Reservoir Dogs

It’s funny to rewatch Reservoir Dogs. For a movie that was so popular and so canonical for a while, it’s rather uneven, I think. There are a lot of parts of it that are satisfying and interesting– most obviously, and like a lot of Tarantino, it raises questions about violence in film. In particular, I think the movie confronts us with a more violent and more disturbing rendition of the gangsters that are glamorized in the movies.

It’s a very skilfully made movie in a lot of ways, too– much of the characterization is artfully compressed and economical, and you get some sense of the major characters. Like Jackie Brown, the movie centers on one relationship; but unlike the Pam Grier-Robert Forster relationship, the Tim Roth-Harvey Keitel relationship doesn’t quite work, isn’t quite emotionally satisfying– it’s clear what Tarantino’s conception of the relationship is, and what he’s going for, but there isn’t enough space given to it in the course of the movie to make it feel convincing. Without that relationship really working, the tragic irony at the end of the movie doesn’t quite work, either. Similarly, Mr. Pink is given a lot of screen time, but it doesn’t really add up to anything. At the warehouse, he’s insistent on being a professional, but he seems petulant (and unprofessional) about tipping. A big part of what the Mr. Pink character is doing is contrasting his ideal of gangster professionalism with the guy who can sprint faster than the cops and hides for the final shootout of the movie, but what makes this a real character? The limits of the characterization in the movie are problematic too, because so much of the movie is theatrical, so much of it is about the characters standing around and talking (or yelling).

And beyond that, there are a few major plot holes. There are cops lying in wait who don’t intervene to rescue one hostage and one undercover cop? What’s the significance of Tim Roth’s wedding ring?

Like some of Godard’s movies, Reservoir Dogs is a movie where Tarantino was trying out a lot of different ideas; many of his ideas worked, but a good number did not.


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