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Reservoir Dogs is the 1992 debut film of director and writer Quentin Tarantino. It portrays what happens before and after a botched jewel heist, but not the heist itself. Reservoir Dogs stars an ensemble cast with Harvey Keitel, Steve Buscemi, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Quentin Tarantino, Chris Penn and Lawrence Tierney. Tarantino has a minor role, as does criminal-turned-author Eddie Bunker. It incorporates many themes and aesthetics that have become Tarantino's hallmarks: violent crime, pop culture references, memorable dialogue, profuse profanity, and a nonlinear storyline.

The film has become a classic of independent film and a cult hit. It was named "Greatest Independent Film of all Time" by Empire. Reservoir Dogs was generally well received and the cast was praised by many critics. Although it was never given much promotion upon release, the film was a modest success by grossing $2,832,029, which made its budget back. However, it did become a major hit in the United Kingdommarker; grossing nearly £6.5 million, and it achieved higher popularity after the success of Tarantino's Pulp Fiction. It is often criticized for its high degree of violence and profanity, and audience members reportedly walked out during the film's now famous torture scene.

A soundtrack titled Reservoir Dogs: The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack was released featuring songs used in the film, mostly from the 1970s. In 2006, a video game was released to mediocre reviews. The video game—like the film—caused controversy for its violence.


The film opens to eight men eating breakfast at a diner. Six of them wear matching suits and are using aliases: Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen), Mr. Blue (Eddie Bunker), Mr. Brown (Quentin Tarantino), Mr. Orange (Tim Roth), Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi), and Mr. White (Harvey Keitel). Among them is Los Angeles gangster Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney), and his son, "Nice Guy" Eddie Cabot (Chris Penn). Mr. Brown discusses his comparative analysis on Madonna's "Like a Virgin", Joe's senior moments involving his address book rankle Mr. White, and Mr. Pink defends his anti-tipping policy until Joe forces him to leave a tip for the waitresses.

After the opening credits, the action cuts to the interior of a speeding car. Mr. White, driving with one hand, is trying to comfort a hysterical Mr. Orange, who has been shot in the abdomen and is bleeding profusely. They arrive at an abandoned warehouse, later revealed to be the rendezvous point for the armed robbery they have just committed. Mr. White leaves Mr. Orange on the warehouse floor when Mr. Pink appears, angrily suggesting that their robbery of a jeweler, orchestrated by Joe Cabot, was a police-setup. Mr. White reveals that Mr. Brown has been shot and killed by the police, and the whereabouts of Mr. Blonde and Mr. Blue are unknown to both. A flashback is played, revealing more of Mr. White's long-time friendship with Joe Cabot.

The two men discuss the actions of the sociopathic Mr. Blonde, who murdered several civilians after the jeweler's alarm had triggered; the police arrived at the scene remarkably soon after the alarm was activated. Mr. White is angered about Cabot's decision to employ such a psychopath and agrees about the possibility of a setup, while Mr. Pink confesses to having hidden the jeweler's diamond cache in a secure location. However, they violently argue about whether or not to take the unconscious Mr. Orange to a hospital when Mr. White reveals that he had told the former his true first name. Mr. Blonde, who has been watching them from the shadows, steps forward and ends their Mexican standoff, telling them not to leave the rendezvous as Nice Guy Eddie is on his way. Mr. Blonde takes them outside to his car and opens the trunk to reveal he captured a police officer named Marvin Nash (Kirk Baltz). A second flashback reveals that Mr. Blonde became involved in Cabot's heist team because of his friendship and loyalty to Eddie.

The three men torture the officer until a furious Eddie arrives at the warehouse. After berating the men over the carnage and incompetence displayed at the heist, he orders Mr. Pink and Mr. White to assist him retrieve the stolen diamonds and dispose of the hijacked vehicles, while ordering Mr. Blonde to stay with Nash and the dying Mr. Orange. Nash states that he has been a police officer for eight months and is ignorant as to a possible setup. He then pleads with Mr. Blonde to release him without further incident. However, after the others leave, Mr. Blonde confesses to enjoying torture, at which he turns on the radio and dances to "Stuck in the Middle With You" by Stealers Wheel before severing Nash's ear with a straight razor. He then retrieves a large gasoline can from the trunk of his car and is about to set Nash alight when Mr. Orange, having regained consciousness, produces a handgun and repeatedly shoots Mr. Blonde. Mr. Orange tells Nash that he is actually an undercover police detective named Freddy Newandyke, and reassures him that a massive police force is in position several blocks downtown waiting for Joe Cabot to arrive.

A series of flashback scenes detail Mr. Orange's involvement in an undercover operation to capture Cabot, culminating in a sequence depicting the death of Mr. Brown as he attempts to drive Mr. White and Mr. Orange away from the jewelry store, and Mr. Orange's shooting a woman who shot him in the stomach as he and Mr. White attempted to steal her car.

The remainder of the heist group returns to the warehouse to find Mr. Blonde dead. Mr. Orange claims that Mr. Blonde was going to kill Nash, Mr. Orange and the rest of the gang so that he could take the diamonds for himself. Eddie does not believe the story and, furious with Mr. Orange, fatally shoots Nash three times. Joe Cabot himself arrives and, after informing the group that Mr. Blue was killed, confidently accuses Mr. Orange of being an informant, forcing Mr. White to defend his friend. A shootout ensues, leaving Joe and Eddie dead, Mr. White severely wounded, and Mr. Orange mortally wounded. Mr. Pink, who avoided the shootout, takes the cache of diamonds and flees the warehouse. As police sirens and gunshots are heard outside, Mr. White cradles Mr. Orange in his arms and Mr. Orange reveals that he is in fact a detective. Mr. White kills Mr. Orange as the police raid the warehouse, resulting in the police killing Mr. White.


  • Harvey Keitel as Mr. White: A professional criminal and thief. His real name is revealed to be Larry Dimmick.

  • Tim Roth as Mr. Orange: An undercover police officer, his real name is revealed to be Freddy Newandyke.

  • Steve Buscemi as Mr. Pink: The only major character whose real name is never revealed, also the only major character whose fate is unknown.

  • Chris Penn as "Nice Guy" Eddie Cabot: The son of Joe Cabot. Eddie does not participate in the heist.

  • Lawrence Tierney as Joe Cabot: The mastermind of the heist and father of "Nice Guy" Eddie Cabot.

  • Quentin Tarantino as Mr. Brown: Tarantino plays a small role as he often does in his films; Mr. Brown's real name is also not revealed.

  • Eddie Bunker as Mr. Blue: A small role played by ex-criminal Eddie Bunker.

  • Randy Brooks as Holdaway: A police officer and a friend of Mr. Orange.

  • Kirk Baltz as Marvin Nash: The police officer who is kidnapped by Mr. Blonde after the heist and tortured during the ear-cutting scene.

  • Steven Wright as the voice of K-Billy DJ: The voice of comedian Steven Wright moves in and out of the film as the voice of the DJ of "K-Billy's Super Sounds of the Seventies", the radio station referenced several times throughout the film.


Tarantino had been working as a video store clerk in Redondo Beachmarker and was originally going to shoot the film with his friends on a budget of $30,000 on 16 mm format with producer Lawrence Bender playing Nice Guy Eddie. However, when actor Harvey Keitel became involved he agreed to act in the film and co-produce. Harvey Keitel was then cast as Mr. White. With Keitel's assistance, the filmmakers were able to raise $1.5 million to make the film.

Reservoir Dogs was, according to Tarantino, his version of Stanley Kubrick's The Killing. Tarantino himself said that he "[...] 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". The film's plot was suggested by the 1952 movie Kansas City Confidential. Reservoir Dogs has also been accused of plagiarism, specifically Ringo Lam's 1987 film City on Fire, and has even been accused of lifting entire scenes from this film. Additionally, Joseph H. Lewis's The Big Combo inspired the scene where a cop is tortured in a chair. Tarantino has denied that he plagiarized with Reservoir Dogs instead claiming that he does homages.

One unique feature of the film is that the actual heist is never shown. Tarantino has said that the reason for not showing the heist was initially budgetary but that he always liked the idea of not showing it and stuck with that idea. He has said that the technique lets the viewer realize that the movie is "about other things". He compared this to the work of a novelist and has said that he wanted the movie to be about something that is not seen and that he wanted it to "play with a real-time clock as opposed to a movie clock ticking".


Reservoir Dogs opened in 19 theaters with a first week total of $147,839 in the United States. The film was never released to more than 61 theaters in the U.S. and totaled $2,832,029 at the box office there. The film gained most of its success after the popularity of Pulp Fiction. However, in Britainmarker, the film was a success and gained recognition. After its success in Britain, it was put into the Sundance Film Festival. Empire Magazine named it the "Greatest Independent Film ever made". The movie has since come to be seen as an important and highly-influential milestone of independent filmmaking. Reservoir Dogs carries a 95% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. While Metacritic carries an average rating of 78/100, based on 23 critic reviews, indicating generally favorable reviews.

Reservoir Dogs has inspired many other independent films and is considered key in the development of independent cinema. The Bollywood film Kaante from Sanjay Gupta is an unauthorized remake of Reservoir Dogs featuring a similar plot and dialogue style.

The film was screened out of competition at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival. It won the Critic's Award at the 4th Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival in February 1993 which Tarantino attended.

Critical reaction

At the film's release at the Sundance Film Festival, film critic Jami Bernard of the New York Daily News compared the effect of Reservoir Dogs to that of the 1895 film L'Arrivée d'un Train en Gare de la Ciotat, whereby audiences putatively observed a moving train approaching the camera and scrambled. Bernard claimed that Reservoir Dogs had a similar effect and people were not ready for it. Vincent Canby of the New York Times enjoyed the cast and the usage of non-linear storytelling. He similarly complimented Tarantino's directing and liked the fact that he did not often use close-ups in the film. Kenneth Turan of the LA Times also enjoyed the film and the acting, particularly that of Buscemi, Tierney and Madsen, and said "Tarantino's palpable enthusiasm, his unapologetic passion for what he's created, reinvigorates this venerable plot and, mayhem aside, makes it involving for longer than you might suspect."

Roger Ebert was less enthusiastic; he felt that the script could have been better and said that the movie "feels like it's going to be terrific", but Tarantino's script does not have much curiosity about the characters. He also stated that "[Tarantino] has an idea, and trusts the idea to drive the plot." Ebert gave the movie two and a half stars out of four also claiming that he enjoyed it, and that it was a very good film from a talented director, like other critics, he enjoyed the cast, but stated "I liked what I saw, but I wanted more".

Reservoir Dogs has received substantial criticism for its strong violence and language. One particular scene that viewers found unnerving was Michael Madsen's ear-cutting scene, and Madsen himself reportedly had a great deal of difficulty finishing the scene especially after Kirk Baltz ad-libbed the desperate plea "I've got a little kid at home". Many people have left theaters during the film and Tarantino commented at the time: It happens at every single screening. For some people the violence, or the rudeness of the language, is a mountain they can't climb. That's OK. It's not their cup of tea. But I am affecting them. I wanted that scene to be disturbing. During a screening of the movie at a Film Festival in Barcelonamarker, fifteen people walked out, including renowned Horror film Director Wes Craven and Special Effects artist Rick Baker. Baker later told Tarantino to take the walk out as a "compliment" and explained that he found the violence unnerving because of its heightened sense of realism.

Critic John Hartl compared the ear-cutting scene to the shower murder scene in Psycho and Tarantino to David Lynch. He furthermore explored parallels between Reservoir Dogs and Glengarry Glen Ross. After this film, Tarantino was also compared to Martin Scorsese, Sam Peckinpah, John Singleton, Gus Van Sant and Abel Ferrara. For its nonlinear storyline, Reservoir Dogs has also often been compared to Rashomon. Critic James Berardinelli was of a similar opinion; he complimented both the cast and Tarantino's dialogue writing abilities. Hal Hinson of The Washington Post was similarly enthusiastic about the cast, complimenting the film on its "deadpan sense of humor". Todd McCarthy called the film "undeniably impressive" and was of the opinion that it was influenced by Mean Streets, Goodfellas and The Killing.

Critical analysis

Reservoir Dogs has often been seen as a prominent film in terms of on-screen violence. J.P. Telotte compared Reservoir Dogs to classic caper noir films and points out the irony in its ending scenes. Mark Irwin also made the connection between Reservoir Dogs and classic American noir.

A notable motif in Tarantino's films is the use of accidents to move the plot further. In Reservoir Dogs, the major plot event is also moved by an accidental occurrence; in this case the robbery going awry. Caroline Jewers called Reservoir Dogs a "feudal epic" and compared it to Pulp Fiction. She paralleled the color pseudonyms to color names of medieval knights.

A frequently cited comparison has been to Tarantino's second and more successful film Pulp Fiction especially since the majority of audiences saw Reservoir Dogs after the success of Pulp Fiction. Comparisons have been made regarding the black humor in both the films, the theme of accidents, and more concretely, the style of dialogue and narrative style that Tarantino incorporates into both of his movies. Also, the prominent theme of racism plays a big part in the films, specifically the relationship between whites and blacks. Stanley Crouch of the New York Times compared the way the white criminals speak of blacks in Reservoir Dogs to the way they are spoken of in Scorsese's Mean Streets and Goodfellas. Crouch observed the way the blacks are looked down upon in Reservoir Dogs, but also the way that the criminals accuse each other of "verbally imitating" the blacks and the characters' apparent sexual attraction to black actress Pam Grier.

DVD releases

Region 1 DVDs of Reservoir Dogs have been released multiple times. The first release was a single two-sided disc from Artisan Entertainment, released in June 1997 and featuring both pan-and-scan and letterbox versions of the film. Five years later, Artisan did a two-disc 10th anniversary edition featuring multiple covers color-coded to match the nicknames of five of the characters (Pink, White, Orange, Blonde and Brown) and a disc-full of bonus features such as interviews with the cast and crew..

For the 15th anniversary of the film, Lions Gate Entertainment, which had purchased Artisan in the interim, produced a two-disc 15th anniversary edition with a remastered 16x9 transfer, a new supplement, but not all of the extra features from the 10th Anniversary edition. In particular, interviews with the cast and crew were dropped, and a new 48-minute-long feature called "Tributes and Dedications" was included. The packaging for the 15th anniversary edition is fancier: the discs are enclosed in a large matchbook, and the matchbook is in a thin aluminum case made to resemble a gas can.


The Reservoir Dogs: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack was the first soundtrack produced by Quentin Tarantino and set the structure his later soundtracks would follow. This includes the use of snippets of dialogue from the film. The soundtrack has selections of songs from the 70s. The radio station "K-Billy's Super Sound of the Seventies" played a prominent role in the film. The DJ for the radio was chosen to be Steven Wright, a comedian known for his deadpan delivery of jokes.

An unusual feature of the soundtrack was the choice of songs. The film uses music from the 1970s. Tarantino has said that he feels the music to be a counterpoint to the on-screen violence and action. He also stated that he wished for the film to have a '50s feel while using '70s music. A prominent instance of this is the torture scene to the tune of "Stuck in the Middle With You".

Track listing

  1. "And Now Little Green Bag..." (Dialogue extract performed by Steven Wright) – 0:15
  2. "Little Green Bag" by The George Baker Selection – 3:15
  3. "Rock Flock of Five" (Dialogue extract performed by Steven Wright) – 0:11
  4. "Hooked on a Feeling" by Blue Swede – 2:53
  5. "Bohemiath" (Dialogue extract performed by Steven Wright) – 0:34
  6. "I Gotcha" by Joe Tex – 2:27
  7. "Magic Carpet Ride" by Bedlam – 5:10
  8. "Madonna Speech" (Dialogue extract performed by Quentin Tarantino, Edward Bunker, Lawrence Tierney, Steve Buscemi and Harvey Keitel) – 0:59
  9. "Fool for Love" by Sandy Rogers – 3:25
  10. "Super Sounds" (Dialogue extract performed by Steven Wright) – 0:19
  11. "Stuck in the Middle" by Stealers Wheel – 3:23
  12. "Harvest Moon" by Bedlam – 2:38
  13. "Let's Get a Taco" (Dialogue extract performed by Harvey Keitel and Tim Roth) – 1:02
  14. "Keep on Truckin'" (Dialogue extract performed by Steven Wright) – 0:16
  15. "Coconut" by Harry Nilsson – 3:50
  16. "Home of Rock" (Dialogue extract performed by Steven Wright) – 0:05

Video game

A video game based on the film was released in 2006 for PC, Xbox and PlayStation 2. However, the game does not feature the likeness of any of the actors with the exception of Michael Madsen. It received mediocre reviews, but caused controversy for its amount of violence and was banned in Australia and New Zealand.


  1. AV Club - The New Cult Canon - Reservoir Dogs
  3. Reservoire Dogs at
  4. DVD details for Reservoir Dogs from IMDb

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