“Are You Gonna Bark All Day, Little Doggie? Or Are You Gonna Bite?”

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self portraitI’ve decided to try another one of those ‘Lewis’ Favourites’ things again, and this time it’s going to be a series of my 7 favourite films in no particular order over the span of 14 days. So buckle up, this is gonna be a bumpy, boring ride.

“Let’s go to work.”

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Five career criminals, one undercover cop, and a failed jewelry heist. Although it’s a fairly straightforward plot with only one really big twist, what results from this situation is a storm of violence, paranoia and witty, hilarious dialogue that all combine to create one of the best films ever written, acted or directed.

Hang on a second though, because I think I’m getting ahead of myself. As Mr. Wolf (Harvey Keitel) in ‘Pulp Fiction’ puts it, “Well, let’s not start sucking each other’s dicks quite yet”.

Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Reservoir Dogs’ was released in 1992 and filmed with a budget of $1.2 million (It would’ve been $30,000 had Harvey Keitel not joined the project and added the extra funds). It grossed nearly $3 million overall, a tremendous feat for an independent film at that time. After the initial success in the theatres, it was shown at the Sundance film festival, where it received fairly positive reviews, but was criticised for its short length and high levels of brutal violence. It wasn’t until ‘Pulp Fiction’ was released in 1994 that the film really came into the public eye, and received a boost in popularity. Interestingly, it was more popular in Britain than America.

‘Reservoir Dogs’ might not be his most refined piece, and for a lot of people it can’t compare its bigger, more impressive brother, ‘Pulp Fiction’.  However, it’s definitely my personal favourite of his films. As for the acting of Tim Roth, Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen, Steve Buscemi and the rest of its ensemble cast, they deliver on every aspect of the larger-than-life characters they play. Especially Buscemi, his portrayal of the easily agitated but “professional” Mr. Pink is a particular highlight in the midst of the other big stars. Madsen’s role of the psychotic Mr. Blonde is a close second, mind. Also, let’s not forget about the soundtrack either, because it’s perhaps one of the most well thought out selections of popular music ever used in a film.  Mr Blonde’s (Madsen) infamous scene is a particularly disturbing contrast to its soundtrack of Stealers Wheel’s ‘Stuck in the Middle with You’.

It’s a very claustrophobic film, with the majority of scenes being shot inside a disused warehouse that the criminals have chosen as their rendezvous. A lot of people blame this on the fact that they had a limited budget, but Tarantino’s decision not to include the heist in the film was (apparently) due to the fact that the film isn’t solely about the heist, it’s about the characters and the situation they have to deal with. This claustrophobic atmosphere increases the pressure and tension in the film to amounts that put way too much strain on the human system. It’s like watching a car crash in slow motion (Sorry for the cliché), but it’s not because it’s a bad film, it’s because you can see something terrible coming in the story and you can’t do anything about it.

mr white and mr pink

I mentioned earlier that the characters in the film were larger-than-life. I say this because they are always over the top in their violence, in their schoolyard banter, tough guy attitudes and their confidence. But none of this ever feels forced, it feels like this is the way life is when you watch it, and to be honest, the immature, tough guy banter is something that you’ll see in any secondary school. These lines can be absolutely hilarious too, which might be because all my good friends back at school spoke like that at one time or another.That’s what these characters are, psychopathic school kids (as juxtaposed as those ideas are), despite Mr. White’s assurances that only Mr. Blonde falls into that category, and the foreshadowing remark, “You can’t work with a psychopath, you never know what those sick assholes are gonna do next”.

To sum up, ‘Reservoir Dogs’ is a tightly packed, violent, funny crime drama that forces you to look on as everything goes wrong for the colour-coded characters. I won’t give too much away if you haven’t seen it (And I hope I haven’t spoiled anything already… I don’t think I have anyway), but the ending is about as tense as an ending can get, even if you do know what happens. So watch it, I promise you won’t be disappointed!

-Lewis

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