90's-vember: Reservoir Dogs (1992) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

90’s-vember: Reservoir Dogs (1992)

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Quentin Tarantino gets a lot of flack from critics, both professional and amateur. There's the accusation that he steals his ideas from other films, and while there are undeniable influences in his work from the grindhouse and exploitation films of the 70s, calling them "stolen" is a gross exaggeration. Tarantino isn't a thief: He's a nerd.

I mean that in the nicest possible way. Tarantino is a film nerd. He loves films, especially obscure films, and he wears his influences on his sleeve. Are there more than a few similarities between the plots of Reservoir Dogs and 1987's City on Fire? Definitely, but Reservoir Dogs didn't just copy Ringo Lam's crime thriller, change the setting to California and call it a day. No, he took the concept of a film that he loved and then he made it his own.

This actually works to the film's credit, too. Reservoir Dogs is a film obsessed with pop culture; from the obvious to the obscure. The soundtrack, to the dialog, even the wardrobe choices are all a parade of the things that entertained or inspired Tarantino. It only makes sense that the film's plot would be a reference itself.

Furthermore, it could be argued that Tarantino helped to spread awareness of lesser known films. Consider this: In 1992, how many people in the general, movie-going public wanted to see an imported Hong Kong crime film that would either be dubbed or subtitled (I ain't paying to read no film!)? Pretty low, I'd wager. But show them something more American, something they could relate to more easily culturally, and you just might be able to sow the seeds on interest not only in your own work, but in the genre as a whole.

Yeah, I'll admit that's a long-shot, but I still think there's a glimmer of plausibility to it. Or, if you'd rather, maybe Tarantino just likes making movies for he fellow film nerds. For example, I remember after Kill Bill came out there was an increased interest in the Japanese "girl gangster" and "revenge" genre flicks of the 70s. Not in the general population, but among other movie buffs and film nerds there was.

Was this Tarantino's intention all along, or am I just talking out of my ass? Eh, probably a little of both, but that isn't really what's important here. What's important is that Reservoir Dogs wasn't only Tarantino's break-out film, it's foul-mouthed dialog, witty pop-culture deconstruction and unflinching look at violence would go on to influence countless young film makers in the 90s and into the next century.

How does this film exemplify the 90’s?

  • Analysis of Madonna's "Like a Virgin."
  • Maybe not 90s per say, but plenty of 70s and 80s pop culture references for the GenX-ers.
  • Pretty much kicked of the trend of "edgy" 90s movies. Find me a better example. I dare you! I double-dare you, mother fucker!
  • Wait, that was Pulp Fiction, wasn't it? Crap!
  • Actually, a case could be made that the excessive violence and profanity could be seen as a reflection of the 90s "x-treme" craze.

Still one of the most tense, chilling torture sequences in any film to date. I'm still thankful that the camera pulls away when it does.

What makes this my pick?

Tarantino helped to bring indie-style films to the mainstream. They took these disturbing, unsavory elements of society and really brought them into the spotlight. Sure, sure, there have always been crime movies, and gangster movies, and movies that just exploit the underprivileged or fringe aspects of society, but they were always held back. Always tucked safely away from the delicate sensibilities of the movie-going public. Tarantino reveled in the disgusting and the extreme. He took those raw, often disturbing bits of the underground cinema scene and injected them into the mainstream to great success.

But unlike the exploitation or rape/torture films of decades past, there was a sense of purpose to Tarantino's work. It wasn't just a collection of violent images, or dirty words, it was trying to convey a sense of realism. The characters in Tarantino's films (much like in Smith's films) just felt real. Their reactions seemed natural. They didn't just rattle off dialog in order to advance the plot. Instead, they took time to out to discuss cartoons and hits of the 70s and how Madonna was singing songs about big dicks.

And I could relate to that because I, too, was a nerd. Maybe I didn't sit around pondering the deeper sexual meanings of Madonna's discography, but I had plenty of equally inane and pseudo-insightful discussions about comics or video games or whatever super nerdy thing my friends and I were into at the time. I think that's what really spoke to me in Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and the greater number of films by Tarantio. Sure, I loved the over-the-top violence and creative usage of "fuck" as much as any other moody teenager, but I also felt like I understood the director. Here's a director that loves movies and references to old, obscure pop culture even more than me, but he's famous! It was a huge confidence booster as a shy, nerdy little kid seeing someone even dorkier than you could make it big in Hollywood.

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Posted by Jacob

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