Reservoir Dogs turns 23 this week, here's why it's a bloody classic
"I need you cool. Are you cool?".
The US box-office from 1991 makes for very interesting reading. Family films like Beauty and the Beast, Hook, and Father of the Bride were all in the top 10 which tells you something about the safe, serene and soppy state that the film industry was in that time.
Something had to change, enter Quentin Tarantino. His perfect neo-noir debut was like a breath of fresh air because the razor-sharp dialogue was almost as brutal as the blade that came to personify Reservoir Dogs' most famous scene.
Like all film fans, I love Tarantino's feature debut because it's the perfect example of a fanboy coming good. Tarantino was clearly a man who knew lots about films, watched even more, and knew what he liked.
In my opinion, it's a near perfect film that captures the moment when passion, intelligence and sheer balls come together.
Here's why it's a bloody classic of the crime genre.
1) It introduced us to a genius
Very few director's can say that their name can attract the same levels of fame and adoration that actors possess, Quentin Tarantino though is one of these directors. In my life, only the films of Scorsese, Spielberg and maybe Christopher Nolan are almost guaranteed to be commercial and critical box-office hits.
People love Tarantino because he's just like every person that adores watching films but with one notable exception, he backed his own talent and took the financial risk to make Reservoir Dogs. The former clerk from the Video Archives store on Manhattan Beach somehow managed to make it cool to be a movie geek.
As for the film, a director can go their entire life without even coming close to making a film as good as Reservoir Dogs, Tarantino did it on his debut.
2) These opening titles
Cooler than the other side of Pirlo's pillow. Endlessly copied, never bettered.
3) How the name came about
The urban legend goes that the title came to Tarantino via a customer. While working as movie clerk, he would often recommend little-known titles to patrons, and when he suggested 'Au revoir les enfants: Goodbye Children' (1987), the customer mockingly replied, "I don't want to see no reservoir dogs!"
I wonder if he tipped Tarantino for the recommendation?
4) Like a Virgin
Scorsese humanised the life of a gangster in Goodfellas but Tarantino managed to make them seem even cooler because they were talking about the same crap that everyone else does, music and sex.
Did you know that Madonna would later give QT a signed copy of her Erotic album and inscribed it with the following "To Quentin, it's about love. Not dicks".
The late director Tony Scott had an excellent relationship with Tarantino, he adapted his screenplay for the wonderful 'True Romance', but he also wanted to adapt this tale of a heist gone wrong.
Fair play to Tarantino though because he refused to yield and was steadfast in his belief that Reservoir Dogs would be his full directorial debut.
6) The script
It only took Tarantino three and a half weeks to write the first draft and what filled those 100 pages would ultimately change the way that screenwriters approached their craft.
Pop-culture, profanity, violence, sex and a non-linear timeline were all en vogue now. Hollywood would never be the same.
FYI, the film uses the word f**k 272 times throughout.
The soundtrack to Pulp Fiction is probably more popular but Reservoir Dogs is just as good, if not better. Did you know that the film has no orchestral score and that all the music used is from a prerecorded track?
This song is such an under appreciated gem.
8) Location, location, location
The film has aged remarkably well due to a mix of luck, poverty and brains. Tarantino originally wanted to shoot the film for $30,000 but as soon as Harvey Keitel came on board as producer, the actors star status and credibility ensured that the budget stretched to $1.5.
This sum is still paltry when compared to other films but sometimes a lack of money can inspire creativity and genius. The film was primarily set in the one location, thus avoiding any visual references that may make it seem 'of its time'.
Those iconic black suits were as dark as its humour and the film was shot in just 35 days. Another interesting tidbit, the film's budget was so low that many of the actors actually used their own clothing as their characters wardrobe, most notably Chris Penn's jacket.
You won't be surprised to hear that because the film is largely set in the one location, that famous blood soaked warehouse, Reservoir Dogs has frequently been adapted as a play. Even Michael Fassbender did one in Kerry.
9) It's cinematic references
There's a thin line between plagiarism and inspiration but Tarantino walks it better than most. The Talking of Pelham One Two Three is clearly the biggest inspiration, the characters code-names steal from it, but Rashomon, City on Fire, Bande à part (Tarantino even used the name of Godard's film for his companies name) and Kubrick's The Killing also had a huge impact on his visual style.
10) Keep it on the QT
Tarantino is most definitely an auteur and all the signs are here. Red Apple cigarettes, that tracking shot that follows Mr Blonde from the warehouse all the way to his car and this shot.
If you ever see this angle then you know that you're watching a Tarantino film.
Reservoir Dogs was the first indicator of Tarantino's wonderful ability to cast the right actor in the perfect part.
This being said, things could have turned out much differently. David Duchovny auditioned for a part, Christopher Walken was in the running for Mr Blonde, George Clooney auditioned for an unknown role and Samuel L. Jackson also auditioned.
12) Come ear to me
You know that you've made it when you're on The Simpsons.
13) That ending
Who shot nice guy Eddie? Mystery solved.