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Streamlined

By Reed Thornburg     3/7/13 6:00pm

"All you can do is pray for a quick death, which you ain't gonna get," says the tortuous Mr. Blonde in Quentin Tarantino's 1992 directorial debut, Reservoir Dogs. As these sadistic words come out of the dancing psychopath's mouth, you realize that this movie is in an elite sphere of films that force you to question the bounds of human violence. Reservoir Dogs became available on Netflix instant streaming this January, and a retrospective viewing of this now timeless classic reveals how this modern master started his genre-spawning career.

The movie opens to reveal a group of mostly suit-and-tie-clad men seated at a greasy spoon in 1980s Los Angeles, Calif. Their topic of discussion: Madonna's 1984 hit "Like A Virgin." Going around the circle, these vulgar gangsters each provide a new backstory for this born-again virgin. Even more surprising than the topic of conversation is just how deeply these men analyze what might otherwise be a simplistic pop tune, but this is the metaphor that defines the film. No character is fully as he seems, and the entire plot is about finding out the real identity of these "professionals."

What first appears a standard heist film changes almost instantaneously as Tarantino completely transforms the standard narrative arch of the genre. Rather than sequencing a long chain of events, Tarantino focuses on the aftermath. Immediately following the title screen, the movie cuts to a man hemorrhaging and screaming violently in the back of a car. The viewer is left in a state of complete confusion and a long list of questions begins forming in the narrative. The only clear fact is that something went terribly wrong in their heist, and these Crayola Mr.'s are going to investigate how their perceived "perfect" heist failed completely.



Before Tarantino had worked his way to his current $100,000,000 budgets, he proved just how capable he could be with slightly over $1,000,000. His economizing is smart. With a total run time of only 100 minutes, the rapid pacing rarely slows down - quite an achievement considering that the film was shot with extremely few scene changes. This intensity comes from the strong acting, particularly by Steve Buscemi (Fargo) as Mr. Pink and Harvey Keitel (Taxi Driver) as Mr. White. Tense dialogue allows these actors to build suspense and propels the movie forward through its bleak setting. To those unfamiliar with Tarantino's work: Take note that this film is no exception from his categorically violent style - you will likely never forget a certain scene involving a razor blade. Seasoned Tarantino fans will also notice his Hitchcockian tradition of including himself as an actor starts here. Finally, the language is often intensely profane. Beyond the bloodshed, however, the movie still succeeds outright as a gripping psychological detective case.

Other Tarantino films such as Pulp Fiction have mysteriously disappeared from the Netflix instant streaming catalog without explanation, so be sure to set aside a few hours soon.



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