Four Perfect Killers. One Perfect Crime. Critically acclaimed for its raw power and breathtaking ferocity, it's the brilliant American gangster movie classic from writer-director Quentin Tarantino. They were perfect strangers, assembled to pull off the perfect crime. Then their simple robbery explodes into bloody ambush, and the ruthless killers realize one of them is a police informer. But which one?
As the opening credits roll in Reservoir Dogs, six men in dark suits and sunglasses walk across a
parking lot. With 1080p resolution and an MPEG-2 codec, the BD reveals significantly more detail
than the 480i versions on DVD. Judging by their appearance, the cast could be salesmen heading
back to their office. But Reservoir Dogs is a gangster film and after a few minutes of dialogue, it
becomes clear that these are not lawful citizens. Reservoir Dogs is an exploration of honor among
thieves and each thief has a pseudonym: Mr. White, Mr. Brown, Mr. Pink, Mr. Orange, Mr. Blonde,
Much of Reservoir Dogs takes place in an abandoned warehouse. The action has tremendous presence on this stage. With 1080p resolution, it has the look and feel of live theater.
One year after Goodfellas brought mafia movies into the 1990s, Quentin Tarantino takes the
genre in a new direction in his first and most serious effort as a filmmaker. Of Tarantino's many
cinematographic ploys in Reservoir Dogs, the most brazen is his use of nonlinear time. When the
credits stop rolling, the picture goes black. We suddenly find ourselves hearing screams of agony
in a car. Mr. Orange, in a riveting performance by Tim Roth, lies writhing in the back seat,
drenched in his own blood. Mr. White, played authoritatively by Harvey Keitel, tries to console his
partner as he carries Mr. Orange into the safehouse. "Who's the tough guy? Tell me who's the
guy. You're the tough guy!"
One by one, the other mobsters who survived the heist appear at the safehouse, each with their
own story that reaches back in time, each pulled in different directions by their allegiances and
experiences. Steve Buscemi delivers an especially strong performance as Mr. Pink, but all the
actors are at the top of their game. The realization that one of the thieves is an undercover cop
and that the law is closing in around them drives the characters toward a brutal climax where
honor and the gangsters' code are stressed to the breaking point. Shocking violence and heated
dialog pepper the film, showcasing many of Tarantino's writing and directing trademarks.
Lionsgate's BD-25 delivers a quality, 2.35:1, 1080p picture with rich, vibrant colors that trounce
the DVD versions of Reservoir Dogs. While not a reference-quality Blu-ray, the entire viewing
experience is transformed by the increased definition and resolution, greatly enhancing the
thespian merits of the film. Watch the cast move about the set of the safehouse, an abandoned
warehouse, with stunning presence, as if they are performing on a stage directly in front of us.
Even when the scene shifts to Mr. Orange's cramped apartment or a diner or the office of mob
boss Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney), the BD delivers a "you are there" quality.
The details reveal few weaknesses. Crimson blood and gory makeup prove to be quite realistic in
the most violent moments. Watch the torture scene as Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) carves his
prisoner, leaving the man's face dramatically altered. The crisp imagery communicates the
brutality of the assault at its rawest. To Tarantino's credit, the camera pans away from the
violence during the most intense moments of torture, when other areas of the
warehouse come into perfect focus.
The video was not as solid or flawless as the best Blu-ray titles, such as Casino Royale, which
uses the MPEG-4 codec on a BD-50. But Reservoir Dogs gives up surprisingly little and is not far
from reference quality. Motion scenes, such as the outdoor foot chase when Mr. Pink is running
from the police, makes the motion look a bit choppy. It was difficult to discern any artifacts.
Overall, the picture was stunning and provided excellent depth, clarity and contrast.
One of the hallmarks of Tarantino's films is an engaging, dynamic soundtrack that features tunes
from the 1970s. For the audio content of the Blu-ray, Lionsgate provides three formats: Dolby
Digital 5.1 EX, DTS-ES Matrix 6.1 and DTS-HD 5.1. Missing is a LPCM transfer, but then again, the
audio source may have been an early digital master that would not benefit from transfer to lossless
Whatever the reasons for the absence of LPCM, the DD and DTS soundtracks are impressive, if not
notably better than the DVD version. Songs like "Stuck in the Middle with You" showcase a digital
clarity and edge that few movie buffs will fault. Though well resolved, the music does not live up to
all the standards of audiophiles. The action, including gunshots and a barking dog, and voices are
well-recorded and powerful, if not reference quality. Minimal deep-bass or system-stretching
content is available in Reservoir Dogs to test the limits of its audio performance.
The Blu-ray version of Reservoir Dogs includes three features. "Playing It Fast and Loose" is a
documentary championing the film's influence on modern cinema. While it is true that Tarantino's
tricks like nonlinear time were frequently employed in many films he influenced, these
cinematographic ploys were not new or even particularly beneficial to the plot. The documentary
rightly maintains, however, that Reservoir Dogs had a ripple effect in Hollywood. Whether that
effect was good or bad is another matter. A featurette, "Profiling the Reservoir Dogs", offers
perspective into the motivations of each character. But of greater interest to Tarantino fans is the
"Pulp Factoids Viewer", which offers insider information about the film and its sources of
inspiration--not a surprise to longtime fans of the genre. The supplements appear in high-definition.
If Tarantino is divided into four parts, he would be one part genius, one part ham, one part fudge
and one part child, and I don't use any of the terms lightly. Some of his work is brilliant, some is
absolutely sophomoric. He takes many chances, and they all work in Reservoir Dogs. It is
nowhere near his most popular film, but I find it his strongest. The question remains whether his
nonlinear time gimmick strengthened the story or held it back. The technique certainly added
intrigue to the first viewing experience, but what if the story flowed in a linear manner? I believe
this approach would have been more successful. The audience would relate better to the
characters, gaining insight as the characters gained insight, rather than jumping around. Plenty
of intrigue is built into the plot by virtue of the fact that the six gangsters were strangers. They
refer to each other by their pseudonyms. Why make the story more confusing by jumping
around in time?
Each mobster in Reservoir Dogs is generally distrusting of the other except for one strong
relationship that develops between veteran wiseguy Mr. White and the new kid, Mr. Orange. The
reason they bond is never adequately explained. In fact, one would expect them to be at odds
based on their characters' histories. It's not in Mr. White's nature to trust people. But the White-
Orange friendship and mutual respect is convincing and a credit to Tarantino's character
development as well as the strong performance of Roth and Keitel.
By the end--which thankfully unfolds in a linear manner--we see that this respect between Mr.
White and Mr. Orange has grown to defy all logic and chain of command. In the climax it
develops into a gangster triangle, in which the boss, the boss' son, Nice Guy Eddie (Chris Penn)
and Mr. White stand with guns drawn. The dramatic way the tension unfolds stands alongside
the most powerful scenes in mafia film history. Some of the characters, such as the
psychopathic Mr. Blonde, are a study of the two-dimensional or juvenile criminal mind that
Tarantino uses more frequently in his later work. I prefer the more complex relationships and
motivations as character studies.
For sheer impact and video definition, the Blu-ray far exceeds any previous home video version
of this film. And I've had most of them, from the original VHS cassette to the first version of the
DVD to the Mr. White collector's edition. Any fan of Tarantino or the mafia genre should not
hesitate to get this 15th Anniversary Blu-ray.