Quentin Tarantinos first movie which can be assigned to the genre of Heist-movies tells the story of a robbery gone wrong.
The movie begins with a scene in a diner. Mr. White, Mr. Blue, Mr. Orange, Mr. Blonde, Mr. Pink, Mr. Brown, Joe Cabot and Nice Guy Eddie are having breakfast. They chat about irrelevances like whether or not to tip the waitress, drink their coffee and leave the restaurant. During the opening credits you can hear a radio show in the background where a DJ points out that this channel plays the biggest hits of the 70s which is then followed by one of the hits. (This radio show will be mentioned several times throughout the movie)
The next thing you see is Mr. White and Mr. Orange sitting in a car. Mr. White is driving while Mr. Orange lies badly injured on the backseat. They are on their way to the agreed meeting point, a storehouse. Soon after they arrived Mr. Pink rushes in. They find out that Mr. Brown was shot and both Mr. Blue and Mr. Blonde are missing. Together try to reconstruct the course of events of the robbery. This leads them to the assumption that there must have been a snitch among them.
In a flashback you find out how Mr. White was hired for the robbery. A conversation between him and Joe Cabot, the boss, is shown.
Subsequently the chat in the storehouse continues: Mr. Pink and Mr. White contemplate disappearing with the haul as the meeting point – provided there really was a snitch – isn’t safe anymore. While they think about what to do with Mr. Orange, Mr. Blonde walks in. They all are distrustful of Mr. Blonde because he was the one who opened the fire although it hadn’t been necessary. To them this behavior is extremely unprofessional and they call him a psychopath. Nevertheless they explain their theory about a snitch, Mr. Blonde answers with an answer in his trunk. It turns out he took a police man hostage.
In a flashback you find out how Mr. Blonde got the job. Once more you see Joe Cabots office where the recently from prison discharged Mr. Blonde just took a seat. He hadn’t blown Cabots cover so in return Joe wants to help him find a square job to please his parole officer. When Nice Guy Eddie, Cabots son, enters Mr. Blonde says that he’d rather do a “real” job.
In the next scene you see the men trying to convince the policeman to tell them who the snitch is. Nice Guy Eddie arrives and takes Mr. Pink and Mr. White with him to dispose of the getaway cars. Meanwhile Mr. Blonde stays behind. He starts to torture the police man. When he pours gasoline all over him Mr. Blonde is shot by Mr. Orange who just regained consciousness. It turns out that he also is a cop and therefore the snitch.
This is followed by another flashback where you see how Mr. Orange tells a police colleague how he managed to get into one of Joe Cabots deals. In the following flashback you find out how the gangsters met and how they got their aliases.
Mr. White, Mr. Pink and Nice Guy Eddie return to the storehouse followed by Joe Cabot. A discussion about whether or not Mr. Orange is the snitch breaks out. The debate ends with a Mexican standoff. When the shooting starts both Cabot and Eddie are killed and Mr. White is badly injured. Mr. Pink who ducked away before escapes. Mr. Orange confesses to Mr. White that he really was the snitch. That forces Mr. White to put a gun to Mr. Oranges head. Police sirens resound and you hear a cop scream “Put down the gun!” The movie ends with a close up of Mr. Whites face. You hear one single shot followed by a salve of shots without seeing who was the one that fired.
- Harvey Keitel: Mr. White
- Tim Roth: Mr. Orange
- Michael Madsen: Mr. Blonde
- Steve Buscemi: Mr. Pink
- Edward Bunker: Mr. Blue
- Chris Penn: Nice Guy Eddie
- Quentin Tarantino: Mr. Brown
- Lawrence Tierney: Joe Cabot
All scenes of the movie are shown in no specific order. Furthermore, the robbery itself is never shown. It only assumes shape by the narrations of the characters. Moreover, the planning and preparation of Mr. Orange for his undercover mission are shown in flashbacks.
Many of the dialogues are about things that don’t matter, therefore actually don’t contribute to the storyline itself. Tarantino uses this stylistic device to characterize the people. In an interview he explained that in real life gangster also wouldn’t only talk about things that are related with robberies. They have normal conversations about ordinary things, just like you and me.
These dialogues often have a unique comedy for example the conversation about tipping the waitress or about the meaning of the song “Like a Virgin” is hilarious.
The codenames of the robbers remind of the chemical warfare agents and defoliants (Agent Orange, Agent White, Agent Pink,…) that had been used during the Vietnam war. The idée with the color pseudonyms comes from the movie The Taking of Pelham One Two Three from 1974.
The title comes from the time when Tarantino was working at a video rental shop. He recommended the French movie “Goodbye Children” (Au revoir, les enfants). The customer not knowing any French denied with the words “I don’t want no reservoir dogs!”
Hints to other Tarantino movies:
Mr. Blonde’s real name is Vic Vega. In Pulp Fiction one of the protagonists has the same last name. In the movies nothing is mentioned about any relations but Tarantino indicated in interviews that Vic and Vincent are brothers maybe even twins. Furthermore, a nurse named Bonnie is mentioned in both movies. In Reservoir Dogs she isn’t shown at all, in Pulp Fiction you see her back. It is quite possible that it’s the same person.
I absolutely love Tarantinos first movie. All his works are so different from anything other directors do. Reservoir Dogs has it all: great actors, awesome storyline and amazing soundtrack. Although faint-hearted people may not like the movie, I think it is a must see for all film-fans. As always Quentin Tarantino doesn’t fail to impress. I also recommend watching the several times in order to get all the details. In my experience it’s impossible to notice all the little things at first watch.
Check out Tarantinos first cult movie!