The more I think about Quentin Tarantino, the more conflicted I feel. He’s perhaps one of only two directors in the history of cinema (Hitchcock being the other) to have made himself into a genre and he’s also responsible for some of the purest blasts of cinema seen over the past few decades. On the other hand, I seem to like his films less than most, a lot of them being just ok. I also have a strange propensity to like his sillier works such as Death Proof (2007) and Kill Bill Volume 1 (2003) more than the more serious efforts that have garnered the director major acclaim.
That is all a longwinded background to where I was coming from when I sat down to watch Reservoir Dogs (1992) for the first time recently. This is the film that blasted Tarantino into stardom and it is a pretty perfect summation of where his career would go. On one front it is a little disappointing. All of his flaws (except for maybe the recently acquired tendency for his films to be vastly too long) are on display here, though it must be said, also are many elements of his filmmaking genius. This film is incredibly talky, with characters talking over each other about, well bullshit a lot of the time. The rapturous reception, to what is an admittedly pretty original conceit of having characters engage in lengthy side-conversations about movies and music, may have done Tarantino’s work a disservice in the long run. Almost in contrast to my feelings about Tarantino’s filmography broadly speaking, here he is best when being serious. The film is much better when painting something like Tim Roth’s desperation to live rather than the riffing on pop culture bulllshit. It’s all about story. If he is dicking about with the script, but it’s in service of the story, then I am in. But otherwise it is just tiresome. On a plot level, this is a mixed bag. Here we see Tarantino’s flair for mixing up narrative structures in a way that increases both the enjoyment and intrigue you will take out of it. But after you tease out what is going on, it is a pretty thin tale, with a twist that really falls flat.
In case you hadn’t noticed, Quentin Tarantino has a stratospheric ego. Here, in one of his interminable cameos (Hitchcock shows us how director cameos should be done – requiring no skill, playful and SHORT), Tarantino gives himself all the most attention seeking, motor mouthed lines in a display that shows off his woeful acting chops. It is interesting to see how actors deal with the script that really does have a lot of rubbish in it. Some flounder, whilst others are able to excel despite the weaknesses on display. Most notably among the latter in Reservoir Dogs is Harvey Keitel, and to a lesser extend Michael Madsen. Somehow those two cut through the weakness of the writing and deliver performances that actually service the plot. They make you believe the dialogue, rathe than feeling you should be sitting back and admiring it for its cleverness.
Verdict: Weirdly, I really don’t have all that much to say about this film. It didn’t move me any more than the fact it is a moderately interesting crime flick. An alright film and notable for being the start of a great career, but no more. Stubby of Reschs