Nearly 30 years have passed since Quentin Tarantino made his case for Hollywood stardom.
His debut feature, Reservoir Dogs is a gritty independent thriller that marks the potential of what would become one of the most prolific filmmakers in 21st century Hollywood.
Set in Los Angeles, the film opens to a group of men eating breakfast in preparation of a heist to take place later that day. When the heist goes awry, the den of thieves must sniff out a rat in their midst. What unfolds is a puzzle of a narrative the pieces together moments in the timeline until the entire story takes shape at the story’s climactic end.
The film’s ensemble cast features the talents of Tim Roth, Harvey Keitel, Steve Buscemi, and Tarantino himself. Each brings a balance of humor and ferocity to his respective role. This is assisted by the impressive writing from Tarantino.
Reservoir Dogs welcomes audiences to the snappy stream of consciousness dialogue the writer would become known for. Tarantino’s innate ability to curate conversation is ubiquitous, no matter how raw or undeveloped in this film.
Where the story of a heist and a double cross is undeniably an overused plot, Tarantino’s technical skills and ability to enrich a scene is what sets the film apart from others of its genre.
In the film’s opening, Tarantino is able to make a conversation about the societal construct of tipping waitresses compelling. Using multiple characters as unique perspectives on the topic, it is an early showcase of his ability to craft fully realized characters.
Equally impressive is Tarantino’s direction. Several scenes depicting intense arguments often feel urgent and improvised, with Tarantino surely guiding the actors to embrace the moment and go with the scene however its executed. This adds to the films sense of realism.
He additionally makes great use of creativity in what are surely several budgetary restraints. One great use of trickery is a scene depicting one character’s torture. The choice points to the innovative perspective Tarantino and his Director of Photography, Andrzej Sekula bring to the film.
Rounding out the film is a soundtrack that deepens scenes in which the songs are featured. Most notable is Stealers Wheel’s “Stuck in the Middle with You,” an ironically chipper tune for a scene depicting brutal torture and gore. It’s the making of Tarantino’s dark humor. Music supervisor Karyn Rachtman makes choices with the film that led to some of the most iconic moments in the Tarantino canon.
In many ways, Reservoir Dogs plays like a resume of Tarantino’s talents, foreshadowing the many great stories the writer/director would soon go on to tell and permanently impact the Hollywood conversation.
Concise, impressive, and ambitious, Reservoir Dogs is a brilliant debut from Tarantino. In his career infancy, Tarantino brings together some incredibly talented actors for a film that still manages to hit nearly three decades after its original release.
While it’s far from his best work, Reservoir Dogs is a must watch for any fans of the filmmaker or the genre.