- Length: 2342 words (6.7 double-spaced pages)
- Rating: Excellent
The first time I saw Reservoir Dogs I knew it was something different (I didn?t see any Tarantino?s films before). It was the first time I payed more attention to the characters dialogue than to the visual appearance of the film itself The dialogues in Tarantino?s films are its more powerful resource. They both tells the story and sets the mood for it.
I remember I was reading Stephen King?s ?The Dead Zone? when I got hold of Tarantino?s screenplay for Reservoir Dogs. I left Stephen King for a while and read the screenplay in one sitting (I didn?t get much sleep that night). I got so carried away I couldn?t stop until Mr White died ?blown out of frame, leaving it empty?. It was brilliant.
For me there is always an overlap between comics and film. Before a film is shot, most of the time a storyboard is done to show the cameras? angles and perspectives of the shot. I just see a storyboard like a comicbook with equal sized panels and more (or less) depending on what you want to show in-between key panels for the story (that?s the reason why so many comic artists sometimes are hired for storyboarding).
Telling a story is the main aim for films and comicbooks . In films, the director (in comics is the penciller) is in charge of how the story is told.
I will analyse some of Tarantino?s influences in Reservoir Dogs and his trademarks (he?s got such a distinctive style in directing, that you can just tell a film is made by him by just watching a couple of scenes of any movie he has made).
I thought it may be interesting to include a chapter in this essay paying special attention to comicbooks that influenced Tarantino?s films such as ?Fantastic Four?(in reservoir Dogs Mr Orange is influenced by the Thing) and ~?Si1ver Surfer? (Tarantino included this character in some of the dialogue in ?Crimson Tide).
But then I thought ?Tarantino references the Bible in Jules dialogue in Pulp Fiction?. I did a comicbook about the Bible when I was doing my Foundation Course in MAD (Kent Institute of Art & Design). Violence, sex and betrayal are themes that appear in Tarantino?s films as well as in some of the comics I?ve done. I thought I?ll give a chapter to talk about it.
?I never considered myself a writer writing stuff to sell, but as a director who writes stuff for himself to direct?.
Quentin Tarantino was born in Knoxville, Tennesse, in 1936. His
cynical, tough, twisted, genre-bending scripts (Reservoir Dogs (1992), a
film that started as a guerrilla style production and ended up a
phenomenon was enough to start his meteoric rise towards Hollywood)
established Tarantino as one of the most acclaimed directors of modem
He wrote and directed pulp Fiction (1990), aswell as written the scripts for True romance (1993) and natural born killers (1994). His scripts swarm of references to his movie diet during those days he worked as an employee of Video Archives in Manhattan Beach. Tarantino is a post-modem auteur, interested in pop-cultural ideas (movies, fast-food, comics, rock n? roll and television).
He was raised by his mother (Connie Tarantino) in Southern California ( his mum was pregnant of Tarantino at sixteen and abandoned by her actor husband). When Tarantino was nine old, he was sent to stay with his grandmother to take care of him (as doctors diagnosticated that his mum might have the Hodgkin?s disease and was very ill). His grandmother was a heavy drinker and often beat him up. Tarantino had quite a disturbed childhood that without doubt has showed up in his work. The themes he approached in his films: violence and betrayal ( and sex) are linked to the dark side of human nature in some way. Tarantino is familiar with these themes as he has experienced them in his life (a child couldn?t be more betrayed if he is beaten up by one of his loved ones). At the age of sixteen he worked in the Pussycat Porno theatre, Tarantino insisted to his mother that working in that place put him off porn for life, but it was at least ajob which had normal working hours.
His use of violence is probably the most commonly misunderstood aspect of Tarantino?s work. He insists he hates real life violence. Screen violence is not the same as real life violence. He has only artistic responsibility, to be true to his characters. If they are cold blooded killers, so be it.
?I like the idea that the audience is laughing and that, BOOM, the next minute there is blood on the walls?
Tarantino structured reservoir Dogs as a dark comedy.It was shot in only five weeks (from July to September 1991) and it only cost $1.5 million to do it. I~ ~ Reservoir Dogs (with his cheeky dialogue and embrace to violence) has rised to a cult status, and many cinemas continue to play the film on a regular basis.
In Reservoir Dogs , the audience is treated to the direct aftermath of a jewelry heist gone bad. Mr Orange (one of the reservoir dogs) is bleeding to death and screaming in the back seat of a car driven by Mr White. They go to an empty warehouse. Over the course of the film, the surviving reservoir dogsshow up at the warehouse and try to piece together what went wrong (who is to blame ?who is the rat??). Through the use of flashbacks, the audience gradually learns how the men got the job, how they masked their identities wit names of colours (MrWhite, MrPink, MrBlonde...) and how one of them is the undercover cop who set them up.At the end, there is a Mexican stand off with MrWhite, Joe Cabot and Nice Guy Eddie.
Tarantino applied a novelistic structure to the screenplay( one of his trademarks)
that structure applied to film it happened to be extremely cinematic. ?I kinda think the kinda ?answers first, questions later? structure has made it better , more involving?. In a novel, the narrator doesn?t think about telling a story from the beginning, he starts in the middle of the story going backwards and forwards into the characters childhood or future. The flashbacks are essential to the understanding of the central action.
Tarantino doesn?t deny there are elements of other movies in Reservoir Dogs. The story goes back and forth like ?The Killing? (by Stanley Kubrick?) does. But a big difference is that in ?The Killing? uses a newsreel structure whereas Reservoir Dogs adopts a novelistic structure with chapters (with their respective titles: ?MrWhite?, ?MrBlonde?...) for each character.
In 1994, a letter to a small magazine called Asian Thrash Cinema claimed that reservoir dogs was a ?blatant ripoff of City on Fire?( produced and directed by Ringo Lam, screenplay by Tommy Shan from a story by Lam). ?The Killing? and the other movies that Tarantino has verbally credited, ?City on fire? was the most influential heist movie upon Reservoir Dogs narrative.
The jewelry heist gone bad, the retreat to the warehouse, the undercover cop who gets wounded, the Mexican stand-off These are themes that appear in both films. In ?City on Fire?, the story is told from the undercover cop?s point of view (played by Chow yun Fat). In Lam?s film, Ko Chow (the undercover cop) motivation is considerably more credible than MrOrange?s(why didn?t MrOrange stay with the cops after the heist went bad and followed MrWhite instead? Thus receiving a bullet in the stomach). Ko Chow was initially reluctant to go undercover after a previous operation resulted in the betrayal of Shing who like Fu (who could be MrWhite in Reservoir Dogs) was a man he befriened.
?I steal from every single movie ever made? Tarantino told Empire in 1994. ?If people don?t like that, then tough tills, don?t go and see it, all right? I steal from everything. Great artists steal, they don?t do homages?.
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Fast food and places to eat are important elements in the lives of Tarantino?s characters. While film-makers before him relied on locations such as bars to establish characters and develop their relationships, Tarantino relied on donut shops, pancake houses, burger bars and coffee shops.
Uncle Bob?s Pancake House is the location for the pre-credits sequence of Reservoir Dogs before the jewelry heist. Holdaway ( acop who meets up with MrOrange) is first seen in a diner having a cheese burg>~?er. Fast food is employed in Tarantino?s dialogues of his characters as everyday conversation (especially in Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction). When Mr Pink doesn?t tip his waitress in the beginning sequence of Reservoir Dogs, MrWhite tells him off by saying ?This is a hard job?. Pink rep;ies ?So?s working at McDonald?s, but you don?t feel the need to tip them do you??
The first time MrBlonde (the coolest among the dogs, but who turns out to be a psychopathic killer later on) appears on the screen after the heist. He is sipping a fasf-food coke while watching MrWhite and MrPink (on his knees) both with their guns outstretched aiming at one another. Tarantino realised what a great thing that was for a character ?MrBlonde was so cool he actually stopped at the rendezvous to buy a drink.
Policeman Marvin Nash is tied up and left under the supervision of MrBlonde. Blonde tortures the cop, slashing his face with a knife and cutting his ear.
?The scene remains one of the most psychopathic depictions in modern cinema? The scene starts when MrWhite, MrPink and Eddie lefts the warehouse to get the diamonds that MrPink stashed in some place in case of the police arrived to the warehouse before them. MrBlonde is left with the cop and MrOrange who is bleeding to death left in in a corner of the warehouse.
In a very long shot, MrBlonde who?s far away from the cop and sitting on top of some boxes jumps to the floor and approaches Marvin(going towards the audience). There are some medium close ups to Blonde?s and Marvin?s faces to show what each other are thinking at that moment (Marvin, with blood on his face looks surprised. Whereas we cannot figure out what Blonde is thinking about or is about to do at that moment by his expression).
Medium long shots reveals Blonde telling the cop ?I don?t really care about what you know. I?m gonna torture you for a while regardless. Not to get information, but because torturing a cop amuses me There is nothing you can do. Except pray for a quick death you ain?t gonna get?.
MrBlonde slaps the cop in the face (medium close up). Puts a piece of tape on the cop?s mouth, and turns on the radio. Stealer?s Wheel?s hit ?Stuck in the Middle with You ?plays out of it. A close up to Blonde?s boot reveals him taking out a large knife. He slashes the cop in the face (medium close up to Marvin who moves around wildly). Blonde sings and dances along with the seventies hit. Then he reaches out and cuts off the cop?s ear.
The actual slicing takes place off-screen. ?If you saw him actually cutting off the ear, you?d think, OK, it?s a movie , and that?s a fake ear, but with the camera going off it, it makes it more real, stops it from being a movie? that was what Tarantino thought at the time he filmed that scene.
Blonde, after cutting the ear off, still continues to mock the cop by addressing the detached ear before throwing it aside. Marvin is saved from being burned alive by Blonde who poured gasoline over him by a last minute MrOrange?s intervention (note that when Blonde goes out of the warehouse after tossing the cop?s ear aside to the trunk of his car to get the gasoline, the seventies hit stops playing, thus leaving the scene of the torture behind momentarily to let the cop and the audience take a break before Blonde enters the warehouse again).
There is a medium shot of Blonde who is about to lit the gasoline up, before bullets explodes in his chest. The camera whips to MrOrange who?s firing the gun. There is a 180 pan of the camera around MrOrange. It starts with him firing towards the audience,and ends up with us seeing MrOrange?s back and MrBlonde collapsing to the floor in front of MrOrange . Really dramatic.
The way MrOrange enters the scene really catches the audience by surprise as when thought he passed out since he arrived to the warehouse. Is really the way Tarantino described he wanted to do the film: you?re are really engaged watching some scene and, BOOM, the next minute something really unexpected happens.
There is a scene which is crucial to mrOrange, the one he is seen rehearsing a series of intensive acting lessons which helps fabricate Freddy?s (Orange) identity as a drug dealer, in order he can convince Joe Cabot to be one of the Reservoir Dogs.
It starts with Freddy (who?s about tO become an undercover cop) talking to Holdaway (a tough looking black man) in a diner. Holdaway is eating a bacon, cheese and avocado burger (in a medium close up) and is listening to Freddy saying he?s ?up oe Cabot?s] his ass?. Then thee is a flashback to a rooftop which reveals Holdaway givig Freddy an anecdote about a drug deal to memorise it (medium long shot).
?An undercover cop has to be Marlon Brando. To do this job you
? got to be a great actor. You got to be naturalistic? says Holdaway. This scene cuts to Freddy?s room (there is a Silver Surfer poster in the wall) who?s going back and forth, in and out of the frame, rehearsing the anecdote to himself. It is a medium shot with the camera static, just ~ mo~ts.
This scene cuts to Freddy still rehearsing the anecdote but in a forth as heperforms his story.