Reservoir Dogs is Tarantino at his roughest, most unpolished. It is a fired machine gun, its characters a world away from the balanced, elegant eloquence of later creations of Colonel Hans Landa or Monsieur Candie. Punctuated with the power of bullets shot out of the bravado pistols that his dogs are carrying, the story never lingers nor allows itself a deeper breath.
Shot in an isolated warehouse through a series of long takes in deep focus, the camera alienates all spatial relations, everyone, viewer including, assuming a safe distance. The sun almost blinds us as we walk out with Mr. Blue to get a can of gasoline, allowed to take breath before we are trapped back in the pop infused world of cartoon violence. It is a story that is gruesomely witty and sharp, a game of the most beautiful pop carnage.
Mr. White, Mr. Pink, Mr. Brown, Mr. Blue and Mr. Orange are fascinated with the characters they are there to become; the silver screen heroes and pop music queens, and anything violent and dirty in between. They’re the characters in the cinephillic extravaganza of Tarantino’s mind, performing their roles of failed action heroes in a futile diamond chase.
Reservoir Dogs is a film about a film about a film, about a film, about a film. It could be clinically taken down to a single inspiration, a sigh of awe, scene by scene, shot by shot. This has been done on many occasions to its benefit. It has an early touch of Tarantino’s authorial cinematic euphoria, a touch that will define all his films, and inspires and justifies the many cinematic passions in the world of pop.
Reservoir Dogs is many films layered upon each other, excited explosives, mashed up together to bring us a spectacle, taking us back to the essence of the cinema. These layers mould our spectatorial pleasures into their most questionable and sadistic form, cruelly voyeuristic, as we encircle the gang like another nameless stranger, one that cannot be reached and recognized, presumed safe.
No one, however, is safe in Tarantino’s world, not least the viewer, trapped within interwoven sequences, segments of knowledge pieced together. Amongst the strangers playing their parts in the Hollywood gang adventure, we’re the only ones allowed enough knowledge to pull the trigger and stop the game. As the massacre revolves, there is only one sadistic psycho putting out fire with gasoline and that is us, stuck in the middle of the strangers, humming along to Mr. Blue’s bloody art of pop indulgence. Reservoir Dogs is a story of a pack of dogs, nicknamed, led, ultimately fooled by its pack tactics, sniffing around each other, barking and biting at one another amongst the desperate shouts of Mr. Pink, pleading that his companions behave like ‘professionals’, the word uttered in despair, essentially caricaturing his character.
The opening sequence has us in a place where dogs sniff around to get a tasty bite at a table. The camera lures us in and keeps us out, obstructing the view with an outline of a shoulder, a blurred fragment of a head, almost never being allowed a full frontal close-up. We’re not who we are led to believe; one of the unnamed boys, allowed a glance upon each face, as they exchange banter about Madonna and moralise over the tipping of a waitress.
The opening sequence blacks out and we appear amidst the panicked Mr. Orange and Mr. White, fleeing the site of crime. The camera trapped in a car jumps from the supportive bravado of Mr. White onto the wounded and panicked Mr. Orange, forming glimpses of the bonding that we’re encouraged to grab onto, the only attachment that is enabled; the bond which ultimately puts the final bullet in the head in the closing act of uncontrollable fury.
Mr. Brown’s lengthy analysis of ‘Like a Virgin’, interrupted by his comrades’ musings on Madonna, television, women in society and whatever else sends a fierce personal punch, one that will forever place the rock’n’roll between Quentin and Tarantino and be echoed in all of his later productions up to his latest, Django Unchained.
Reservoir Dogs is nothing but Madonna’s ‘Like a Virgin’ as vividly fantasized by Mr. Brown. Here we get fucked by Tarantino for the very first time. It was a first time too painful for many, though one that nobody would forget.