Self-confessed video geek Quentin Tarantino was just twenty-eight when he wrote the script for this groundbreaking - and much imitated - movie, the title of which apparently came from a patron of the video store where Tarantino used to work who referred to Au Revoir les Enfants (1987) as "that reservoir dog movie," a phrase Tarantino liked so much he decided to use it for his first film as director.
Dripping with quotable dialogue and superb performances from the almost totally male cast, Reservoir Dogs tells the story of the bloody aftermath of a diamond heist gone wrong. In flashback, we see the criminals as they are brought together by Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney) - none of whom know each other's real identities (making it impossible for anyone to rat their accomplices out) - and are given new monikers: Mr. Brown (Tarantino), the jerky Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi), young Mr. Orange (Tim Roth), world-weary Mr. White (Harvey Keitel), and violent Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen, in a creepily mesmerizing performance); and in a series of revealing scenes we learn about the events that have led to the film's blood-soaked climax in a warehouse.
But it isn't just the clever plotting that makes this film such a 1990s classic. Like the second film that Tarantino directed, Pulp Fiction (1994), the movie is cleverly cast (Madsen, Keitel, and Roth all giving career-best performances) and packed with memorable scenes that have become part of cinematic history, each containing pop culture references that are now recognized as a trademark of his scripts. Whether it's a scene in which the men - convening in a coffee shop before the heist - discuss everything from the etiquette of tipping to the real meaning of Madonna 's "Like a Virgin" (their conclusion being unprintable here), or the shocking "ear" tableau with Madsen (featuring the unforgettable use of Steeler's Wheel classic "Stuck in the Middle with You"), Tarantino chooses his words and actions so cleverly that much is revealed about each character's personality no matter how trivial the words are that they speak. A superb debut from one of the most individual cinematic talents to come out of the 1990s.
James Woods was offered a role in the film with five different cash offers. Woods' agent refused the offers without ever mentioning it to Woods as the sums offered were well below what Woods would usually receive. When Tarantino and Woods later met for the first time, Woods learned of the offer and was annoyed enough to get a new agent.
The warehouse where the majority of the movie takes place was once a mortuary, and thus is full of coffins. Mr. Blonde doesn't sit down on a crate, it's actually an old hearse he perches on.
At several points, Tim Roth had lain in the pool of fake blood for so long that the blood dried out and he had to be peeled off the floor, which took several minutes.
Tim Roth refused to read for the film. He did insist on going out drinking with Quentin Tarantino and Harvey Keitel. He agreed to read for them when they were all drunk.
Mr. Pink: Somebody's shoved a red-hot poker up our ass, and I want to know whose name is on the handle!
Nice Guy Eddie: We got places all over the place.
Mr. Pink: Hey, why am I Mr. Pink?
Joe: Because you're a faggot.
Mr. Pink: Did you kill anybody?
Mr. White: A few cops.
Mr. Pink: No real people?
Mr. White: Just cops.
GOOFS AND BLUNDERS
The boom microphone is reflected in car window when Mr. White opens the door after Mr. Brown crashed it into the standing car.
The boom microphone shadow is visible behind Cabot's head as he gives out names.
During Mr. Orange's close-up during the naming session, the boom microphone casts a shadow on Mr. Blue's face.
Crew/equipment is reflected in a shop window as Mr. Pink runs along the street.
When the camera circles around Mr. Orange in the bathroom, the shadow of the camera falls on the wall.
After leaving Mr. Brown, during the steadicam shot following in front of Mr. White and Mr. Orange, there is a group of crew members in the far background on a smoke break and drinking beverages, watching the scene.
I liked what I saw, but I wanted more. I know the story behind the movie - Tarantino promoted the project from scratch, on talent and nerve - and I think it's quite an achievement for a first-timer. It was made on a low budget. But the part that needs work didn't cost money. It's the screenplay. Having created the characters and fashioned the outline, Tarantino doesn't do much with his characters except to let them talk too much, especially when they should be unconscious from shock and loss of blood. Reviewed by: Roger Ebert of The Chicago Sun-Times.
"Reservoir Dogs" moves swiftly and with complete confidence toward a climax that matches "Hamlet's" both in terms of the body count and the sudden, unexpected just desserts. It's a seriously wild ending, and though far from upbeat, it satisfies. Its dimensions are not exactly those of Greek tragedy. "Reservoir Dogs" is skeptically contemporary. Mr. Tarantino has a fervid imagination, but he also has the strength and talent to control it.....Pay heed: "Reservoir Dogs" is as violent as any movie you are likely to see this year, but though it's not always easy to watch, it has a point. Reviewed by: Vincent Canby of The New York Times.
Reservoir Dogs grabs you by the throat and digs its claws in deep. From the moment that the unwitting viewer tumbles into the realm of Lawrence Tierney's gang of eight, they are hopelessly trapped there until the final credits roll. As the first outing for actor/director/ writer Quentin Tarantino, this is a triumph, displaying all the marks of a longtime virtuoso of the genre. Reviewed by: James Berardinelli of Reel Views.
Parents need to know that this is a film that focuses on a group of jewel thieves in the aftermath of a botched robbery. The dialogue features a constant stream of obscenities as the characters verbally spar with each other. Copious amounts of blood are featured throughout the entire film as a character is shown bleeding to death. Another character is tortured by being tied to a chair, having his ear cut off with a knife, and having gasoline poured over him with the intention of setting him on fire. The final shootout among the thieves is tense, emotional, and bloody. Reviewed by: Common Sense Media.