This is an absolutely amazing, ground breaking film and I adored it! Below, more of my impressions, with some very limited SPOILERS.
It begins with eight dangerous criminals eating breakfast at a Los Angeles diner. Being what they are it is clear from the first moment that they are up to no good. The breakfast is hosted by Joseph "Joe" Cabot (Lawrence Tierney), an important, respected (and feared) figure in local criminal world and his seemingly less formidable son Eddie "Nice Guy" Cabot (Chris Penn). Although the atmosphere is supposedly light-hearted, it becomes very fast obvious that this is in fact a kind of solemn farewell party before the six guests go on some BIG mission. Those six men are:
- Larry Dimmick a.k.a. "Mr White" (Harvey Keitel)
- Victor "Vic" Vega a.k.a. "Mr Blonde" (Michael Madsen)
- Freddy Newandyke a.k.a. "Mr Orange" (Tim Roth)
- "Mr. Pink" (Steve Buscemi)
- "Mr. Brown" (Quentin Tarantino)
- "Mr. Blue" (Edward Bunker)
The color coded names they use are of course Tarantino's tribute to the great 1974 thriller "Taking of Pelham 123". One of those six men is a traitor - and another one hides an even bigger, uglier, more horrible secret. For many of them this is the last day of their lives... Nothing more will be said.
When it opened in 1992, this film was clearly an almost revolutionary event. Nothing like that was ever shown on screen before and it changed the whole face of world cinema - FOR EVER!
The main strength of this film resides in the scenario and especially in dialogs. Quentin Tarantino introduced into the main stream cinema the use of extremely strong language, but in such a way, that it actually doesn't seem all that shocking - in fact it seems like just a socially respectable and acceptable way of communicating (but it isn't - just try to speak like that in your real life...).
Another thing, used earlier, but NEVER on such scale, was to take low life characters and make them have really elaborated conversations on all kind of unexpected topics. And it worked BIG TIME.
The twists of the scenario are another trick Tarantino used to the maximum. It becomes immediately clear, that in this films absolutely ANYTHING and EVERYTHING can happen - and it does.
The non-linear narration, with flashbacks, is an old trick very much used in the cinema - already John Ford, Billy Wilder and Michael Curtiz did a masterful use of it in masterpieces like "The man who killed Liberty Valance", "Sergeant Rutledge", "Witness for the prosecution" and "Mildred Pierce" - but it is never an easy thing and it takes great skill to efficiently keep it under control. Well, with "Reservoir Dogs" and later with "Pulp Fiction" Tarantino took the art of non-linear scenario to the new heights of perfection.
Tarantino himself claimed that this film was mostly influenced by Stanely Kubrick film noir "The Killing" from 1956, but I think I also saw here the influence of styles used by David Lynch (especially "Wild at heart") and Paul Verhoeven (especially "Basic Instinct" and to some extent also "Robocop"). That being said there is no question that "Reservoir Dogs", even if of course benefitting from some earlier inspirations, is a completely original thing. And that it is a rare, precious thing in modern cinema.
This film had of course descendants even if, thanks God, nobody had the brilliant idea to make a sequel, prequel or spin-off. But "Pulp Fiction", Jackie Brown", "Kill Bill", the Tarantino segment from "Four rooms", Tarantino episode of "CSI" and "Grindhouse: Death Proof" (I didn't see his last two films and after watching the trailers I do not intend to) are certainly children of "Reservoir Dogs", as are the films written but not directed by Tarantino, like "True Romance" and "From dusk till dawn" (yes, I know, he also wrote "Natural Born Killers" - but I try to forget it...).
Then, there is of course all the influence Tarantino had on the cinema, beginning with but not limited to, films made by his partner in crime Robert Rodriguez: "El Mariachi", "Desperado", "Four rooms", "Sin City", "Grindhouse: Planet terror", "Machete", "Machete kills" and the upcoming "Sin City 2". Amongst other Tarantino influenced things one let's just cite "Con Air" (one of my favourite comedies"), "Lucky Number Slevin" and especially the great "Fargo", as well as (at least to some extent) "Heat".
Then of course there is the whole Tarantino influence on some great TV series - I am absolutely certain that the appearance of both "Shield" and "Sopranos" was at least a little influenced by "Reservoir Dogs" and "Pulp Fiction" and when watching "The Wire" I was certain that Omar Little was a little inspired by Tarantino thugs - as for Brother Mouzone and his faithful sidekick I am CERTAIN they were inspired by Tarantino. And that list is definitely not exhaustive.
Bottom line, this is a film that simply must be seen for two reason. First, because it is a masterpiece and second, because it changed the history of cinema. Enjoy!