Tenth Anniversary Special Edition
Review by Michael Jacobson
Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Chris Penn, Steve Buscemi, Lawrence Tierney,
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital 2.0
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1, Pan & Scan 1.33:1
Studio: Artisan Entertainment
Features: See Review
Length: 100 Minutes
Release Date: August 27, 2002
you gonna bark all day, little dog…or are you gonna bite?”
hard to watch Reservoir Dogs and really consider the fact that it was
made by a first-time director. There
is a braggadocio about it that’s almost defiant…how many novice movie makers
would dare to make a heist flick where we never see the heist?
that’s part of what makes the picture so engrossing, and a firm indicator of
the style Quentin Tarantino would trademark in his career.
His characters act, but they take time to talk.
When they talk, they don’t always discuss the plot.
opening vignette, with its circling introduction to the main characters as they
discuss the meaning of Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” and the importance of
tipping is as great an opening as I’ve ever seen…it’s audacious, funny,
memorable, and it gives us an idea about these people we’re going to be
spending the next couple of hours with even before we know most of their names.
Yet it’s a scene completely superfluous to the story at hand.
You could almost lift it out and insert it into another film, it’s so
self-contained and independent.
there, the audience is ready go anywhere, but aren’t prepared for where it
goes. An upbeat musical number and
the opening credits slowly get cut short by horrific screams of pain.
Our next shot is of two of the characters we just met in the diner making
a frantic getaway in a car. Something
has gone wrong. One of the men is
bleeding ferociously in the back seat. The
driver is trying to calm him down.
happened? Well, the story of Reservoir
Dogs centers around a caper planned by master criminal Joe Cabot (Tierney)
and his son, Nice Guy Eddie (Penn). They
assemble a group of professionals to attempt a bold but lucrative jewelry heist
in broad daylight. These men
don’t know each other, even by name, going instead by assigned aliases,
including Mr. White (Keitel), Mr. Pink (Buscemi), Mr. Orange (Roth), Mr. Brown
(Tarantino himself!), and Mr.
heist is key, but as I mentioned, we don’t see it. We spend most of the movie in the aftermath, where the failed
job is analyzed and discussed in great detail.
The team obviously walked into a setup.
At least one man is dead, another critically wounded.
The remaining members are regrouping in a pre-assigned rendezvous point
in an abandoned warehouse, and they only have one question on their
minds…which one amongst them is the traitor?
spins his yarn with amazing ferocity and intensity. He doesn’t shy away from the horrors of violence.
At least two characters spend most of their screen time more or less
helplessly stuck in pools of their own blood.
In fact, the only scene in which he denies showing us the violence turns
out to be the one that packs the most shocking punch of anything in the
film…it’s a sequence that guarantees you’ll never listen to “Stuck in
the Middle With You” in the same way again.
the violence is only a narrative tool. What
really makes this film, and indeed all of Tarantino’s films work, is that his
characters talk openly and freely about inconsequential things that bear great
weight with them. At least one
critic has described the Tarantino writing style by saying that characters make
small talk on their way to big events. The
point is valid: do we just sit
around never talking about anything but what we do for a living?
Then why should Tarantino’s criminals be any different?
key element is the non-linear storytelling style that he would perfect in Pulp
Fiction. Why tell the story out
of order? Because a picture like
this works better when you’re given key information at proper times.
There are aspects of the characters that would ruin the movie if revealed
too soon. To tell this tale in
straightforward fashion would be to have a crime film with no crime and no real
surprises up its sleeve.
cast is amazing from top to bottom, from the gritty Harvey Keitel to the
irascible Steve Buscemi, to the legendary Lawrence Tierney.
But special mention must go to two actors:
Tim Roth, who offers one of the most vivid and gut-wrenching performances
I’ve seen, and Michael Madsen, who delivers an unforgettable portrayal of an
icy cold and totally frightening sociopath.
first time directors offer promising starts, but not Quentin Tarantino.
His was one of the rare debuts in which he made and delivered on the
promise in exactly the same film. Reservoir
Dogs is a completely original take on a tried and true genre in which the
guts of a heist film have been completely reworked and revised.
It’s a hard hitting, unflinching masterpiece, and one of the best and
most significant offerings of the 90s.
you’re asking the question of whether it’s worth it to retire your Live DVD
of this movie for the new 10th anniversary one, the answer is
unequivocally YES. The new transfer
from Artisan boasts two big pluses right out of the gate:
it’s anamorphic, and it’s dual layered.
Image detail and color are noticeably improved throughout, right from the
opening scene. The overall look is less grainy and dingy, with better tones
and containment. If not for a
couple of brief shots that are softer, such as Mr. Blonde’s return to Joe’s
office, the disc would earn a top rating…as it is, though, it’s still an
impressive achievement and a definite improvement.
the way, Reservoir Dogs makes one of the best cases against pan &
scan you could hope to see. This
disc includes the cropped version, but you don’t need it. I don’t care if you happen to be one of those who grumble
about black bars…if you don’t plan to watch this movie in widescreen, you
may as well not even pick it up.
not sure there’s a difference between this disc and the original one in terms
of the 5.1 audio, but the mix is impressive and well crafted from start to
finish. The rear stage opens up
during some action sequences, of course, but listen…during quieter moments in
the warehouse, you can hear the kind of open-aired ambient sounds all around
you, as though you were in that big empty place with the characters…a subtle
but appreciated touch. Best of all
though is the way the songs sounds…that great 70s music uses all channels and
the subwoofer for an enveloping listening experience. Very high marks.
the last time I was this intimidated by a features package was with another
Artisan release, Terminator 2. But
I enjoyed these extras so much, by the time I got through them, I was surprised
to see the day had turned to night!
One contains the widescreen version of the film along with a pieced together
commentary track featuring Tarantino, producer Lawrence Bender, DP Andrzej
Sekula, editor Sally Menke, stars Roth, Madsen, Penn and Kirk Baltz (the
tortured cop), and others. It’s a
decent and informative listen, with the only complaint being that it’s rarely
screen-specific. There are also a
handful of deleted scenes including two alternate angles for the “ear”
scene, and an hour’s worth of brand new interviews with Tarantino, Roth,
Madsen, Penn, Baltz and Bender…you can watch them all together or pick
specific ones. They are stylish and
interesting, particularly the one with Tarantino.
The theatrical trailer is also included.
Two contains the butchered…oops, I mean pan & scan version of the
film with the same commentary track. It
also features tributes to Lawrence Tierney and Eddie Bunker, Tarantino’s
discussion of some of his inspirations, and a look back at the Sundance “Class
of ‘92” featuring interviews with other nominal independent filmmakers of
that year. There’s a K-BILLY
interactive radio with audio-only extras (they include Steven Wright’s
readings, an interview with Gerry Rafferty of Stealers Wheel, an interview with
a convicted heist man offering his thoughts on the movie, and one video piece
with action figures playing out the torture scene).
Rounding out are a poster gallery (three total posters), a look at the
line of toys (ages 8 and up??), a “Film Noir Web” short piece, and a
featurette on location scouting. The
“Style Guide” is simply an amusing short piece of nothingness.
an added treat, this title will be available with different outer sleeves, each
featuring one of the main characters on the front and some info, quotes and
stats about said character on the inside. All
in all, consider this one of the year’s best features packages!