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Reservoir Dogs

Quentin Tarantino first showed his penchant for unconventional and out of sequence storytelling with an unrelentingly intense and bloody 1992 crime drama called Reservoir Dogs, a story that never goes where you think it's supposed to or where you want it to, but remains riveting from start to finish, thanks primarily to the film's surprising economy. This is another one of those films that is extremely difficult to review without including major spoilers but I'm going to give it a shot.

The film opens quite unassumingly with a bunch of guys in black suits having breakfast together discussing the hidden meaning of Madonna's record "Like a Virgin" and the importance of properly tipping a waitress and before we realize it, it is revealed that these men have been brought together for the robbery of a jewelry store that goes terribly wrong and before we know it, we learn that one of the men we met at breakfast is dead, one is missing, one is dying from a gunshot wound to the stomach, one has stashed the jewelry, and one has taken a cop hostage and has him stuffed in the trunk of the getaway car. We also learned that it is suspected that the robbery went wrong because the cops were tipped off and that one of the crew is really a cop.

Tarantino and Roger Avary's screenplay is alternately aggravating and fascinating because we keep waiting to see what happened at the jewelry store, but Tarantino's introduction of the characters and how they came together for this crime becomes so fascinating that we actually find ourselves forgetting about the actual crime itself. I found myself caring less and less about the actual crime itself and more and more about the gathering of these men and the consequences of their actions, which I guess was Tarantino's intent.

As always with Tarantino's direction, his eye for cinematic carnage is unapologetic as is his ability to get riveting performances from his hand-picked ensemble cast. There is standout work from Michael Madsen, Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, and especially Steve Buscemi, who I don't think has ever been better. The unrelenting violent eye of Tarantino has rarely been displayed with the intensity that it is with the scene of Madsen torturing his cop hostage, given even more power via Tarantino's flawless ear for music of the 1970's. This film is not for the squeamish, but if you want to see the genesis of Pulp Fiction, the Kill Bill franchise, and Django Unchained, this seems to be where it all started.