Reservoir Dogs (1992)
As I did a few years back I had to go back to an old Quentin Tarantino film before I go to see his latest offering The Hateful Eight (2015). Just by reading the premise of his second Western you can draw comparisons to Reservoir Dogs (1992) his debut film that feels a life time ago. To put things into perspective I was 3 years old when this film was released. Today as it was then it was seen as innovative, twist narrative film on its head, backwards and out the other-side. I could have said this was a revisit, which technically it is for me, however I was not really aware of Tarantino’s effect of film with his debut. Looking at the length of his latest film it wraps up at nearly 3 hours. This is almost half that, I’m guessing if he had the money he would have made it longer, or had he not thought about getting carried away. Dogs feels far longer than it is, packed with conversations that feel like you are listening in on something mundane, yet you can’t generally write that kind of conversation without recording it and personalizing it back home. Tarantino has given us an internal monologue and put it on paper and in the words of his carefully chosen cast.
I can’t yet compare Dogs with Eight as I have yet to see it so I will continue to explore what I learned from my recent sitting, from which I could only remember the torture scene which is hard to erase, be so graphic even when the camera pulls away you have a good idea what is going on. Of course that’s only one scene in the complex and bloody film which begins with an introduction that introduces a gang of men in a cafe just talking, not the traditional way to begin a film. As you go through the film we learn it’s not in chronological order, it’s all flashbacks and internal flashbacks which add depth to the film and the dialogue between these men.
Tarantino has used the classic device of the Maguffin to bluff the audience, it’s not about the robbery or the fact their is a mole in the group that we all begin to suspect early on, even with that faded memory in the back of my mind you continue to watch with fascination. These men are not who you want to meet on the street even in broad-day light. Yet they are depicted as just men who have chosen to take on a job that has ended badly. Two men already dead, including a small part for Mr Brown (Tarantino) and Mr. Blue (Edward Bunker) allowing the director to stay where he belongs, behind the camera orchestrating and feeding the dialogue. We never really know the names of the men beyond those of colour which allows the audience to have a more memorable experience, keeping the names so simple we can concentrate on the film, whilst not forgetting who they are.
If you look at the credits Harvey Keitel has a producers credit which also reflects in his massive part on-screen as Mr. White – Larry Dimmick which also adds more confidence to the film, knowing you have a familiar face to engage with instead of an unknown. Familiar to the genre of crime and gangster its not a stretch for him, yet different enough a character that you don’t forget him in a hurry. Having a cast of actors who are both known and unknown shows giving the film both credibility and weight even at less than 90 minutes.
For me it’s the non-linear structure of a film. When you turn on the TV and catch a film in the middle or at the end you have no real chance of understanding what the film is about. I know I’ve done that, wanting to know more see where these characters came from, the journey they have been on which lead them to the films resolution. Dogs of course asks you to watch from the beginning, but doesn’t necessarily begin there. Instead we’re introduced to men talking and arguing over whether to tip the waitress, it’s not what you’d expect to find yourself listening to. Before creating that iconic opening title sequence that tells us who these men are, not what they do but who they are alone.
We then jump forwards then backwards at times, as we learn about a diamond robbery but never see it carried out, left for our imagination to fill in. We learn that it didn’t go to plan, Mr Blonde (Michael Madsen) is very much a loose cannon that cannot be trusted, but he’s not the rat among them, that comes later on in this fragment and thoughtfully constructed film that if it’s not firing bullets it’s delivering snappy dialogue that. What grounds the film is those scenes in the warehouse where the robbery’s discussed in detail. You could have the whole film play out here with those other scenes just discussed. They act instead as cutaway’s and flashbacks that construct what has already happened.
It’s the power of memory and how flexible it is in a narrative form, testing how much an audience can-take. Of course now its a common part of some film, Tarantino still excels in this field. I wonder what I will find in The Hateful Eight which is for me a cross between Rio Bravo (1959) and Reservoir Dogs. I wonder if his next film will be another western or has he found his genre that he had been wanting to work in, causing a resurgence in which I am very grateful for however long it lasts. I come away from this film however with a deep appreciation for it, understanding its structure, the power of the suspense and it goes all over the place yet stays grounded somehow.
- Tarantino Amazes in ‘Reservoir Dogs’ (1992) (debbimacktoo.wordpress.com)
- DEBUT FEATURES: Reservoir Dogs (1992) (mumbyatthemovies.blogspot.co.uk)
- MOVIES MADE ME #51: Reservoir Dogs (1992) (maddrey.blogspot.co.uk)