28 January 2004 | bob the moo
Simply brilliant; short, tight and taut
Crime boss Joe Cabot brings together a group of criminals to perform a big one-off job. To protect each other, they all use colour coded names. However on the day of the job, the police ambush the gang and each makes their own getaway. As the gang comes together at their warehouse meeting point they realise that someone within the gang must have tipped the police or be an undercover. The accusations and suspicions escalate into violence in the confines of the warehouse.
When this film came out in the UK it caused an absolute firestorm of controversy over it's violence, even to the point that it was banned in the UK for a while. I still find this absurd and am very glad we have moved to a more tolerant society where generally the BBFC protect vulnerable groups but let adults decide for themselves. Looking at the media's adoring welcome for the ultra violent Kill Bill one can't help but marvel at how things have changed. Looking at Reservoir Dogs now (or even then!) it simply isn't THAT violent. However what it is is very sudden and all the more powerful for it.
Tarantino directs the film and writes the film in such a way that it was impossible to ignore him even if the film was only a cult hit. The dialogue is both witty at points but, more importantly, very tough and loaded with testosterone. It is the writing that makes us like these coffee shop jokers at the start before shocking us by suddenly throwing us into a backseat bloodbath. The entire job happens off camera, and only occasionally do we actually see the immediate effect of violence - usually we get the aftermath. It is incredibly tight and very tense throughout, I was about 16 when my father took me to see this film - it has stayed with me since and I still considered it to be one of the best `job gone wrong' films of my generation. It may not be original (there's a thin line between a homage and a rip off) but it is certainly effectively done.
The cast are excellent and turn the hardboiled dialogue into convincing scenes. Keitel is wonderful. His character is a father figure of sorts and he is wildly out of control at times and balanced at others. Likewise Buscemi is wide-eyed and freaking out for much of the film, but he does it well. Roth is more balanced but is still good for it; it is his job to carry the emotional weight of the film and he does it well, despite a wandering American accent at times. Madsen is great, maybe not the best character but wildly out of control. Tierney was a great piece of casting, as was Bunker. Penn is good but not the best of the cast.
Tarantino mercifully has little acting to do, but it is his film as writer and director. The flashbacks during the film was a brave way to do it but it really works well - mixing stories with flashbacks and so on. No matter what the time of the scene, it all keeps moving tensely towards the climax. It may be a homage and not as original as some films but so what - it is tight and tense, macho, violent, funny and very enjoyable.