Quentin Tarantino’s now 30 year-old Reservoir Dogs still holds up

Tyson Head, Writer

Reservoir Dogs, the formative and directorial debut of famed director Quentin Tarantino, released in October of 1992.

As his first film, not to mention preceding his magnum opus Pulp Fiction, you’d be forgiven for thinking this film may be lacking in a few categories. You would be wrong. While the film certainly is low-budget, at $1.2 Million, it makes up for it with great directing, acting, cinematography, and style.

Reservoir Dogs begins with an opening monologue as a group of eight men sit around a breakfast table. Mr. Brown, the instigator of said discussion, is sharing his interpretation of a famous Madonna song. As the men all get their two cents in on the topic, we’re subsequently treated with perhaps the most infamous intro sequence of all time. All eight men are seen walking out of the diner in slow motion, as “Little Green Bag” by George Baker Selection plays. Each man gets his own push in as Mr. White (Harvey Keitel), Mr. Orange (Tim Roth), Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi), Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen), Mr. Brown (Quentin Tarantino), Mr. Blue (Edward Bunker), Nice Guy Eddie (Chris Penn), and Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney) approach the camera. The screen subsequently fades to black.

As the film fades back in, we’re instantly enamored with the sound of screaming and profanity until our view is restored. Mr. Orange has been seriously wounded and Mr. White is flying through traffic as Orange bleeds all over the cars’ white interior. The two make it to a discreet location and rush inside before White sets Orange down on a loading bay platform. Orange seriously thinks he will die, as he repeatedly requests for White to “Hold me.” Orange passes out as he paints the ramp red. “Mr. White has always been my favorite,” shared Grant Bebow. “He was always the most capable and seemed to know what he was doing at all times.” As White lets him go to clean the blood off of himself, Mr. Pink bursts through the door, already yelling about how everything was a setup. Pink asks if Orange is dead, to which White explains that he will be if they don’t get him medical attention soon. The two clean themselves up and both have a smoke as they discuss the events we missed. 

Apparently, the robbery was going smoothly until one worker tripped the alarm, causing Mr. Blonde to start executing hostages. Mr. Brown, Orange, and White all take off as Mr. Blonde flees in the other car, leaving Pink and Blue marooned at the botched job. Mr. Pink takes off sprinting down the block with the diamonds, and is hit by a car in the process, causing him to drag the lady out of her vehicle and speed away from the police with a shambled windshield. Additionally, Mr. Blue is never seen after this, making his fate a complete mystery though he is theorized by the others to have died. The film never shows us the heist itself, instead opting to show us certain flashbacks of vital information when the plot slowly unfolds in order to keep us engaged. Mr. White circles back to the discussion of Orange’s health as Pink insists he “Feels bad, but it’s tough luck.” To which White shoves him to the ground and the two simultaneously brandish their guns, creating the second most famous scene of the movie as the camera pans back, revealing Mr. Blonde has arrived.

“You kids shouldn’t play so rough. Somebody’s gonna start crying,” says Blonde as he casually sips a pop from a fast-food restaurant. “Blonde is my favorite. He may be evil and sadistic, but he just oozes charisma and makes every scene he’s in,” commented Cole Lombard. Pink instantly leaps to his feet, and sort of stands behind White as the two stare at Blonde. This is a great way of developing Blonde’s character. In just seconds, the two men who were just about to shoot each other are now both finding solace in one another due to Blonde’s presence alone. White begins to berate Blonde as, if you remember, Blonde is the one who began executing hostages thanks to a minor inconvenience. “You gonna bark all day little doggy, or are you gonna bite?” Says Blonde as he goads White into trying something. Pink breaks up the fight as White and Blonde begin to confront each other. Blonde then says he has to show them something, escorting them outside to his car.

Blonde has kidnapped a police officer in the confusion and the three of them hope they can divulge any evidence of the crew being set up. As the three beat the officer, they later tie him to a chair. Nice Guy Eddie, one of the men responsible for hiring our ‘heroes’ for this job, appears. He asks where the diamonds are, to which Pink explains they are hidden. Eddie, White, and Pink leave to retrieve the diamonds, leaving Blonde to look after both the unconscious Orange and the tied-up Policeman. As we hear the cars outside rumble to life and pull away, Blonde slowly walks towards the radio and starts playing “Stuck In The Middle With You” by Stealers Wheel. Blonde toys with the poor cop, dancing around to the music before pulling the officer in and slicing his ear off with a shaving razor. Blonde goes for the cops’ neck before being shot numerous times in the chest, collapsing against the Northern wall. Orange is now conscious as he turns towards the officer and says, “I’m a cop.”

We’re then shown the origin of how Orange became acquainted with the team. Right up until the point we witness the death of Mr. Brown, as he’s shot in the back of the head during the getaway. In the process of stealing another car to get away in, Orange is shot in the chest by a woman, to which he returns fire, killing her instantly. This deeply affects him, as we can see in the reveal that he is actually distraught over killing a woman, rather than being shot. Joe, the man who hired everyone, finally arrives, with his son Eddie, White, and Pink. Eddie executes the officer before checking on Mr. Blonde. Upon being asked what happened, Orange spins the tale of Blonde conspiring against the rest of them, and plotting to take the diamonds for himself. Joe accuses Orange of being a cop, a claim which is refused by Mr. White. White stands in front of Orange, attempting to protect him. Joe aims at Orange, White aims at Joe, Eddie aims at White. After a round of shouting and hollering, all men fire. All men collapse, with Joe and Eddie dying instantly. White and Orange are left barely clinging to life. How did all three men get shot? 

Well, observant viewers may have spotted Mr. Pink in the background getting into a vantage point, before shooting Eddie himself. Pink snatches up the diamonds and flees the massacre, leaving White and Orange clinging to life. White holds Orange in a manner reminiscent of the way he did in the beginning of the film. As sirens grow nearer, Orange utters the words, “I’m a cop. I’m sorry. I’m a cop.” Cops burst into the warehouse, ordering White to put his gun down. As White yells in agony, he points his gun at Orange’s head, the camera pans away, followed by a litany of gunshots.

This movie’s protagonist, Mr. White, is no hero. Our supposed hero, Mr. Orange, to whom we’re only introduced to in the second act, is no hero either. The only survivor out of the entire central cast of the film is Mr. Pink, who constantly reminds his co-workers throughout the movie that he is indeed a professional. This would appear to ring true, as he is the only member of the crew to show any real sense, and he survived because of it. White’s downfall was his trust in Orange, which got him killed in the end. Orange may have been the supposed hero of the story, but his actions may have done more bad than good. Blonde is a psycho, different, which may have been surmised early on if you noticed he is the only character who doesn’t have a color for a name. Brown is significant as he delivers the opening monologue of the movie, thus introducing us to this Tarantino Film Universe. Blue is a complete enigma, only appearing in two scenes of the whole film, and having one line. 

This was a strong start for Tarantino but he could do better. He did do better, with 1994’s Pulp Fiction, the spiritual and some would say actual sequel to Reservoir Dogs.