Reservoir Dogs, directed and written by Quentin Tarantino was released to the cinemas in 1992. It begins in a breakfast scene inside a café where a number of men are discussing a robbery they are about to commit and then cuts immediately to two people in a car, one has been shot and is bleeding badly while the other is trying to calm him down. The film continues to gives glimpses of the story in an irregular fashion rather than a linear based story line which eventually fills out the missing pieces for the audience and they will realise that the robbery has gone horribly wrong while the question arises of how they got found out so quickly and ultimately, who amongst them was the traitor.
Figure 1. Mr Orange (1992)
One of the notable points about Reservoir Dogs is the non-linear storyline which gives the audience cuts from the present and past, always giving a glimpse from a different part of the time line rather than being a straightforward chronological story which gives the film a certain twist Tarantino fans have become to expect over the years. Turan describes the cut up of the scenes: “None of this is immediately obvious, coming into focus in bits and pieces, for Tarantino has broken his story up and told it non-chronologically. Energetic scenes of the shootout alternate with quiet flashbacks to the planning as well as the emotionally unstable situation at the rendezvous spot, as the surviving gang members scream bloody murder at each other, trying to figure out how an easy job turns into a fiasco while Mr. Orange swoons in his own blood on the floor.” (Turan, 1992:2) perhaps Tarantino used this odd non-linear technique to wrong foot the audience, add a sense of mystery and increase suspense. Often as Turan states following bloody dramatic scenes with quiet conversations and events, toying with the audiences adrenaline and emotional state.
Figure 2. Warehouse (1992)
Billson calls Reservoir Dogs a postmodern film, not only because of the nonlinear storyline but also in the way the characters behave: “It is also very funny. They may not realise it, but these are post-modernist felons. They dress like the Blues Brothers, deconstruct Madonna lyrics, squabble over who gets the coolest sounding code-name and wind each other up with sneers of, "Bet you're a big Lee Marvin fan, ain't you?"” (Billson, 2014:2) perhaps Billson is referring to the spirit of post-modernity in the film. With a new age of villain which is more obsessed with his image than the job. Where villainy and crime have adopted almost a sense of cool even to a comical extent which Reservoir Dogs portrays again and again in various scenes of arguments. Even the characters clothing as Billson states is a chime back to the Blues Brothers, perhaps famously one of the most “cool” villains in Hollywood productions.
Thompson states that the nonlinear technique explains the characters in rather unique way: “"Reservoir Dogs" throws its characters into an anonymous heap and lets the jumpy flashback narrative sort out their personalities, flaws and contributions to the plot.” (Thompson, 1992:2) which perhaps tries to mirror a more lifelike experience as the audience gets to know the characters well over time and at the right time to make sense upon reflecting rather than being thrown the most important facts right at the beginning and letting the story roll from there, like most narratives do. It also shows fast pace glimpses of the characters at their normal states of minds and at their worst, in dire situations people reveal their true nature and perhaps Tarantino uses this story technique to further accelerate the audiences understanding of the main characters.
Figure 3. Torture (1992)
One of the probably most memorable scenes in Reservoir Dogs is a torture scene in which Mr Blonde dances to radio music and mutilates the ear of a police officer who doesn’t seem to have any information to surrender. Thompson writes to this scene: “A quintessential scene finds Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) terrorizing a hostage in the empty warehouse. Mr. Blonde does not want information about the informant. He's doing it for sport. While a radio plays a bad song from an FM ''Sounds of the '70s" retrospective (a running joke here), Mr. Blonde begins dancing, singing and brandishing his implements of torture - a razor, a can of gasoline, a lighter. He then begins to mutilate his victim.” (Thompson, 1992:2) illustrating Mr Blonde’s enjoyment while torturing the man. This scene is probably one of the most shocking and iconic scenes of the film, it shows humanity at its most gruesome and how close to home certain gruesome events can hit. It brings an almost primeval fear of our fellow man to the surface as unthinkable deeds are performed without seemingly any form of provocation or reasoning. The scenes truly horrific nature is then made almost surreal by the music and dancing, like being thrust into a twisted version of Alice in Wonderland where nothing makes sense and sound track to a catchy song is played over a scene of mutilation and torture.
Altogether, Reservoir Dogs is a deeply enthralling film for an audience that a taste for violence on screen. Plot lines are twisted and that come together over time rather than being explained upfront. It is an example for nonlinear, postmodern storytelling and has strong characters, which are explored in a jigsaw puzzle manner. The only criticism of the film is that of the deep overpowering accents of the main characters coupled with the loud over bearing scene sounds and music which make at least for some viewers perhaps the dialog of the film a little difficult to always interpret.
Figure 1. Tarantino, Q. (1992). Mr Orange [Still of Reservoir Dogs] available from: http://www.cultjer.com/img/article/2013_06/reservoirdogs_3_mr_orange/img/tim_roth_mr_orange_reservoir_dogs.jpg (accessed: 22/03/2015)
Figure 2. Tarantino, Q. (1992). Warehouse [Still of Reservoir Dogs] available from: https://40.media.tumblr.com/d3491a3f4cfc4ceef7fd89fffc1c2e7f/tumblr_n07qtaRfaF1rlfjfao1_500.jpg (accessed: 22/03/2015)
Figure 3. Tarantino, Q. (1992). Torture [Still of Reservoir Dogs] available from: https://thecinefilewrites.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/reservoir-dogs-06.png (accessed: 22/03/2015)
Billson, Anne. (2014). Available from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/filmreviews/11311308/Reservoir-Dogs-review-raw-and-exciting.html (accessed: 22/03/2015)
Thompson, Gary. (1992). Available from: http://articles.philly.com/1992-10-30/news/25998760_1_informant-andrzej-sekula-fake-names (accessed: 22/03/2015)
Turan, Kenneth. (1992). Available from: http://articles.latimes.com/1992-10-30/entertainment/ca-760_1_reservoir-dogs (accessed: 22/03/2015)