There’s something about the suits. Reservoir Dogs sticks out not just for its hypermasculinity and love of violence, its rich character studies and intertextual relations, but for its costume design. It helps that the freshman efforts of Quentin Tarantino provide such magnificent variety, even when struck with such a small budget for a project that, in an ideal world, would be flashier and deadlier. Less is more, though. As a writer, his script feels pulpy. As a director, his film feels professional. Blending the two is something that, as a creative, he strives for with every film he creates. The results do not always work, and in most cases, they are never better than his fast-paced, almost one-room crime thriller, which draws the obvious inspirations and influences of B-Movie brutality, harsh dialogue and simplicity in its story. Reservoir Dogs is the response to a lull in the market, a reaction that would catapult the genre, cast, and crew, to greatness.
A blend of thick bloodiness and shouting fits works well. The ensemble on hand here is a delight to watch. Harvey Keitel playing the criminal with a sudden bout of conscience after Mr Orange (Tim Roth) takes a bullet when making their getaway, Steve Buscemi rambling in a state of mania about how they’re meant to be professionals. All of this is such a treat, no thanks to performers who can sense they are only a few steps away from a great run of movies if they can just nail this role. A father and son bond between Keitel and Roth is developed with supreme excellence, as long as you move past the less-than-stellar accent Roth provides. With the result being a procession of brilliant character studies, it is safe to say that Reservoir Dogs has the strengths necessary to bring out the best in its performers.
Ructions soon present themselves, the cracks in the plan and the lingering thought that they have been set up by someone in their midst encroaches. Knowing who and why this has happened is inevitably a change of pace upon a rewatch, but it hardly matters when the writing is infused with venomous allegations that could pin any man as the guilty party. Such conviction and clarity are shown, the forthright anger presented by Buscemi or the puzzlingly relaxed approach Mr Blonde (Michael Madsen) displays only add to the tension, as each character reacts to events in their own way. Presumptuous characters with unstable backgrounds shared between them, the simplistic fundamentals of their parameters mean that Tarantino relies on their performances to relay and develop their characters. It’s a decent gamble and pays off well. We learn their characteristics and ideological battles, but not their names, numbers or anything that can pin them for the crimes they’ve committed.
Although popular, it is hard to deny that Reservoir Dogs is, at the very least, a shot of adrenalin. Its story of hardened criminals turning on one another is satisfying and a confident display of the abilities Tarantino would develop further in his career. His lingering character swoons for his collection of contemptible criminals, the grace behind the camera a framework for the cold-heartedness of its blunt, defensive characters. Shot well, acted with charm, memorable dialogue is sure to flow. With bloody, gutsy trust in his cast and crew, Tarantino delivers an earth-shattering debut, all set to the Super Sounds of the 70s.