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Reservoir Dogs

I remember the first time I saw RESERVOIR DOGS it was with a bunch of dudes that had seen it a bunch of times and knew all the dialogue and shit. I thought it was great but I didn’t really get those guys, I didn’t think I would end up watching it over and over again.

Since then we’ve seen Quentin Tarantino go through the hip hop arc of exciting new thing, “it’s only a fad,” a decade later it’s obviously here to stay and still growing so quit your grumblin ya old grouch. In fact I did the math wrong when I was watching this, I was thinking it was turning 18 this year, it would be old enough to vote. And let’s be honest, it’s not voting for Obama, ’cause it’s kinda racist and also it probly thinks any Democrat wants to take its guns away.

Of course DOGS actually came out in ’92, released October 23rd, so we’re coming up on the 20th anniversary in my opinion. I knew I still liked it but it’s been a few years and a few Tarantino movies since my last viewing. It was definitely before DEATH PROOF came out. Maybe before the KILL BILLs too.

For some reason whenever I look at this poster I see Al Pacino.

Isn’t it funny that on the poster it says “Four perfect killers. One perfect crime.” Come on man, you know that’s not accurate. It’s nice that now they can just write “QUENTIN TARANTINO” on the poster, they don’t gotta come up with some bullshit formula to pretend it fits into.

RESERVOIR DOGS is not the type of directational debut where you only notice glimpses of the voice and craft that the director would grow into (PIRANHA II), and it’s not the type where it’s a rougher and lower budget version of what would come later (BOTTLE ROCKET). Sure, Tarantino has evolved and grown over the years, but he really hit the ground running here, he didn’t need alot of polishing.

This thing is so thoroughly him in content and style, it’s almost like he arrived fully formed. It has so many things we still associate with his movies: criminals during the parts of their day that most stories skip over, characters discussing pop culture (especially ’70s TV shows and old song lyrics), no score, a great soundtrack of obscure tunes mostly from the ’70s, non-linear storytelling, diners, fast food, comic books, Charles Bronson, Lee Marvin, great performances from actors who deserve more of a shot than they’ve gotten, careful, confident camera angles and moves that don’t call attention to themselves…

We also get Tarantino’s love of his own voice. It’s the first voice we hear in the movie, him with his bullshit interpretation of a Madonna song where he’s arguing it’s about big dicks. He’s always been really into these show-offy interpretations of things. There was the one about TOP GUN being homoerotic, apparently started by Roger Avary but performed by Tarantino in SLEEP WITH ME. I’ve complained before about comic book fundamentalists who hate KILL BILL because they disagree with its villain’s interpretation of Superman. You know what’s funny, Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen), the maniac psycho of the bunch, is the reasonable one when it comes to Madonna. He’s the one that says no, the song is not about a black guy’s big dick, dumbass.

It’s funny to see Tarantino in the movie now. I don’t think I noticed him sticking out the first time but now you kinda laugh at the idea of that nerd fitting in with these scary hoodlums. Or maybe he didn’t – he mouthed off at the diner and then he got shot in the head. Tarantino originally wanted to play Mr. Pink, but I’m glad he thought better of it.

Actually, it’s weird that he didn’t want to be Mr. Orange, because that seems to be the Tarantino surrogate/Clarence type character. His superior officer is pretty much an acting teacher, giving him tips about staying in character and even making him learn a monologue. In flashback he wears a Speed Racer t-shirt, has a Silver Surfer poster on the wall, and I thought something called “Karate Cowboy” but I can’t find any evidence on Google that that’s really a thing. He has a box of Fruit Brute cereal in his apartment. In his undercover-in-character fictional story he complains about people calling him up for pot when “Motherfucker! I’m trying to watch THE LOST BOYS!” THE LOST BOYS doesn’t seem hip enough to be a Tarantino reference, but it does seem like something that would be on his top ten list at the end of that year. Like last year he had Paul W.S. Anderson’s THREE MUSKETEERS.

In an early script that I found online it has Mr. White saying all the dialogue about not believing in tipping. I’m glad they changed it because he’s the thief you side with the most, it would’ve thrown off the whole balance to make him such an asshole from square one.

There’s something weird about the tip discussion. First of all, when they’re joking about tipping well only if the waitress sucks your dick, I could swear Mr. Orange Nice Guy Eddie says “I’d go over 12% for that.” Now of course 20% is the standard tip. I guess it was a little lower back then, but I don’t remember it being that low. Is it supposed to identify him as a cheapskate? Is that why he (maybe jokingly) comes over to Mr. Pink’s side on this issue?

Joe (Lawrence Tierney), who strongly believes in tipping, calculates the tip as one dollar per person at the table, in other words $7. If that was 20% that would mean each of the 8 people had $4 worth of breakfast. But look at this:

I mean there are plates there, I think I see bacon, possibly pancakes and eggs. And are those beer bottles? These were actual meals, not just toast and coffee.

So I’m guessing Joe must go by this 12% rule too, that’s where Eddie learned it from. Then the bill would be about $58, a pretty good deal even in ’92. But these guys are expecting a big pay day, they oughta tip better than that. I hope somebody straightened Tarantino out on that issue after this. Also I hope that diner started adding automatic 18% gratuity for parties of 6 or more like most places. Then Mr. Pink can’t complain, it’s part of the bill.

On a related note, when I was a school kid I always thought I wasn’t gonna need math in real life, but I never foresaw reviewing RESERVOIR DOGS. I had to ask somebody and get out a math book and everything to figure out that 7 is 12% of x shit.

The IMDb message boards, in their ongoing mission to depress the shit out of me every time I look their way, have taught me that cheapskates like to use this scene as justification for not tipping. People worry about movies glorifying violence, but perhaps the real toll is on low wage workers. (Yep, this movie’s definitely voting Romney, while muttering something about socialism.)

I think Tarantino’s talky personality comes through in the way his characters just love to drop little facts all the time: waitress is the #1 job for female non-college graduates, the gut and the knee are the most painful places to be shot, there is an average police response time of 4 minutes after an alarm is pulled… But these actors are so great that to me anyway it doesn’t come across like they’re all just talking in Tarantino’s voice. They sound like different people, they’re just in the world where people talk like that.

On the other hand I’m not sure about the chances of Mr. Pink and Mr. Orange’s boss both using the word “commode.” That’s not common jargon for California circa 1992 in my opinion.

As blatantly Tarantino-y as DOGS is, it also kinda stands out from the rest of the filmography because of the nature of doing a low budget first feature. It’s cleverly designed to mostly take place in this one sparse location, branching out to other places for various pieces of backstory, but still being mostly dudes in a warehouse talking. It could definitely be done as stage play. That gives it a really powerful simplicity that’s different from everything he’s done since. (Though I guess if they did WAR HORSE with a puppet they could figure out a way to do the car stunts from DEATH PROOF.)

Even though it skips around chronologically, the warehouse location gives it kind of a real time feel, like you’re hanging around waiting with them. They got nothing to do but pace and debate dropping of Orange at a hospital and get shit off their chests. Mr. White wants to put water on his face and comb his hair. If that’s what makes him feel better let him do it. I’m glad he brought the comb with him during the robbery if it’s gonna help relax him.

I like that the all ’70s soundtrack is explained by the movie taking place during “K-BILLY’s Super Sounds of the ’70s Weekend.” That must be an interesting station since they play pretty obscure songs and not the obvious ’70s shit that everybody knows. In later Tarantino movies the music doesn’t need an explanation, it’s just good music. I guess it’s kinda like how in ABOVE THE LAW they explain why this cop Nico Toscani knows aikido, but in the other Seagal movies it’s just a given, they know nobody needs an explanation.

A favorite part for me has always been the “Stuck In the Middle With You” scene, not for the DePalmian “you know what, I’m gonna point the camera over there for a second” cutting off of the ear, or even the way Mr. Blonde does a little dance like it’s all a big joke, but for the shot of him walking out to the trunk to get the gasoline. It’s this little tension building interlude, the music is out of ear shot, the camera follows him in real time going outside and back in. The most fucked up part is that you can hear the sounds of children playing nearby. This is all going on right near a bunch of happy little kids. It’s kinda like the end of TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE PART 2 where you realize the park is right next to the road and people are driving by all day not knowing about all the dead bodies and murders down there.

By the way, notice that Nice Guy Eddie doesn’t think information from the tortured cop could be useful. He says he’ll just tell you what he thinks you’ll want to hear. Nice Guy Eddie knows that torture gets you bad intel. They shoulda watched RESERVOIR DOGS before starting the War on Terror. In fact it’s the reverse – Marvin Nash does know who the rat is and does not tell them. He heroically doesn’t give him up. That’s one aspect I forgot about. They both end up dead, but he didn’t give him up. I mean, they both woulda been dead anyway I think. He did the right thing.

I never thought of Tarantino as an action director until he knocked it out of the park with KILL BILL and then DEATH PROOF. But revisiting this I realized that there is a short action scene in this one, when it flashes back to Mr. Pink’s escape after the robbery. It’s a foot chase on a sidewalk, an escape in a car, shots are fired. A whole lot of shots. Quick and simple with a visceral, right-in-the-middle-of-it feel that feels very raw and old school but also reminds me of recent great scenes in DRIVE and UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION.

This has gotta be one of the most masculine movies at least of its decade. I believe there are only two women in the movie other than blurry background extras, neither with dialogue, both carjacking victims. There’s the one Mr. Pink drags out of the car by the scruff of the neck (Linda Kaye as “Shocked Woman” – she plays “Shot Woman” in PULP FICTION), you don’t even see her face I don’t think. And there’s the one who shoots Mr. Orange and then gets shot (Suzanne Celeste as “Shot Woman” – she appears to be Tim Roth’s dialect coach).

Actually there was a character named McClusky, played by Nina Siemaszko, who ate a burger while giving the background check on Mr. White:

but that scene got cut out, and without it the cast is all men and they’re all completely macho, always yelling at each other, pointing guns at each other, in one scene wrestling and calling each other gay.

I guess it’s because of this atmosphere that there’s more than one actor comfortable enough to turn his acting dial up to max. Tim Roth, suffering what must be the most prolonged and painful gunshot wound ever on film, grunts and cries and makes his voice sound like Grover from Sesame Street. Kirk Baltz, as the mutilated cop hostage, makes similar voices, spraying blood, spit and sweat all over as he screams. Chris Penn, apoplectic about claims that his good friend is a traitor, is much cleaner, but he spits all over the place too. The original Bad Lieutenant himself, Harvey Keitel, does some of his trademark Chewbacca moans at the end when he realizes what’s happened to him.

Of course this movie helped to revive Keitel’s career, it really kicked Steve Buscemi into stardom, and helped Michael Madsen (or at least got him KILL BILL), and it put Tim Roth up there for a while (although it seems weird that he’s not doing more these days). Chris Penn was already in BEST OF THE BEST 1-2, so he didn’t need RESERVOIR DOGS, but it’s gotta be his most memorable role. He was so perfect in that role, the pudgy son of the boss, thinks he’s hot shit in his cowboy boots, sideburns and windbreaker, with his brick phone. He’s a macho asshole, but whines and calls his dad “daddy,” should be hatable but I kinda like him.

But let’s take our hats off to a few actors who for some reason didn’t go much further:

Kirk Baltz as one-eared cop Marvin Nash. I spotted Baltz in a small part in NATURAL BORN KILLERS and wondered what else he’d been in. Turns out he’s in FACE/OFF somewhere. And in BULWORTH as “Debate Producer.” And alot of TV. He played the villain Clayface in the one-season Batgirl TV show Birds of Prey. He’s gonna be in that PARKER movie coming up.

Randy Brooks as Holdaway. Who is Holdaway? I didn’t know the name either. That’s Mr. Orange’s boss, who meets him at diners and roof tops, coaches him about his case, gives him the script for “The Commode Story.” Also he wears a sleeveless jean jacket and headband that looks more like a guy in an ’80s movie or music video than one from ’92. Brooks had previously been in MONKEY HU$TLE, COLORS, some episodes of Hunter, stuff like that. I think he’s really good in the role. Since then his career is about the same, doing some movies I never heard of and alot of TV episodes. Most notably he had a character named Arthur Leeds who was in 20 episodes of The West Wing. So that’s good.

You know there are the four sheriffs in the bathroom in Mr. Orange’s fictional Commode Story? Those must be Tarantino’s buddies, because three of the four appear in other Tarantino or Roger Avary movies. Look for Sheriff #1, Rich Turner, in MY BEST FRIEND’S BIRTHDAY, KILLING ZOE, PULP FICTION (Sportscaster #2) and BOOGIE BOY. Sheriff #2, David Steen, has done quite a few movies but he’s gonna be in DJANGO UNCHAINED. Sheriff #4, Stevo Polyi, is in MY BEST FRIEND’S BIRTHDAY, MR. STITCH, RULES OF ATTRACTION and the KILL BILLs (as Tim. Who’s Tim?).

Yeah, so RESERVOIR DOGS is 20 years old, but it sort of exists outside of time. Any weekend now or 20 years from now could be a day to wear black ties and listen to Super Sounds of the ’70s.

I was wrong that first time. I did watch it over and over again, and it only got better. This is an all time classic. In my opinion it is every bit as good as other dog movies like MARMADUKE or EIGHT BELOW.


VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 26th, 2012 at 11:01 pm and is filed under Crime, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

67 Responses to “Reservoir Dogs”

  1. Ah yes, the only Tarantino movie that I still like and can watch from the beginning to the end. So tightly written and directed, no unnecessary bullshit, even the dialogue is entertaining and doesn’t feel like something from an earlier draft! I really wish that Tarantino would lose at one point all his Yes Man and has to make another movie on a shoestring budget, so that he starts focusing on making movies like this again.

  2. Vern, in the rest of the world, you know, places outside of the world called the USA, we tip 10%. So I guess Mr Pink’s just a globetrotter.

  3. 10%? Speak for yourself.

    Vern, what have you got against Lost Boys?

    This is still my favourite QT film and I suspect it probably always will be. Best soundtrack, best quotes (as cool as the others are, Nice Guy Eddie remains my most quoted, in part because of Penn’s great delivery: … Right out of the fuckin’ blue, first things fuckin’ last… Basically, the guy could swear well. Also, his pronunciation of ‘really’ in ‘tell me what REALLY happened’ is pretty special.

    Apparently, there are some subtle things in the background that I never went back to check on. Coffins in corresponding colours in the warehouse, multicolour bottles in the bathroom with the orange one separated from the rest. Clever, clever.

  4. Yes,i also think it´s still Tarantinos best.All the great Details,the Name of the Title Song is Little green Bag by
    The George Baker Selection,and when Tim Roth telling his Bullshit Story about his “Drug Deal”you see him transport
    his Weed in a little green Bag.
    The whole “Why i have to be Mr.Pink” thing is also funny as Hell.
    And Eddie Bunker is in it too.

  5. In the UK we hover around 12-15%. Still no tipping in McDonalds though.

    About 15 years ago Dogs came on TV, we had an exchange student from Nigeria staying with us and I had completely forgotten how racist some of the characters are, specifically Mr Pink in the “you are acting like a bunch of n—–s” scene. So awkward. To his credit, our guest laughed his ass off.

    Is the whole “the bad guy can be casually/directly racist because he’s a bad guy, it’s cool bro” thing still common? I can’t remember seeing any recently.

  6. despite being a huge Tarantino fan, my first viewing of Reservoir Dogs (after many years of it being on my to do list) was only about 2 and a half years ago

    and incredibly, it actually EXCEEDED my expectations, this is indeed a classic movie, I love how it simultaneously and paradoxically manages to feel both 100% Tarantino and yet unique among his filmography at the same time, I don’t even know how to explain why, but it does, it’s a movie that’s in a class of it’s own

  7. well actually now that I think about it, maybe it’s because it feels more realistic than most of his movies

    Tarantino’s movies take place in the heightened “Tarantino-world” that are sometimes very removed from our reality (Inglourious Basterds being the best example), but Reservoir Dogs feels like something that could have actually happened in real life, while still maintaining Tarantino’s style

  8. Back in the day (1992), I heard great things about Reservoir Dogs prior to its release courtesy of Film Threat (when it was an actual magazine, not just a website). They fucking RAVED about it, in more than one issue, and did an interview with QT in which he told them that Lawrence Tierney was a great guy, but basically insane. He shared a story about how Tierney, stinky drunk & on probation at the time, popped off a few rounds from a .44 Magnum into the wall of a hotel room he was staying in, nearly clipping a husband/wife couple next door. Fun stuff. I was all over the movie like a cheap suit the moment it hit VHS. You’re spot on about the rewatchability factor, Vern. You can view it over & over, and no taint of boredom or overfamiliarity ever kicks in. This one holds up like the Great Pyramids.

    My only quibble with Reservoir Dogs is Harvey Keitel. NOT his performance in this movie, or for that matter his ace work as Winston Wolf in Pulp Fiction. My favorite scene in RD is that conversation he has with Joe Cabot where he ruminates about his ex-galpal/partner in crime “Alabama”, and then Cabot lays out the logistics of the diamond heist before the fact. Great stuff; two oldschool criminals shooting the breeze and talking business. The dialogue QT wrote for them was just effortless, and their delivery of it is a thing of beauty. My problem (if you can call it that) is that IMO Keitel has utterly sucked in every performance he gave before or since RD and PF. He always seemed (outside of QT’s influence) kind of a lug, a schmo… call it whatever you want. Basically a nonfactor. Little wonder he got canned early on by Coppola after being cast as Captain Willard in Apocalypse Now. Maybe I’m being unduly harsh, but I truly believe that QT, and QT alone, tapped into the Essential Keitel.

  9. Vern, you have absolutely ruined that diner scene for me.

    The one aspect of Tarantino’s films that I’m glad he got rid of over the years is his penchant for acting in his own movies. The man is a truly terrible actor, and he never seems to fit the role he’s given. I think he finally realized that he belongs behind the camera, not in front.

  10. @Vern: In that same Film Threat interview with QT, I recall him talking about how how he had Tim Roth come in and read for a role different from Mr. Orange (don’t recall which one), and Roth was (at the time) kinda complaining about how he himself sucked in general at reading for roles; it didn’t lend the proper impact of what he felt he was capable of.

    Shortly thereafter, he and QT met at a bar one night in Hollywood, and as they both got hammered Roth bugged him incessantly about allowing him to play Mr. Orange. As a result QT relented, gave him the role, and took a backseat as Mr. Brown. And so it went, perhaps for the best.

  11. Ha, just remembered one thing that still bugs me everytime I watch the movie, when Mr White fails to light his cigarette in the bathroom!

    There is a really solid documentary on the making of/behind the scenes on the UK dvd, got the whole cast telling little stories, like the ones mentioned above, Roth is very interesting and probably explains why he isn’t in too many movies; he refuses to do auditions because he is rubbish at em, and so will only do a part if he’s asked to.

  12. Couple of interesting bits of IMDB trivia that may or may not be worth of discussion. James Woods fired his agent after Quentin told him he rejected the script because it didn’t pay enough. And QT’s original choice of music for the opening credits? Pink Floyd’s “Money”.

  13. I don´t know, QT was kinda fun villain on ALIAS. I didnt think he did a terrible job in FROM DUSK TIL DAWN either. I think people complain about his acting is because he takes up damn too much space with self-indulgent monologues. he stopped doing that and I´m grateful for it

  14. Vern, I’ve been waiting for this review for years. My favourite film. But man, it’s Nice Guy Eddie who says “I’d go over 12% for that.”

    Don’t mean to be a dick… and man, I had not even seen that cut scene. Thank you.

  15. I think people who don’t like Tarantino’s acting just don’t like the man himself. Which is understandable. He can be pretty annoying. I find him pretty entertaining, though. I thought he was kind of the heart and soul of FROM DUSK TILL DAWN, in a weird way. Yeah, he was a psychotic serial killer, but I still felt bad for him when he SPOILER died. He finally fulfills his lifelong dream of getting Salma Hayek’s foot in his mouth and then, boom, it’s all over. Kinda tragic.

    As for DOGS, I managed to see it right when it came out on video in high school, but it didn’t get huge until PULP FICTION blew large. DOGS became an inescapable fact of life if you went to college in the mid-nineties. The soundtrack was played at every party, everybody (including yours truly) had a poster (Rap wasn’t as big back then so SCARFACE hadn’t quite taken over the poster game yet), and people suddenly had an interest in discussing random minutia in a way they didn’t before. In the dorm, I had a tape with DOGS, PULP, and KILLING ZOE on it. That tape was never in my possession because somebody was always borrowing it. Big groups of people–stoners, preppies, and jocks alike–sitting around, quoting the movie back to each other.

    I wonder what the big college movie is nowadays. Probably ANCHORMAN or something.

  16. One of my favorite movie-going memories is seeing Reservoir Dogs at a small theater in my college town. There were probably less than ten people in the theater. I and my friends had been reading about it, maybe seen it talked about MTV, but it wasn’t a big movie, at least not in Columbia, MO.

    Anyway, the memorable part came at the climax of the “ear” scene, when Orange shoots Blonde. Blonde staggers and falls. I was on the edge my seat, after this incredibly tense scene. The whole theater felt like it was holding its breath. And then, from the back of the room, came this huge “SSSSNNNNOOOOORRRRE”. Perfect comic timing. Everybody cracked up.

    The bit that’s always gotten me in this movie is Blonde’s trip to the car, as well, by the way.

  17. Of course if Vern’s “taste” in music were different he’d have known that all of the tracks Tarantino picked were Top 40 hits. I wouldn’t be surprised if the man merely raided his local used CD store for Rhino’s awesome Sounds of the Seventies Have a Nice Day collection which features every song used in the movie and which I had been rocking out to for years, in an adult contemporary fashion of course, no shenanigans. They couldn’t find a way to work in Brandy You’re A Fine Girl so that’s a ding.

    Keitel’s career hardly needed rivatalizing, if anything he was the ace-in-the-hole casting that led to the picture getting made. That Sister Act cred goes a long way.

  18. Great review.

    Maybe I am a cheapskate, but isn’t 15% considered a standard tip?

  19. 15% is considered standard but you’re still a cheapskate if you don’t bump it up to 20%. It’s like in OFFICE SPACE how you only have to wear 15 pieces of flair, but what kind of person are you if you’re satisfied with just doing the bare minimum?

    Plus 20% is way easier to add up in your head. Just lop a digit off the end of the total, then double that. I hate going out to restaurants (which makes me the worst New Yorker ever because that’s basically our national sport) so anything that streamlines that interminable process is worth a couple extra bucks to me.

  20. I didn’t know it until recently, but Canadians are apparently considered terrible tippers in the US. I’ve always seen 15% as the standard, but our minimum wage is higher and servers don’t depend on tips as much.

    Reservoir Dogs was the movie that I knew through its soundtrack long before I got to see it. There isn’t much to say about it that hasn’t already been said, but I suppose I wonder why that particular style (no score, lots of excuses for diegetic music from physical sources) didn’t really take off outside of Dogme. I’m not saying that it’s appropriate for every sort of movie, but standard scores are frequently used in movies where they aren’t at all appropriate. “K-Billy’s Super Sounds of the Seventies Weekend” is still among the very best uses of that trope around in English-language movies and the industry has had twenty years to top it. Is this a niche-appeal thing, or is it just easier to hire a composer to bang something supposedly dramatic together on a laptop than to pay for rights these days?

  21. Vern, you know the part when Mr. White says, “I swear to God, I think I’m fuckin’ jinxed.”? Well, Richard Gere says the same thing in BREATHLESS (minus the f-word, not sure if that line’s in the original though).

  22. Mr Majestyk, don’t you think the restauranteur’s the cheapskate in that scenario, it he pays his staff so little that they have to rely on a 20% tip to, as Dubaya said, put food on their family? The 10% we pay here is just a little thank you to the waiter if the service has been exceptionally good.

  23. Well, sure, but that’s the system. Until that get fixed, I’m not gonna make some poor underpaid single mom suffer because I want to stick it to the Man.

  24. Maybe I should clarify: Minimum wage laws do not apply to employees working in service industries in which tips are an expected component of one’s salary. People tend to think that tips are a little bonus, but they actually just help waiters and bartenders break even. Not tipping or tipping low is like cutting your server’s hourly rate for the time that he or she attended to you. And that is not cool.

    Unless it’s some inattentive male model douchebag. Then you can go with the standard 15%.

  25. Thanks for the correction, Parker. I fixed it in the review.

  26. Wait, servers don’t get any minimum wage in the US? They get a lower minimum wage where I live (which is complete bullshit, in my opinion), but they still have a guaranteed rate of pay. Having no minimum wage is insane. I’ll overtip the next time that I visit.

  27. Clubside: Okay, but these are not the standard “this is the ’70s” songs used in other movies, such as anything from Superfly, Saturday Night Fever, Donna Summer or any songs that Forrest Gump would’ve used if more of it was in the ’70s.

    Everybody: What I’m saying about tip applies to the U.S. only. I know there are other countries where it’s not customary to tip at all, because the servers get paid better. And probly get vacations. Mr. Pink is correct that it’s a weird and convoluted system, but as Majestyk says it’s the reality of how things are set up here and Mr. Pinks know very well that their deep philosophical stand is only punishing the victim of the system and not The Man. The worst part of course is his saying that if she doesn’t like it she should get a better paying job. Yeah, all the waitresses should hold up wholesale diamond dealers and this diner should be self serve.

  28. I think there is a minimum (you can’t just pay them two cents an hour) but it’s not the same as Minimum Wage, which is a set rate that every single other employer in the country has to adhere to.

  29. I agree with Vern’s comment that the combination of the (mostly) one set, the acoustics of the set, and the focus on dialogue makes Reservoir Dogs feel like a play. I wonder if anyone has ever tried to stage a theatrical production of it.

  30. Yes. Lots of people have, in fact. I found several entries when I googled “reservoir dogs the play”. One of them looked like it was done Max Fischer Players style.

  31. This reminds me that I have to watch this one again. I’ve owned it for like 6 years and the one time I watched the DVD I knocked out. I saw it as a kid too back when it was new on video but I barely remember it. I also keep forgetting to watch it so thanks for this one Vern cause now I know what movie to watch this weekend.

  32. I have not heard of this 20% business, but I usually go over 15% anyway.

    Besides, we have the second highest minimum wage in the country. So don’t complain to me goddammit.

  33. I guess I could have just googled it. I should try to get a theater here in DC to perform it…

  34. I’m waiting for the Muppets version: RESERVOIR FROGS.

  35. So the tipping system in the US exists solely so that resteraunts can pretend to charge less than they actually do? And also force people to do maths at the table? Am I reading all this correctly?

  36. Yeah, you pretty much nailed it, except for the part where you put an “s” on the end of “math.” We only have the one in America. Saves time.

  37. Pro tip: Living in America? Don´t be a waitress.

  38. ^Yes, and also so they can pay the waiters less then minimum wage.

    We’re a weird ass country.

  39. Great review, Vern.

    I’m with a few others in that this is the only Tarantino film I like. I think he came out as a fully formed director because he’s basically just regurgitating everything he liked about other movies, and really has no life experience to draw upon so there’s not much more forming that can take place.

    I’m not sure if I dislike him as an actor because he’s someone I loathe, or at least I believe I would loathe from all of the interviews I’ve seen him give, but yeah I’d rather never see his stupid face ever again on my teevee.

  40. Another thing about the “tipping” scene: Mr. Orange is the one who rats out Mr. Pink’s lack-of-tip to Joe. Have no idea if this is intentional or not, but I always thought it was pretty cool that it could be read as an extremely subtle hint about which one of the gang is the rat.

  41. First of all, can I just say that I miss Chris Penn? I love him in this movie. He was great.

    I love your description of Chewbacca moans and Grover cries. I think Keitel is great in this movie, I love how he tenderly combs Roth’s hair at the end, but you’re not wrong about the sounds he makes.

    Kirk Baltz looks a bit like Fisher Stevens these days.

  42. Re: minimum wage, tipping, etc. Minimum wage laws vary from state to state, so there’s no hard and fast rule about what waiters/waitresses/bartenders get paid. Most of the country (New York, for example) has an “exemption” for “tipped employees.” In New Jersey, where I used to wait tables, the minimum wage for tipped employees is something like $2.15/hr. In California (where I also used to wait tables), minimum wage for servers is just whatever the minimum wage is (at the time — 9 years ago or so — it was $6.75).

    But it’s actually WORSE than that. Servers are required to pay taxes on their tips, and because the assumption is that if they self-report they’ll underestimate their tips (a fair assumption), every restaurant I’ve ever worked at just calculates your gross sales, assumes you made 15% on those sales, and then deducts the additional taxes from your paycheck. So say your hourly pay adds up to $100 for the week. They’ll first withhold the same payroll/federal/etc. taxes that all employees have withheld from their checks — say 30%, or $30. So your NET pay is about $70. But then, they’ll see that you sold $2000 worth of food that week, assume you made 15% in tips — $300 — and then deduct ANOTHER $90 (30% of $300), so your actual paycheck ends up being NOTHING. This is literally how it works — when I was working in the restaurant industry, every two weeks I’d get a paycheck that read VOID in the “amount” column, and there’d be an itemized list of your sales and how much was withheld on that basis.

    Mode_7: This is EXACTLY the reason for this system: so restaurants can make prices LOOK lower. Except, the thing is, they actually ARE lower — customers aren’t REQUIRED to tip. Like, if you don’t leave a tip, the restaurant can’t call the cops on you or something. So basically, they’ve outsourced the cost of their employees to the customer, only paying that staff is OPTIONAL, and not the owner’s problem.

  43. As far as 20% vs 15% goes, when I was working in California, I always understood the “expected” tip to be 15%. Once I got to the east coast, though, all the servers seemed to think 20% was customary.

  44. The tipping discussion reminds me of the scene in Pulp Fiction where Vincent tells Jules that ‘without a job, residence, or legal tender…you’re going to be a fuckin’ bum!’ That line hit my ear differently the last time I watched Pulp Fiction and made me wonder about the politics of the character and the writer and whether or not they overlap. I don’t have an answer or even a theory because I’ve been saving it for if I ever met the man.

  45. I love Tarantino. I have since I saw “From Dusk Til Dawn” when I was teenager. I’m ashamed to say I didn’t actually see “Reservoir Dogs” untill just last year. I love the unique dialogue in his movies. You can always tell if it’s a Taratino movie.

    And people if your waitress is good then tip that bitch cause the money aint coming from anywhere else. Let’s see you stand on your feet for eight hours and still smile at the end of the day.

  46. Last waitress I had looked like Catherine Bell, pre-plastic surgery.

    I tipped well.

  47. The political views of Quentin Tarantino. That’s an essay I would read.

  48. I’ve seen some interviews before where he described himself as apolitical.

  49. I’ll admit that Tarantino’s personality is somewhat grating, which is part of the reason why I don’t think he’s a great actor. But he also overacts a lot. His voice is always just on the threshold of screaming and his hand movements can sometimes be described as flailing. He also isn’t capable enough to play anyone other than a slightly tweaked version of himself. If it makes you feel any better I thought Eli Roth was also terrible in Inglorious Basterds. Directors need to know their limitations.

  50. About the tipping thing, I work as a cashier in a restaurant in Texas, and most of our customers consider 15% the “standard” rate for tipping(with a larger than expected amount thinking 10% is reasonable since “the economy is bad”, as if it’s not EQUALLY bad for the servers who do NOT make minimum wage, and as if with times being so hard, maybe you should fucking eat cheaper and not go out and order a sirloin steak), so I don’t find it hard to believe 12% was the “norm” 20 years ago.

  51. Jesus, DS, the husband and I tip better BECAUSE the economy is bad.

    I didn’t see Resevoir Dogs until years after Pulp Fiction. Loved it immediately, and it was fun exploring all the movie references it spawned. My husband bought me the Mr Pink edition because I’m a big Buscemi fan. Btw, has Vern ever reviewed Ed and His Dead Mother?

  52. Adrian: You’ve probably seen Altman’s SHORT CUTS. Chris Penn was really good in that one.

  53. Two things:

    1. I’m curious – When you tip, do you tip on the meal plus the tax? Or do you look at the tab and tip on the meal only?

    2. My former boss (whose opinion I respected very much re: books and films) and I had a discussion about Mr. White once and he had a theory that Mr. White was gay. He thought that White, perhaps, was fond of Mr. Orange and that led to White’s protectiveness and eventual downfall. The macho banter about women was a smokescreen so that he could maintain his thief/badass persona. I can’t quote any specific scenes, but I do remember watching the movie with that in mind and I remember thinking that the interpretation held up. If you assume Mr. White is gay, a lot of his dialogue and actions have added meaning. Has anyone else heard this theory or any analysis about it?

  54. It’s cleverly designed to mostly take place in this one sparse location, branching out to other places for various pieces of backstory, but still being mostly dudes in a warehouse talking. It could definitely be done as stage play. That gives it a really powerful simplicity that’s different from everything he’s done since.

    I noticed that about the “Kill Bill”s too. Not one location, but that the locations are static, long lasting, and sequential. Well, except for the occasional flashback, which could be a spotlight to the side of the stage.

    It all fits in nicely with my theory that Quentin Tarantino is a frustrated playwright.

  55. Jareth: He was absolutely heart-breaking in that movie. I watched much of it last week and it was still as twisted and brilliant as I remembered it. I also liked him in his small role in TRUE ROMANCE as Sizemore’s partner.

  56. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    September 28th, 2012 at 11:17 am

    Pish, most overrated movie ever.

    Nah, I’m kidding. I love this one actually. Never noticed the bit about Orange being the one who “tipped off” Joe about the tip. It’s been many, many years since I saw it.

    But it’s a fantastic film. Couple of comments:

    There’s one line of dialogue, only one, that I don’t like in this movie. It’s when somebody is talking about who got shot, and somebody else – I think it’s Pink although I can’t remember now – says “No real people, just cops”. I know that these criminals aren’t supposed to view cops as people, hence White’s existential nightmare at the end, but it still struck me as a bit too on-the-nose.

    I think Marvin Nash’s death is one of the all-time great movie deaths. Up until five minutes before he dies, we know almost nothing about him. Then there’s his scene with Blonde, followed by his conversation with Orange. It’s impossible not to root for him at that point, which makes the manner of his death that much more shocking. The whole film is about the futility of violence, and nowhere is that more illustrated than in that one moment.

    I don’t hate Kill Bill (either part), although I think #1 is largely superior to #2 (I would say #1 is a great film, #2 is just a really good one); but I think the “Superman” speech might be the worst single scene that Tarantino has ever shot, and it’s nothing to do with any comic book fundamentalism. This is the point of the movie at which Tarantino officially disappears up his own arse. I was cringing the whole way through it.

  57. “I’ve seen some interviews before where he described himself as apolitical.”

    that sounds about right

  58. He was on the Cannes jury the year FAHRENHEIT 9/11 won the Palme d’Or, and Michael Moore said QT told him it was awarded on it’s cinematic merits, not it’s politics.

  59. Useless trivia that I just remembered: Til Schweiger, Germany’s biggest celebrity Tarantino fanboy named his now defunct production company MR BROWN ENTERTAINMENT, after Tarantino’s character in this.

  60. Re: tipping USA.
    It’s 20%, has been for over 20 years (my term in service industry, as bus boy to waitron2000 & beyond). 15% is what my grandma tipped.
    Get a shitty server? Fly in that tip at pennies below 20% and tell the house manager or cashier. Be chill & polite about it. End of fucking story.

    Kind of surprised by how many people love this the most of QT’s stuff.

  61. Can’t even review Reservoir dogs without a tipping argument. Cough up a buck, ya cheap bastards. I paid for your goddamn breakfasts.

  62. Great movie. I still think Jackie Brown is the best Tarantino movie, but all of them are interesting.

  63. About the “tipping in the world” topic: In Spain we have no real “laws” about tipping.

  64. RE: Cime State.

    Mr. White gay? Talk about nonsense. That person who thought that was dead wrong with his analysis. He felt obligated to Mr. Orange b/c he took a bullet that should have been him. That’s his m.o. for feeling protective of him.

    Also, earlier in the film he’s asked about Alabama, his old female partner/lover. Anyway, that was horseshit.

  65. “Kind of surprised by how many people love this the most of QT’s stuff.”

    I don’t think Reservoir Dogs is his best movie, but I can understand why someone would

    and I also find the Mr. White gay theory ridiculous, I never got that vibe at all

  66. I think my favorite of his is Jackie Brown. His most mature film too. Dealing with a people that feel trapped and how getting older isn’t for pussies. If you know what I mean. It showed how much he was evolving into a more complete film maker.

    Then the film didn’t do as well as he had hoped it would and then took a long ass hiatus. Personally, I think it had more to do with the fact it had a older, female lead in the lead role. Who had a small little niche twenty years before.

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