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LAWRENCE TIERNEY CINEMA: RESERVOIR DOGS

year: 1991 rating: *****
If, before 1991, someone mentioned that a movie involving a group of hardened thugs… including Noir legend/tough guy Lawrence Tierney, Harvey Keitel, and real life ex-prisoner Eddie Bunker… would sit around in a diner discussing (or listening to others discuss) Madonna songs, no one would believe it....

Little Green Bag
But it took that kind of creative insanity to usher in one of the greatest modern day crime films, written and directed by a former video store employee who’d soon become an international icon.

RESERVOIR DOGS is still one of Quentin Tarantino’s best, or at least his most cutthroat and gritty cinematic achievement, evolving around a group of anonymous diamond thieves before and after a heist-gone-wrong… which we never actually witness. This implied tactic absorbs the viewer’s imagination through dialogue describing it, letting us see the good, the bad, and the ugly of this wild bunch as audiences, mostly discovering this gem on VHS, were introduced to the auteur’s flowing wordplay, nonlinear approach to storytelling, and retro-hip song selections.

Blood Orange
"Dead as Dillinger"
And while it’s hard to say who's truly the main character, an arguable debate could favor Tim Roth, who, after the first half of brilliantly bickering dialogue… the cons figuring out which thug ratted to the cops about the heist… becomes a protagonist to care about i.e. a possible light at the end of a bleak tunnel (actually a warehouse) filled with brilliantly shady characters...

Like Steve Buscemi as the exposition-spouting, scene-stealing hopped-up jerk who doesn't tip waitresses, and Michael Madsen as the villainous heavy in a film about heavies.

The late Chris Penn, as crime boss Lawrence Tierney’s temperamental son, and Kirk Baltz, as a very unlucky cop, add color to this bloodshed of brilliance that's yet to be surpassed on such a basic, primal level. No matter how tough these guys are, Tierney's Joe not only calls the shots, but makes up the names, and wants to know who'd been naming names. And everything's balanced by a radio station playing classic tunes, hosted by the dry genius of Steven Wright.

Yet with all the classic lines, classic actors, and intensive situations, it’s the camaraderie between Keitel, as the most experienced of the thugs, and Roth, who’s bleeding his life away, that provides the real soul throughout.
 Mr Blonde, Mr White & Mr Pink via Tarantino trunkcam
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1 comment:

  1. Watching Reservoir Dogs for the 20th anniversary on a big screen for first time was seriously overwhelming! As you know this is one of my favorite movies of all-time, on any given day this is my favorite Tarantino movie. I never got to see this movie during its original run because I remember trying to find a theater it was playing at and it might have been playing at one or two theaters in LA or Santa Monica. On the small screen however I've watched it as much as any other movie I own.

    Seeing it on the big screen however was mind-boggling. The print was almost too flawless. I was so used to first my VHS copy and then my DVD - the faces were almost too big, the dialogue slammed into me. I felt almost abused, but in a good way. After having seen the movie a 100+ times and then finally watching it on the big screen was truly shocking.

    I couldn't imagine having grown up watching the original Star Wars movie hundreds of times on television and cable and then going to finally see it in 1997 on its 20th anniversary on the big screen for the first time. Heck even for me having seen Star Wars at least 40 times in the summer of '77 seeing it again on the big screen and especially The Empire Strikes back on a big screen again was mind-blowing.

    Yes it always comes back to Star Wars, ha!

    Anyway I love Reservoir Dogs. Pulp Fiction can at times lose its charms, and when I'm just not in the mood for samurai swords and Lucy Lu, I will always come back to Reservoir to clear out the cobwebs.

    Great review as always.

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