First of all, this guy.
Michael Madsen and Matthew Perry might be long-lost brothers. (Except Madsen is the cuter one.)
Quentin Tarantino is an absurd, odd man, but damn it if he doesn’t make a fine feature film. I like to think that I purposefully waited this long to see Reservoir Dogs in the theaters, since it happened to be projected on the big screen last week in honor of QT’s twenty years in the filmmaking business. In reality, I think it was laziness on my part, but whatever. Big screen > small screen, most of the time. As a bonus, my friends and I were rewarded with a little documentary retrospective about QT, during which we learned that Robert Rodriguez has aged incredibly well and that QT’s chin continues to be even more awkwardly defined with time (it’s okay if he’s not attractive, he has a few other redeeming qualities), and a few hand-picked Harvey Keitel-centric movie trailers. I was made aware of a movie called Mother, Jugs & Speed, which I now need to see. But I digress.
Reservoir Dogs is great because it’s both an homage and an original piece of genius work. The first scene where they’re sitting around the table talking about Madonna and tipping practices is really reminiscent of Goodfellas and, basically, De Niro’s whole oeuvre. But the content of the conversation and the jumpy, realistic meter is all QT. And that’s just a small part of the bigger picture, which is essentially a heist tale (which we think we’ve seen before) told mostly in an abandoned warehouse room (which we haven’t). The sets were minimalistic, presumably for budgetary reasons, and the costumes changed maybe once or twice per character. QT et al didn’t have a lot to work with, so they made do. He’s basically screaming to the world that he knows his shit movie-wise, but he’s not about to completely copy all the good guys–he’s good enough to make something different.
He clearly couldn’t have done it without that cast, though he manages to cast them all sort of against type before many of them had even established their types. The aforementioned Madsen plays Mr. Blonde, the craziest of the lot, which is saying a lot, particularly because his performance is mostly smoldering and understated. Lawrence Tierney plays the film’s patriarch, which means something because Harvey Keitel is also in the movie as Mr. White, the leader of the pack who still has to answer to Tierney’s Joe. Steve Buscemi, often the weasel-y guy, is Mr. Pink, the only one who [SPOILER ALERT] escapes unharmed at the end. Tim Roth, whose type isn’t as easy to pin down, but has never really been “leading man,” takes on the role of Mr. Orange, the double agent who spends most of the movie writhing in pain after being shot in the stomach. It’s hard to look at him drenched in blood and belting out these agonizing, horrible noises, but it’s also hard not to look at him. Roth is a genius, and in this incredible lineup (pun intended) of men, he steals (pun intended) the show. No wonder QT kept re-using him.
The whole thing ties together with QT’s signature out-of-order editing, where you discover why something happened before it happened, and you feel damn smart for doing so. I’d rather not spoil anything else, because it’s more fun to enjoy the spectacle of guns and guys and black ties and sweet shades. Here’s to twenty more, QT. (We’re on an initial basis, in case you hadn’t noticed.)