Wednesday, 7 November 2007

DVD: Reservoir Dogs

Lowdown: Glorification of male violence.
Having read a review of Death Proof, the latest Tarantino film, I thought it’s time to recollect on Tarantino’s first effort – Reservoir Dogs, which I haven’t watched for many years.
It turns out that the timing was good for another reason: Reservoir Dogs is remarkably similar to the recently reviewed The Good the Bad and the Ugly. Both films feature characters whose real names are unknown, in both films we hardly know a thing about the characters’ history, in both films all the characters are quite bad (at least in my book), and both films are a celebration of the masculine with hardly any hint of a female presence on the screen. In fact, most of the female attention in the film is spent on a detailed analysis provided by Tarantino himself to Madonna’s Like a Virgin.
Simplicity is the key with the setup of Dogs: A group of criminals is organizing a robbery; then things go wrong and they suspect a mole as they gather one by one in their post heist meeting place. With a policeman one of them has hijacked, they set up to see how they can get away with it and who the mole is.
Thing is, like we all expect by now from Tarantino (but we didn’t when Dogs first came about), timelines are mixed, and the plot repeatedly takes us back to the future as more and more stuff gets unravelled. It’s a nice trick, but I have to say it made me ask why Tarantino has to resort to such means; is it to cover for the so basic premises? Or is it just to flatter his ego? I suspect the answer is both of the above.
There are some memorable things to Dogs. There’s a cast that includes some heavy talents like Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth and Steve Buscemi. There is some unconventional direction work, with atypical camera positioning and shots taken at unusual angles. And as per another Tarantino trademark, there’s dialog that will either bore you to death or thrill you; with me it’s more of the former. But generally, though, Reservoir Dogs is a film that everyone remembers for its violence, and despite the “[almost] every dog has its day” message of the film, Dogs is and has always been celebrated as a feast of violence. Many people I know describe it as the coolest film ever, a statement I find hard to swallow since it points at a twisted values system where holding a gun in an impractical way, shooting innocent people, badmouthing for no particular reason, and generally disregard fellow humans is considered to be “cool”. I know, I know: Other films, including Good/Bad/Ugly, have done so too, so why do I take my wrath out on Reservoir Dogs? Simply because in Dogs it is all done so seriously, without a blink, suggesting a total removal of the comedy factor; in Dogs’ world violence is the norm, not the exception.
While on one hand it does seem as if Tarantino was trying to tell us that the masculine world is getting us nowhere, his glorification of that world’s violence ends up sending a confused message; given that most people take the glory and ignore the lesson, I conclude that Reservoir Dogs is a bad film.
Worst scene: Needless to say, the scene in which one of the criminals cuts the policeman’s ear to the tune of “Stuck in the Middle with You”. Did I mention that the film glorifies violence?
Picture quality: Pretty bad. Colors are distorted and the level of detail is low.
Sound quality: Most of the time it’s mono.
Overall: No, I’m not a big fan of Tarantino. 2 out of 5 stars, mainly because there is still a lot of brilliant filmmaking in there.

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