'Reservoir Dogs': THR's 1992 Review

Reservoir Dogs - Still 1 - H 2017
Courtesy of Sundance

Reservoir Dogs - Still 1 - H 2017

Profanely violent, 'Reservoir Dogs' is going to satisfy some urges for the can't-get-enough-of-Scorsese lookers, but its relentless intensity will likely claim many screening victims.

On Oct. 23, 1992, Quentin Tarantino's feature directorial debut Reservoir Dogs hit theaters. The film originally premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 21 of that year, vaulting the previously unknown Tarantino to immediate fame. The Hollywood Reporter's original review is below. 

Reservoir Dogs is just plain brutal. No Mean Streets walk in the park for Harvey Keitel in this one, this plug gutter is wiping out audiences here at the Sundance Film Festival. Those who survive it emerge in a shell-shocked euphoria — so good and so blunt is the writing.

Profanely violent, Reservoir Dogs is going to satisfy some urges for the can't-get-enough-of-Scorsese lookers, but its relentless intensity will likely claim many screening victims.

The East Coast comes to L.A. in this wipeout: Six hard-timers stick up a jewelry store. No buddy group, these fellas have been selected by Mr. Joe because none of them knows each other and that way you eliminate chances for a rat. They're given code names: Mr. White, Mr. Orange, Mr. Pink, Mr. Blonde, Mr. Brown and Mr. Blue. And they're given precise instructions on the nature of the hit. And this ain't no male bonding-buddy movie.

So, despite all the carefully laid plans of these morons, things go bad at the heist — Mr. Blonde starts shooting everybody in sight and the cops surround the place and who knows what happened to Mr. Blue and Mr. Brown.

Anyway, Mr. Orange (Tim Roth) has got it in the gut and he's dying and Mr. White (Keitel) manages to get him to the warehouse where everybody is supposed to show up after the heist. But only Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi) is there, and he's a whacko.

Then, Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) himself shows up with a cuffed cop in the trunk and things get less than businesslike. And, of course, the guy you most hate has got the "ice'' (jewels) somewhere where nobody else knows and he's not even subpoenaed to testify this week for Mr. Gotti.

Well, to spare the gory details, things get rough. Not that you mind any of these guys dying.

Writer-director Quentin Tarantino is one lethal storyteller. Reservoir Dogs, even for those of us with weak stomachs, is a masterful story setup, aided and abetted by all those colorful guys in on the thing.

Early paroles and letters of commendation, especially, to Keitel for his typically tenacious performance as the frazzled Mr. White, and to Buscemi for his nasty portrayal of, fittingly, Mr. Pink. Madsen as the cool psycho, Mr. Blonde, and Lawrence Tierney as the gravel-voiced mastermind are particularly chilling.

Technical credits hit the mark: namely, some wonderfully weird and gooey '70s tunes from music supervisor Karyn Rachtman. — Duane Byrge, first published on Jan. 23, 1992

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