In this analysis I will mostly be looking at the directorial aspects of this film but at the same time also looking at the mise-en-scene aspects. First here is an introduction to the film, Reservoir Dogs is simply a film about a robbery of a diamond store and practically everything which could go wrong, does go wrong. This film is not flashy and the budget was not huge as it was an independent film and not a Hollywood blockbuster. The simplicity of this film almost helps the style of it. Although the film contains no real action scenes in it, it retains the strong feelings of tension the whole way through.
This film uses elements from so many types of genres, obviously into the obvious one being heist movies. Throughout the film, several other genres pop into separate scenes. In the rest of this analysis I will look at two definitive scenes in this film in great detail and then I will close this piece with a conclusion of what the director did to make this film so good and why he did what he did. The two scenes I am going to look at are, firstly, the “infamous” torture scene and secondly the just as notorious shoot out at the end of the film which brings the film to an end very well.
First I will be looking at the torture scene. The characters involved are, Mr. Blonde, Mr. Orange and Marvin the cop. The basic plot of this scene is that the rest of the Characters have left Mr Blonde to guard the cop and the warehouse which has on K Billy’s Super Sounds to the Seventies. The music is highly important in this scene because the music is used to grab your intention; it is also used to insure that no one turns around when it comes to the more violent action later in this film.
It does this is by lightening the mood when Mr Blonde turns on the radio and you hear Steely Dan – Stuck in the Middle with You. This song almost sends the audience into a guilt trip, it does this by when we start listening to the music and we think, “This is nice”. We might start to tap our foot maybe, and enjoy watching Mr Blonde doing his dance. In addition when he starts to sing it almost adds an element of comedy to it. However then the more disturbing action unfolds and our heart stops when Mr. Blonde lunges at the cop with his shaving knife. He then proceeds to chop off the cop’s ear.
The music still plays, just making it worse and it almost makes us feel sick and we are disgusted with ourselves for enjoying the start of the scene but we can’t look away now, we are almost entranced by what is happening now, but we can’t help but watch. Mr. Blonde departs to his car, which brings up an interesting point about the lighting of the film. As he walks out, you see that it is a very hot and sunny day. Some directors would have the weather reflect the general mood of the film but in here even though what is happening is dark and sinister, the weather is bright and it is in general a nice day.
Mr. Blonde picks up a can of petrol or “Gasoline” from his car. He walks back into the Warehouse. In contrast to outside, the Warehouse is dark and dinghy; the lighting for this scene is very realistic. Mr. Blonde pours petrol over the cop, he takes out the gag, and so he can hear the cop beg. Mr. Blonde seems to enjoy hearing this and in this scene it helps you familiarise yourself with Mr. Blonde in your head more than in the rest of the film put together; you find out just how sadistic he is.
The theme of contrast that surfaces through out the film, is shown here by the feelings of the two characters mainly involved in this scene. Mr. Blonde is thoroughly enjoying himself whereas Marvin is understandably scared for his life. Next comes an eye-opening event in the film when Mr. Blonde is about to light now. Next I will be looking at the shoot-out at the end of the film between Joe, Mr. White and Nice Guy Eddie. This is the scene where Joe, who the rest of them have been waiting to come since the start, arrives.
Joe announces to everyone that Mr. Orange is the rat but Mr. White tries to persuade Joe that he’s making a mistake but Joe won’t listen. He pulls out his gun but Mr. White is not going to let Joe do this so pulls out his own gun. Eddie also pulls out a gun to protect his father, Joe. There is a pause; Eddie calmly tries to persuade the other two to put their guns down, Mr. White is still muttering to Joe, eventually Eddie loses his cool, he shouts and as his sentence stops, 4 shots are fired. Eddie, Joe and Mr. White simultaneously fall to the floor.
This “shoot-out” is reminiscent of any of the old western films; it reminds me particularly about the end of Good, the Bad and the Ugly where the three characters have a shoot out at the end except for in Good, the Bad and the Ugly, only one of the characters is shot where as in Reservoir dogs all involved are shot. It is like the western genre because it is the final showdown between the characters. The camera work is also similar, with lots of brief shots of each of the three as the tension mounts. The use of tension is regularly used in western movies in the showdown.
This scene is an important one because it is the conclusion to the whole film; as I have said before this film uses suspense and tension to keep the audience watching but this is where it ends. Yet there is still one more moment of tension to come, because after the shoot-out, Mr Pink runs off with the diamonds and as Mr White crawls over to Mr Orange, Mr Orange tells him that he’s the cop. Slowly he pulls his gun to Mr Orange’s face and you hear a door open and then voices telling to tell him to put his gun down, but he shoots and another shot is fired and Mr White falls over.
Now I will conclude what I have said in the last paragraphs in the end. For a start, Tarentino opted for a film with no non-digetic sound in at all, another example of a film which has done this is called 8 Mile. The lighting is realistic, using the sunny bright colours outside but dark dinghy lighting in the Warehouse. The camera work is smooth; although Tarentino prefers not to use close ups of any kind, most of the shots are medium range. This film is realistic in all its parts and includes no non-naturalistic parts; for example, there is no flashy death defying stunts that wouldn’t really happen.
The lighting and sound is all realistic. Whenever there is music in the film, a radio is playing it. The music is interesting for although it is set in 1992 which is when it was made, it has seventies music behind it. This is made realistic by the local radio station having a Super Sounds of the 70’s weekend. The music just enhances the film even more. The music was well chosen and really suits it. The colours you see a lot of in this film are reds, reds because there is a lot of blood. Maybe the only unrealistic thing about this film is the amount of blood Mr Orange loses without dying.
All of the Reservoir Dogs dress in black suits with black ties; this gives them their image of professionalism instead of being seen as some street thieves. Reservoir Dogs has always been under scrutiny for its violence and bad language but I honestly believe that the bad language does create an effect, that is a naturalistic effect; if they really were criminals from Los Angelos, then I am sure they would use the language they use in the film. The violence however was described as purely walking into the next scene.
The time line of the film is incomprehensible if you look at it in detail what makes it work is the fact that whenever it swaps back to another point in time, it is a flash back and is one character telling another what happened for the most part. The actual line of time of the film is from the first scene after the introduction to the last scene at the end. So all the warehouse scenes are what is happening “now” where as all the scenes looking at the characters are on a different lines and are set a few weeks before the job.
The longest one of these little flash backs is the Mr Orange sequence when you see from him preparing to back at the first scene. After that there are no more flash backs and the action unfolds chronologically. Tarentino uses this narrative structure because if the film started before the job we would learn too much about the characters to quickly, whereas this way, Tarentino can give us the information he wants, when he wants through the film. Another thing about this film is the props, there are not that many.
The guns are shown and used a lot in the film but there are no other really important props except for the diamond bag. Although the diamond bag is barely ever seen it is important because that bag is what it is all about and why this is happening. At the end Mr Pink gets the diamonds; out of all the characters, he is the only one alive and he has the diamonds. This is another shocking moment because he does not look like the person who would triumph at the end, that is probably why Steve Buscemi got the part of Mr Pink; not only was he a good actor, but he does not look like a person who would end up getting it all at the end.
Mr Pink leads most of the conversations when Joe is not in the scene. He is the one who first brings up the fact that it was a set up. He is one of the most important characters, yet he doesn’t actually do that much. When you look back on the film, you remember Mr Orange, Mr Blonde and Mr White. This is possibly because they are in all of the key scenes. In conclusion this film is a completely naturalistic film with a detailed storyline, effective editing and amazing acting.