Mar. 21, 2012 - Issue #857: Ben Folds
The Mr men
From the A list—Miller's Crossing, The Usual Suspects, Se7en—to the A- list—Red Rock West, True Romance, The Last Seduction—1990–95 was a rich time for the American neo-noir. Right at the heart of this period is Tarantino's debut, Reservoir Dogs, playing out as more of a post-noir. Because of its usual postmodern QT conversations, sure (like Mr Brown's misogynist, unnecessary riff on the true meaning of Madonna's "Like A Virgin"), but mostly because the main action comes after what a noir would usually show—the heist. Only in sometimes overlong flashbacks are there typical noir scenes: a cops-and-robber chase; a talk over drinks between the heist-planner (Laurence Tierney) and a guy he's brought in for the job. Some talk's marred by some pointlessly racist, homophobic, and sexist banter that reduces these guys, and Tarantino the writer, to some cursing monologues.
But Tarantino cleverly doesn't show, for instance, Mr Pink (Steve Buscemi) trashing a room—we only hear him ranting about the heist going wrong because someone tipped the cops. Telling, or talking, too much is the trouble: Mr White (Harvey Keitel) has already said too much about himself to the gut-shot Mr Orange (Tim Roth) for Pink's liking, and the identity of the rat among them, talking to the wrong side, is scurrying through everyone's minds. The main stage of a warehouse and the Clue-game names only strip the story down to a more elemental, intriguing mystery. In flashback, the theatrical quality's heightened by the undercover cop's rehearsal for his character—he has to tell a backstory just right to seem legit.
Any exuberance over violence, as with Mr Blonde's (Michael Madsen) torture of a cop, is mostly reined in. Coiled male panic and ricocheting accusations carry enough of the main action. (Buscemi, making Pink wild-eyed but trying to be professional, and Roth, acting by turns restrained and desperate, are stand-outs.) And when White holds a slowly dying Orange in his arms, it's an eerily macabre recreation of Michelangelo's Pietà. At its best, at a time before Tarantino became all show, Reservoir Dogs reveals masculinity as a bloody, savage, sometimes two-faced performance.
Tue, Mar 27 (9:15 pm)
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Metro Cinema at The Garneau
Originally released: 1992
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