffins. At one point, Mr. Blonde sits on a hearse.
  • Tarantino’s signature “person in a trunk” POV shot debuts in this film, and will later be used in Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, and Kill Bill.
  • When Nice Guy Eddie is trying to figure out who tipped off the cops, he drives by a balloon with a color corresponding to the traitor.
  • Mr. Blonde’s real name is revealed as Vic Vega, making him the brother of John Travolta’s character from Pulp Fiction, Vincent Vega. At one point in time, Tarantino planned to make a prequel movie featuring the two brothers.
  • To avoid product placement, Tarantino used only made-up brands (Red Apple cigarettes) or products that were discontinued in the 70s (Fruit Brute, the werewolf version of Count Chocula).
  • Despite supposedly killing more people than any of the other characters, Mr. Blonde never kills anyone onscreen.
  • The F-word is used 252 times, 19 less than in Pulp Fiction.

Groovy Quotes

[Mr. Pink comes in and sees Mr. Orange is shot in the stomach]
Mr. Pink: Is it bad?
Mr. White: As opposed to good?

[Nice Guy Eddie inquires of the whereabouts of Mr. Blue]
Mr. Blonde: Either he’s alive or he’d dead, or the cops got him…..or they don’t.

Mr. Blonde: Are you gonna bark all day, little doggy, or are you gonna bite?

Nice Guy Eddie: We got places all over the place.

Mr. Pink: You kill anybody?
Mr. White: A few cops.
Mr. Pink: No real people?
Mr. White: Just cops.

Mr. Blonde: Hey Joe, you want me to shoot this guy?
Mr. White: You shoot me in a dream, you better wake up and apologize.

Mr. Blonde: I told ’em not to touch the alarm, they touched it. If they hadn’t done what I told ’em not to do, they’d still be alive today.
Mr. White [clapping]: My hero!
Mr. Blonde: Thanks.
Mr. White: That’s your excuse for going on a kill-crazy rampage?
Mr. Blonde: I don’t like alarms, Mr. White.

Mr. Pink: You’re acting like a first-year thief, I’m acting like a professional!

Mr. Blonde: You kids shouldn’t play so rough. Somebody’s gonna start cryin’.

Mr. White: Managers know better than to [mess] around, so if you get one that’s giving you static, he probably thinks he’s a real cowboy, so you gotta break him in two. If you wanna know something and he won’t tell you, cut off one of his fingers. The little one. Then tell him his thumb’s next. After that he’ll tell you if he wears ladies’ underwear.

If you liked this movie, try these:

  • Pulp Fiction
  • Jackie Brown
  • Kill Bill vol. 1


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