Reservoir Dogs is a 1992 American crime film that depicts the events before and after a botched diamond heist, but not the heist itself. The film was the debut of director and writer Quentin Tarantino, and stars an ensemble cast: Harvey Keitel, Steve Buscemi, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Chris Penn, and Lawrence Tierney. Tarantino and criminal-turned-author Eddie Bunkerhave minor roles. It incorporates many themes that have become Tarantino's hallmarks: violent crime, pop culture references, profuse profanity, and a nonlinear storyline.
The film has become a classic of independent film and a cult hit. It was named "Greatest Independent Film of all Time" by Empire magazine. Reservoir Dogs was generally well received, and the cast was praised by many critics. Although it was not given much promotion upon release, the film became a modest success in the United States after grossing $2,832,029, making its $1.2 million budget back. The film was more successful in the United Kingdom, grossing nearly £6.5 million, and it achieved higher popularity after the success of Tarantino's next directorial effort, Pulp Fiction. A soundtrack titled Reservoir Dogs: The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack was released featuring songs used in the film, which are mostly from the 1970s.
- 2 Cast
- 3 Production
- 4 Reception
- 5 Home media
- 6 Soundtrack
- 7 Video game
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Eight men eat breakfast at a Los Angeles diner before their planned diamond heist. Six of them use aliases: Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen), Mr. Blue (Eddie Bunker), Mr. Brown (Quentin Tarantino), Mr. Orange (Tim Roth), Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi), and Mr. White (Harvey Keitel). With them are gangster Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney), the organizer of the heist and his son, "Nice Guy Eddie" (Chris Penn).
After they leave the diner, the action abruptly cuts to a speeding car, in which Mr. White comforts Mr. Orange, who has been shot in the abdomen and is bleeding profusely. Shortly after they reach an abandoned warehouse, Mr. Pink arrives and angrily suggests that the job was a setup due to the rapid police response. Mr. White tells Mr. Pink that Mr. Brown was killed during the heist, and the men discuss Mr. Blonde, who murdered several civilians after the alarm triggered. Mr. White is angered that Joe, an old friend of his, employed such a "psychopath" and agrees about a possible setup while Mr. Pink reveals that he escaped with the diamonds and hid them in a secure location. They argue over whether to take the now unconscious Mr. Orange to a hospital. Mr. White also reveals that he has told Mr. Orange his name and home town.
Mr. Blonde, having watched them from a distance, steps forward and ends the dispute regarding Mr. Orange. Mr. White berates him for his deadly rampage, but Mr. Blonde dismisses the criticism. He tells the others to wait as Eddie is on his way there. Mr. Blonde has also taken a police officer, Marvin Nash (Kirk Baltz), hostage and the three men beat Nash in an attempt to find out if there is an informant. Eddie then arrives and orders Mr. Pink and Mr. White to assist him in retrieving the stolen diamonds and dispose of the hijacked vehicles, while Mr. Blonde stays with Nash and the unconscious Mr. Orange.
Alone with Mr. Blonde, Nash denies any knowledge of a setup, but Mr. Blonde is uninterested and tortures Nash for his own amusement, slashing Nash's face with a straight razor and severing his right ear. He then douses Nash with gasoline, but before he can ignite it, Mr. Orange shoots and kills Mr. Blonde. Mr. Orange then reveals to Nash he is an undercover cop, reassuring Nash that, upon Joe's arrival, a large police force is in position to raid the warehouse.
Eddie, Mr. Pink, and Mr. White return to the warehouse to find Mr. Blonde dead. Mr. Orange claims that Mr. Blonde was going to kill all of them and take the diamonds for himself. After impulsively pulling out his gun and killing Nash, Eddie rejects Mr. Orange’s claims, saying that Mr. Blonde was a close personal friend who had always remained loyal to his father. Then Joe arrives and reveals that Mr. Blue is dead. He confidently accuses Mr. Orange of being an informant, forcing Mr. White to defend his friend.
Joe, about to execute Mr. Orange, is stopped when Mr. White points his gun at him, and Eddie in-turn takes aim on Mr. White. Joe eventually shoots Mr. Orange, wounding him again; Mr. White shoots and kills Joe in response; Eddie shoots Mr. White, wounding him; and Mr. White shoots and kills Eddie.
Mr. Pink, who was hiding during the melee, takes the diamonds and flees. Badly wounded, Mr. White crawls to Mr. Orange and cradles him in his arms. However, Mr. Orange reveals that he is in fact an undercover cop. Devastated, Mr. White points his gun at Mr. Orange's head. The police storm the warehouse, demanding that Mr. White drop his gun. The frame zooms in on the face of Mr. White who apparently pulls the trigger on Mr. Orange and is shot by the police.
- Michael Madsen as Mr. Blonde, a.k.a. Vic Vega
- Chris Penn as "Nice Guy Eddie" Cabot
- Steve Buscemi as Mr. Pink
- Lawrence Tierney as Joseph "Joe" Cabot
- Eddie Bunker as Mr. Blue
- Quentin Tarantino as Mr. Brown
- Tim Roth as Mr. Orange, a.k.a. Freddy Newandyke
- Randy Brooks as Holdaway
- Kirk Baltz as Officer Marvin Nash
- Rich Turner as Sheriff #1
- Steven Wright as K-Billy DJ (voice only)
- David Steen as Sheriff #2
- Tony Cosmo as Sheriff #3
- Stevo Poliy as Sheriff #4
- Michael Sottile as Teddy
- Robert Ruth as Shot Cop
- Lawrence Bender as Young Cop
- Linda Kaye as Shocked Woman
- Suzanne Celeste as Shot Woman
Quentin Tarantino had been working at Video Archives, a video store in Manhattan Beach, California, and originally planned to shoot the film with his friends on a budget of $30,000 in a 16 mm format with producer Lawrence Benderplaying a police officer chasing Mr Pink. When actor Harvey Keitel became involved and agreed to act in the film and co-produce, he was cast as Mr. White. With Keitel's assistance, the filmmakers were able to raise $1.5 million to make the film.
Reservoir Dogs was, according to Tarantino, influenced by Stanley Kubrick's The Killing. Tarantino said: "I didn't go out of my way to do a rip-off of The Killing, but I did think of it as my Killing, my take on that kind of heist movie". The film's plot was suggested by the 1952 film Kansas City Confidential. Additionally, Joseph H. Lewis's 1955 film The Big Combo inspired the scene where a cop is tortured in a chair. Tarantino has denied that he plagiarized withReservoir Dogs instead claiming that he does homages. Also, the main characters being named after colors (Mr. Pink, White, Brown, etc.) was first seen in the 1974 film The Taking of Pelham One Two Three. The film also contains key elements similar to those found in Ringo Lam's 1987 film City on Fire.
Of his decision to not show the heist itself, Tarantino has said that the reason was initially budgetary but that he had always liked the idea of not showing it and stuck with that idea. He has said that the technique allows for the realization that the film is "about other things". He compared this to the work of a novelist, and has said that he wanted the film to be about something that is not seen and that he wanted it to "play with a real-time clock as opposed to a movie clock ticking".
The title for the film came from a patron at the Video Archives. While working there, Tarantino would often recommend little-known titles to customers, and when he suggested Au revoir les enfants, the patron mockingly replied, "I don't want to see no reservoir dogs!" The title is never spoken in the film.
Reservoir Dogs opened in 19 theaters with a first week total of $147,839 in the United States. The film was released to 61 theaters and totaled $2,832,029 at the box office. After its success in Britain, it was shown at the Sundance Film Festival. Empire magazine named it the "Greatest Independent Film ever made". The film has since come to be seen as an important and highly-influential milestone of independent filmmaking. Reservoir Dogs has inspired many other independent films and is considered key in the development of independent cinema.
At the film's release at the Sundance Film Festival, film critic Jami Bernard of the New York Daily News compared the effect of Reservoir Dogs to that of the 1895 film L'Arrivée d'un Train en Gare de la Ciotat, whereby audiences putatively observed a moving train approaching the camera and scrambled. Bernard claimed that Reservoir Dogs had a similar effect and people were not ready for it. Vincent Canby of The New York Times enjoyed the cast and the usage of non-linear storytelling. He similarly complimented Tarantino's directing and liked the fact that he did not often use close-ups in the film. Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times also enjoyed the film and the acting, particularly that of Buscemi, Tierney and Madsen, and said "Tarantino's palpable enthusiasm, his unapologetic passion for what he's created, reinvigorates this venerable plot and, mayhem aside, makes it involving for longer than you might suspect."
Roger Ebert was less enthusiastic; he felt that the script could have been better and said that the film "feels like it's going to be terrific", but Tarantino's script does not have much curiosity about the characters. He also stated that "[Tarantino] has an idea, and trusts the idea to drive the plot." Ebert gave the film two and a half stars out of four also claiming that he enjoyed it, and that it was a very good film from a talented director, like other critics, he enjoyed the cast, but stated "I liked what I saw, but I wanted more."
The film has received substantial criticism for its strong violence and language. One scene that viewers found particularly unnerving was the ear-cutting scene; Madsen himself reportedly had great difficulty finishing it, especially after Kirk Baltz ad-libbed the desperate plea "I've got a little kid at home."
Many people walked out during the film and Tarantino commented about it at the time:
It happens at every single screening. For some people the violence, or the rudeness of the language, is a mountain they can't climb. That's OK. It's not their cup of tea. But I am affecting them. I wanted that scene to be disturbing.
During a screening at a film festival in Barcelona, fifteen people walked out, including horror film director Wes Craven and special makeup effects artist Rick Baker. Baker later told Tarantino to take the walkout as a "compliment" and explained that he found the violence unnerving because of its heightened sense of realism.
Critic John Hartl compared the ear-cutting scene to the shower murder scene in Psycho and Tarantino to David Lynch. He furthermore explored parallels between Reservoir Dogs and Glengarry Glen Ross. After this film, Tarantino was also compared to Martin Scorsese, Sam Peckinpah, John Singleton, Gus Van Sant, and Abel Ferrara. For its nonlinear storyline, Reservoir Dogs has also often been compared to Rashomon. Critic James Berardinelli was of a similar opinion; he complimented both the cast and Tarantino's dialogue writing abilities. Hal Hinson of The Washington Post was also enthusiastic about the cast, complimenting the film on its "deadpan sense of humor". Todd McCarthy called the film "undeniably impressive" and was of the opinion that it was influenced by Mean Streets, Goodfellas and The Killing.
Reservoir Dogs has often been seen as a prominent film in terms of on-screen violence. J.P. Telotte compared Reservoir Dogs to classic caper noir films and points out the irony in its ending scenes. Mark Irwin also made the connection between Reservoir Dogs and classic American noir.
A frequently cited comparison has been to Tarantino's second and more successful film Pulp Fiction, especially since the majority of audiences saw Reservoir Dogs after the success of Pulp Fiction. Comparisons have been made regarding the black humor in both the films, the theme of accidents, and more concretely, the style of dialogue and narrative style that Tarantino incorporates into both films. Specifically the relationship between whites and blacks plays a big part in the films—though underplayed in Reservoir Dogs. Stanley Crouch of The New York Times compared the way the white criminals speak of blacks in Reservoir Dogs to the way they are spoken of in Scorsese'sMean Streets and Goodfellas. Crouch observed the way the blacks are looked down upon in Reservoir Dogs, but also the way that the criminals accuse each other of "verbally imitating" the blacks and the characters' apparent sexual attraction to black actress Pam Grier.
In February 2012, as part of an ongoing series of live dramatic readings of film scripts being staged with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), director Jason Reitman cast black actors in the originally white cast: Lawrence Fishburne as Mr. White; Terrence Howard as Mr. Blonde; Anthony Mackie as Mr. Pink; Cuba Gooding Jr. as Mr. Orange; Chi McBride as Joe Cabot; Anthony Anderson as Nice Guy Eddie (Joe Cabot's son); Common as both Mr. Brown and Officer Nash (the torture victim of Mr. Blonde), and Patton Oswalt as Holdaway (the mentor cop who was originally played by a black actor in the film)—critic Elvis Mitchell noted that this was taking the source material back to its roots since the characters "all sound like black dudes."
The film was screened out of competition at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival. It won the Critic's Award at the 4th Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival in February 1993 which Tarantino attended. The film was also nominated for the prestigious Grand Prix of the Belgian Syndicate of Cinema Critics.
American Film Institute Lists
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills - Nominated
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes and Villains:
- “Mr. Blonde” (Vic Vega) - Nominated Villain
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs:
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes:
- "Are you gonna bark all day, little doggie, or are you gonna bite?" - Nominated
- AFI's 10 Top 10 - Nominated Gangster Film
Region 1 DVDs of Reservoir Dogs have been released multiple times. The first release was a single two-sided disc from LIVE Entertainment, released in June 1997 and featuring both pan-and-scan and letterbox versions of the film.Five years later, Artisan did a two-disc 10th anniversary edition featuring multiple covers color-coded to match the nicknames of five of the characters (Pink, White, Orange, Blonde and Brown) and a disc of bonus features such as interviews with the cast and crew.
For the film's 15th anniversary, Lionsgate, which had purchased Artisan in the interim, produced a two-disc anniversary edition with a remastered 16x9 transfer, a new supplement, but not all of the extra features from the 10th Anniversary edition. In particular, interviews with the cast and crew were dropped, and a new 48-minute-long feature called "Tributes and Dedications" was included. The packaging for the 15th anniversary edition is fancier: the discs are enclosed in a large matchbook, and the matchbook is in a thin aluminum case made to resemble a gas can.
The original British VHS rental video was delayed until 1995 due to the British Board of Film Classification initially refusing the film a home video certificate (U.K. releases are required to be certified separately for theatrical release and for viewing at home). The latter is a requirement by law due to the Video Recordings Act 1984. During the period of unavailability on home video, the film was re-released in U.K. cinemas on 22 June 1994.
Following the UK VHS release approval, Polygram released a 'Mr Blonde Deluxe Edition'  It included the film on VHS with a Quentin interview after the movie; shades & case; chrome toothpick holder, lighter and switchback comb; 'dress groovier' hair gel; silver plated handcuff cufflinks; Vic Vega dog-tags and an exclusive collectors booklet.
|Soundtrack album by Various Artists|
|Released||October 13, 1992|
|Quentin Tarantino film soundtracks chronology|
The Reservoir Dogs: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack was the first soundtrack for a Quentin Tarantino film and set the structure his later soundtracks would follow. This includes the extensive use of snippets of dialogue from the film. The soundtrack has selections of songs from the 1960s to '80s. Only the group Bedlam recorded original songs for the film. The radio station "K-Billy's Super Sounds of the Seventies" played a prominent role in the film. The DJ for the radio was chosen to be Steven Wright, a comedian known for his deadpan delivery of jokes.
An unusual feature of the soundtrack was the choice of songs; Tarantino has said that he feels the music to be a counterpoint to the on-screen violence and action. He also stated that he wished for the film to have a 1950s feel while using '70s music. A prominent instance of this is the torture scene to the tune of "Stuck in the Middle with You".
Bedlam was a 1990s rock group from Nashville fronted by Jay Joyce, who were signed to MCA Records. Their album Into the Coals was released in 1992. Further members were Chris Feinstein (bass) and Doug Lancio. "Magic Carpet Ride" is a cover of the 1968 Steppenwolf song. "Harvest Moon" is written by Jay Joyce.
- Track listing
- "And Now Little Green Bag..." - dialogue extract performed by Steven Wright (0:15)
- "Little Green Bag" - The George Baker Selection (3:15)
- "Rock Flock of Five" - dialogue extract performed by Steven Wright (0:11)
- "Hooked on a Feeling" - Blue Swede (2:53)
- "Bohemiath" - dialogue extract performed by Steven Wright (0:34)
- "I Gotcha" - Joe Tex (2:27)
- "Magic Carpet Ride" - Bedlam (5:10)
- "Madonna Speech" - dialogue extract performed by Quentin Tarantino, Edward Bunker, Lawrence Tierney, Steve Buscemi, and Harvey Keitel (0:59)
- "Fool for Love" by Sandy Rogers (3:25)
- "Super Sounds" - dialogue extract performed by Steven Wright (0:19)
- "Stuck in the Middle with You" - Stealers Wheel (3:23)
- "Harvest Moon" - Bedlam (2:38)
- "Let's Get a Taco" - dialogue extract performed by Harvey Keitel and Tim Roth (1:02)
- "Keep on Truckin'" - dialogue extract performed by Steven Wright (0:16)
- "Coconut" - Harry Nilsson (3:50)
- "Home of Rock" - dialogue extract performed by Steven Wright (0:05)
A video game based on the film was released in 2006 for PC, Xbox, and PlayStation 2. However, the game does not feature the likeness of any of the actors with the exception of Michael Madsen. GameSpot called it "an out and out failure". It caused controversy for its amount of violence and was banned in Australia and New Zealand.