Dwilder’s review published on Letterboxd:
With the trailer for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood out I felt the urge to go back to where it all began for Tarantino and watch his Directorial debut Reservoir Dogs which is of course a brilliant feature and my personal favourite of the Directors work.
Tarantino who also wrote this feature was greatly influenced by pictures such as The Taking of Pelham One Two Three and City on Fire and in turn his interpretation of these works has proved influential to many other filmmakers since. The fast talking, tough, attitude laced dialogue littered with pop culture references on display here and the comically frustrated characters have endured for years since and still to this day the acerbic, dark nature of the writing feels snappy and original which is incredible considering the countless variations of it seen in Film and Television since. Tarantino is also clever in his framing of the film as it’s a heist movie where we don’t see the heist; just the messy aftermath and this leads to some tense and unexpectedly violent moments. Sometimes in Tarantino’s later work there is a LOT of talking and very little action but here we see the purpose of it as it allows events to build to the famous and brilliantly executed crescendo of violence and double crossing.
As a Director Tarantino is remarkably assured despite this being his debut feature and his brash, uncompromising and direct style is hugely impressive to watch and full of the real joys of filmmaking. Reservoir Dogs is a bolt out of the blue and a real energy rush. The combination of stylish violence and a killer soundtrack would go on to define much of his later work but here it is grittier and more visceral and therefore more shocking. Some sequences such as the infamous ear cutting proved controversial and some abhor the violence but it really does work in the film’s favour as we’re always on edge as an audience as we’re never entirely sure who or what’s next or how severe the violence is going to be when it does come. The use of music to accompany the action is truly inspired. The opening credits usage of “Little Green Bag” and the ear scene’s use of “Stuck in the Middle With You” are both brilliant and really help the film achieve an iconic level of cool.
The ensemble cast are also uniformly terrific here. Tarantino always had a natural ability to assemble a killer ensemble cast and have them deliver great performances and once again this is the case. Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth and Michael Madsen all deliver career best performances in this picture and there is sterling support also from Laurence Tierney, Steve Buscemi and Chris Penn. This is in my opinion one of the great ensembles ever assembled and testament to both the writing and the performances that they are so good as each and every character manages to be very memorable and quotable.
To conclude, Reservoir Dogs was at the time a shot in the arm for the American independent movement and its influence has been felt ever since. But the sharp writing, confident Direction and outstanding acting ensure that to this day it stays fresh, engaging and utterly thrilling from start to bloody finish.