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(Credit: Miramax Films / Press)

Film

30 years of Quentin Tarantino's explosive movie 'Reservoir Dogs'

@Russellisation
Quentin Tarantino - 'Reservoir Dogs'
4.4

With his frenetic flair, stylish flourish and taste for pulpy violence, the cinema of Quentin Tarantino is one of the most celebrated sub-genres of auteur filmmaking in the contemporary industry. Imbued with a self-evident passion for the history of the medium, the filmography of Tarantino was born out of the success of his impressive debut film, Reservoir Dogs, celebrating its 30-year anniversary in 2022. 

Released as the result of years of pent up creativity, Tarantino’s debut film radiates the same flair and enthusiasm that would later make him a household name, with the 28-year-old director clearly having so much fun with the project’s many avenues of creativity. Incorporating many motifs that have since become hallmarks of Tarantino, the film is laden with crime, pop-culture references, eccentric characters and the use of nonlinear storytelling that has long set the filmmaker apart from his peers. 

Having worked at a video store in Manhattan Beach, California in his youth, Tarantino originally planned to shoot the film in black and white with his friends on a reasonably stringent budget of $30,000 before his producer Lawrence Bender gave the script to his acting teacher, whose wife handed the screenplay to Harvey Keitel. In a bizarre string of fate, Keitel reportedly liked the script so much that he signed on to co-produce whereby they together raised $1.5 million for the project. Along with his financial assistance and leading role in the film, Keitel also provided both Tarantino and Bender with casting sessions in New York where the duo discovered Tim Roth, Steve Buscemi and Michael Madsen. 

An independent film, wished into existence by the efforts of Quentin Tarantino and producers Lawrence Bender and Harvey Keitel, Reservoir Dogs became a film made by movie lovers for movie lovers, with the debut project laden with references to the history of the art form. Having developed his palette for cinema during his time working in a video store, Tarantino created a list of inspirational films to draw from during his time on his debut project as Reservoir Dogs became a mosaic of concepts and genres each originating from the lifeblood of cinema. 

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Constructed around a simple heist flick following several criminals who take part in a bodge jewellery robbery, the director ripped aspects from the western genre along with classic action films to put together the makeup of his final film. In part influenced by Stanley Kubrick’s third feature film, The Killing, Tarantino told The Seattle Times, “I didn’t go out of my way to do a rip-off of The Killing, but I did think of it as my Killing, my take on that kind of heist movie”. Along with this direct inspiration, Tarantino also borrowed plot elements from Kansas City Confidential as well as particular scenes from The Big Combo, 1966’s spaghetti western Django as well as City on Fire which the director cites as a major influence. 

In borrowing from so many different types of movies, Tarantino created an original collage of ideas and genres that mixed remarkably well together to form a convincing, thrilling whole. Comparing his film to that of a novel that toys with the real-life pace of life rather than the montage of cinema, the filmmaker constructs an excellent hotpot of tension suffused with dread, paranoia and fear. Featuring all the nuances and subtleties of Tarantino’s later career, Reservoir Dogs still stands as a charming ode to the influence of cinema and the power of the filmmaker’s signature style.

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