Reservoir Dogs (1992) / Thriller-Drama
MPAA Rated: R for strong brutal violence and language
Running Time: 99 min.
Cast: Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Chris Penn, Steve Buscemi, Quentin Tarantino, Steven Wright (voice)
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino
Review published August 19, 2000
Every few years, I'll watch Reservoir Dogs again just to see if my opinion changes on it, since it has a fervent following of fans that maintain its brilliance among films. Without fail, my opinion stays the same. The colorful dialogue carries it, but shades of City on Fire, the sometimes amateurish acting, and the stagnant directing keep me from giving it the praise liberally lavished on it by many others.
Reservoir Dogs marks the auspicious directorial debut of screenwriting superstar Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown), and a respectable one, despite some formidable flaws. His plotline assembles an interesting cast of macho male actors playing armed robbers, who see their plans crumble when the cops show up all too early during a jewel heist. Suspecting one of their own is secretly a "rat" undercover cop, they aren't sure who to trust, or what to believe, as they struggle for survival while hiding out from the police.
Perhaps at the hands of a more skillful director, Reservoir Dogs might have been able to impress me more, as Tarantino's script sparkles throughout with memorably witty dialogue. However, under the control of first-time helmer Tarantino, the result is a bit stiff, with quite a number of static, unmoving scenes, as well as some hit-and-miss performances by the scruffy cast of actors. Chris Penn (Short Cuts, Corky Romano) (im)probably provides the best performance, while the rest of the cast are spotty from scene to scene, with even the normally excellent Keitel (Wise Guys, Mother Jugs & Speed) delivering a somewhat lackluster performance considering his reputation.
If ever a script could carry a movie, Reservoir Dogs is it, and even if the total result is wanting, it's still definitely worth watching for the funny bits, as long as you can stomach the excessive violence.
While the film's jewel heist may have been botched, Tarantino shows he is the real diamond in this rough production.
©2000 Vince Leo