Summary: A realistic, gut-punch of a movie.
Review: ‘Reservoir Dogs’ is filmmaking wizard Quentin Tarantino’s first (completed) film. It’s a compelling and shocking re-imagining of the typical cops & robbers heist film. It’s the kind of story where everything goes wrong. This time around, we are set up to empathize with the bad guys, a team of hired men assigned by their ring leader, Joe, to steal some diamonds. They all go by color-coded monikers, and keep their true names to themselves. When the robbery hits the fan, the survivors immediately suspect that they’ve been set up by the police, and it’s only a matter of time until they discover the traitor.
‘Dogs’ wields an aggressively realistic tone. The dialog, already well-written, is enhanced by frantic, vulgar, and sometimes funny ad-libbing from the ensemble cast. The violence, in contrast to the extended, pattering dialog, is short, brutal, and too the point, except for one scene: an infamous torture scene that’s ridiculously hard to sit through. Tarantino faced (and faces still) great criticism of this scene, but he defends it by acknowledging that the typically horrified reaction of the viewer is exactly what he hoped for. As good as the film is on the large part, I really can’t justify the sheer brutality of the scene (although, it must be noted, it’s mostly psychological in nature), but the upside is that it leads to a fantastic and cathartic reveal of the traitor.
Like most of Tarantino’s filmography, there appears to be a philosophical bent to the film’s action and conclusions. This is a window into the world of the cinematic villains that we usually want dead or jailed. It’s an exercise in empathy. It’s an acknowledgment of universal humanity and, as Ronnie James Dio would suggest, that we all have “Heaven and Hell” in us. There’s some major, usually unspoken debate in Christianity as to the moral value of humanity: Are we basically evil, or basically good? The answer, of course, is both.
‘Reservoir Dogs’ is smart, shocking, uncomfortable, funny, and sobering art. It has my recommendation to guys and dolls with a strong stomach.