“Reservoir Dogs,” Quentin Tarantino’s second film after the little known low-budgeter “My Best Friend’s Birthday,” is a good and polished early effort from a brilliant and controversial filmmaker.
A lot of Tarantino’s trademarks are present here: extreme violence, black humor, brilliant dialogue, and an unflinching portrayal of racism, but a little more emotion is present than with Tarantino’s other works, including a rather touching relationship between two of the main characters, Mr. White and Mr. Orange.
The color-coordinated characters, Mr. White (Harvey Keitel), Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen), Mr. Orange (Tim Roth), Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi), Mr. Blue (Edward Bunker), and Mr. Brown (Director Tarantino) are a group of criminals cornered by the police during a diamond heist.
After a bloody shootout, a group of them escape, including Mr. Orange (Roth), who is badly injured in the getaway. Stationed at a hiding spot, the remaining thieves suspect that someone among them may be a police informer. And with volatile Blonde in their midst, the situation has nowhere to go but down.
As per usual with Tarantino, the dialogue is clever and quirky, rife with the idiosyncrasies and oddities of daily life. I didn’t find the dialogue as funny this time round as “Pulp Fiction,” which was ultimately a more engaging work. The acting here is very good, with Chris Penn as “Nice-Guy” Eddie being a weak-point in an otherwise strong cast.
Tim Roth is a stand-out as reluctant newbie Orange, while Michael Madsen as Blonde makes a very convincing psycho. Harvey Keitel and Steve Buscemi give steady support as White and Pink, respectively. The violence is occasionally shocking and provoked walk-outs during “Reservoir Dogs'” stint at the film festival circuit, but may have become less so with time.
Overall, “Reservoir Dogs” embodies what we have come to expect from Tarantino — shocks, thrills, and graphic violence — like an invigorating roller-coaster ride, but with a little extra heart. We care about the relationship between White and Orange, and the following events saddens us. But most of all, it is spectacular Tarantino entertainment. Who could ask for anything more?