RESERVOIR DOGS snarled and chomped onto screens and into hipster’s collective selective consciousness in 1992, howling that a new sheriff (or Deputy Dawg) was in town. This Rottweiler in the shape of a Poodle had a gift for, usually profane, long-winded gab—it never shuts up— and a talent for sudden, freely dispensed savagery. Considering the way legions gushed in adoration over this kennel escapee, you’d think they’d never seen a mutt.
Eight career criminals meet, plan and execute a jewel store robbery. It doesn’t go smoothly. The survivors affix blame. It ain’t pretty.
Brash 28-year-old Quentin Tarantino worked on a shoestring budget ($1,200,000) to create his first feature as writer & director, along with playing a small part as one of the crooks; thankfully a small part, as acting is not his strong suit. Beyond critical applause, the 99-minute picture was released without much fanfare, and only made $2,890,000 in the States, clawing into 139th place. But it did twice that in Britain, and as the word spread, the flashy, brutal little item developed a fan base embrace that hardened into unshakeable cult status.
Tarantino’s fearless hyperdrive jabber, a laser handle on stylistic visual flourish (especially in aesthetic depiction of violence), and his unquestioned ability to have actors give it their all, can deliver grand slams (Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, Jackie Brown) or foul balls (The Hateful Eight), but to even question his brilliance arouses such a firestorm of indignation from his starry-eyed fans that you’d think you were crucifying a puppy.
Minority position, then: sorry, Quentinites, this frontal assault exercise in craft doesn’t ring my bell. Take away the nonstop profanity, which pummels one call-letter word (f) into the pavement 269 times, and the morons in this otherwise unoriginal story have next to nothing to say; no, the opening “diner conversation” drivel doesn’t count, either. Aside from Tarantino himself, the acting is good, but the excessive shouting wears itself to a frazzle. The infamous torture scene (which prompted many walkouts during showings) is hard to endure, not least because, thanks to the music selected, it’s played for glee. The director’s die-hard loyalists mine profundity out of it all. It’s depressing.
The men—Harvey Keitel (instrumental in getting Tarantino the backing he needed), Tim Roth, Chris Penn, Steve Buscemi, Lawrence Tierney, Michael Madsen (“killer impression”, to be sure), Kirk Baltz, Edward Bunker (career criminal-turned writer).