The final recommendation from the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book for my screening of Rififi is Quentin Tarantino’s first film, Reservoir Dogs. Now, it’s been a number of years since I had watched this film, but it’s always there in the back of my head about how good a film it is.
Now you can tell yourself that on a regular basis, which I have, but it’s not until you sit down and watch it again, that you realise how damned good it really is. The dialogue is by turns, and sometimes at the same time, crude, smart, and pop cultured. The musical choices were eccentric and perfect, the pacing style, and use of flashbacks are down masterfully, and all of it learned at one of the best places to be exposed to and study film, a video store.
The film opens with the explosive fallout from a jewelry heist, as a gut shot Mr. Orange (Tim Roth) and Mr. White (Harvey Keitel) are trying to get back to their warehouse meeting spot. Then, as events, continue to spiral out of control as other survivors show up, like Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi) and Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen), we are given flashbacks to the characters, how they are recruited into the heist by Nice Guy Eddie (Chris Penn) and his father, Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney).
We also learn that one of them is a rat… an undercover cop.
Tarantino’s cast, his brash, gritty style of filmmaking, his ear for dialogue, music, beats and moments, all combined to create an instant classic.
All of this I knew, but it was simply amazing to sit down and rewatch it again for what must have been the first time in a decade. It still has its punch, is still incredibly engaging, and moves rapidly towards its inescapable climax.
At the film’s center is the relationship, almost paternal that develops between White and Orange. As the wounded Orange bleeds out, first in the car, and then over the warehouse floor, White finds himself divided on a course of action, wanting to save his young friend, but also desperate to stick to the plan, knowing that will be the safest course of action for all involved.
Throw in Pink’s play-by-the-rules-of-a-smart-thief position, and the cold, homicidal approach of Blonde, which causes the heist to go awry, and you can see that the tensions are going to run incredibly high.
Filled with great moments, (who will ever be able to listen to Stuck In the Middle With You without thinking of this film?) fantastic performances (Keitel and Roth – NAIL IT!), and a brilliant use of flashbacks, Reservoir Dogs, now 23 years old (!), is still a benchmark to judge other heist films by.
I remember the first time I saw this one (I was working in a video store conveniently enough), and I was just dumbstruck by everything in it, I’d never seen a film put together like this one before… And I’ve been following Tarantino ever since.