Reservoir Dogs

1992 film by Quentin Tarantino

Reservoir Dogs is a 1992 American crime drama thriller movie written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. It stars Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Chris Penn and Steve Buscemi. It is the first movie directed by Tarantino and is about the events before and after a jewelry store robbery that went wrong. The movie was released on October 23, 1992. The title, and promo shots associated with the movie, were a take on the violent Sam Peckinpah movie, Straw Dogs. Although Reservoir Dogs failed at the theater, it found new life after being released on VHS and DVD, quickly becoming a cult classic.

Reservoir Dogs
Directed byQuentin Tarantino
Written byQuentin Tarantino
Produced byLawrence Bender
CinematographyAndrzej Sekuła
Edited bySally Menke
Distributed byMiramax Films
Release dates
  • January 21, 1992 (1992-01-21) (Sundance)
  • October 9, 1992 (1992-10-09) (United States)
Running time
99 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$1.2–1.5 million[1]
Box office$2.8 million (North America)

The movie shows the events before and after a robbery at a jewelry shop in Los Angeles, California, that went wrong. The men are given nicknames with colours so that they do not know each others names; 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). They work for a gangster Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney) and his son, "Nice Guy" Eddie (Chris Penn).

The robbery goes wrong and several of the men are killed, and Mr. Orange is shot and bleeding. The rest of the men return to the hideout and talk about what went wrong. Mr. Blonde has captured a police officer, Marvin Nash (Kirk Baltz) and beat him to try to get an answer. Mr. Blonde tries to torture the police officer while the rest of the men are away but is killed by Mr. Orange who is actually an undercover police officer.

The rest of the men argue and are in a Mexican standoff and are all shot. Mr. Pink, who hid from the shootout, steals the diamonds and runs away.

The Reservoir Dogs



  • Randy Brooks as Holdaway
  • Kirk Baltz as Marvin Nash
  • Rich Turner as Sheriff #1
  • David Steen as Sheriff #2
  • Tony Cosmo as Sheriff #3
  • Stevo Poliy as Sheriff #4
  • Michael Sottile as Teddy
  • Robert Ruth as Shot Cop
  • Lawrence Bender as Young Cop
  • Linda Kaye as Shocked Woman
  • Suzanne Celeste as Shot Woman
  • Steven Wright (voice) as the K-Billy DJ[2]

Critical reaction


At the movie's release at the Sundance Film Festival, movie critic Jami Bernard of the New York Daily News compared the effect of Reservoir Dogs to that of the 1895 movie L'Arrivée d'un Train en Gare de la Ciotat, where audiences watched a moving train approaching the camera and ran away frightened. Bernard claimed that Reservoir Dogs had a similar effect and people were not ready for it.[3] Vincent Canby of the New York Times enjoyed the cast and the use of non-linear storytelling. He similarly complimented Tarantino's directing and liked the fact that he did not often use close-ups in the movie.[4] Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times also enjoyed the movie 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."[5]

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 movie from a talented director, like other critics, he enjoyed the cast, but stated "I liked what I saw, but I wanted more".[6]

Reservoir Dogs has received a lot of criticism for its strong violence and language. One particular scene that viewers did not like was Michael Madsen cutting off the police officer's ear, 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".[7] Many people have left theaters during the movie 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.[1]

During a screening of the movie at a Film Festival in Barcelona, fifteen people walked out, including horror movie director Wes Craven and special effects artist Rick Baker.[8] 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.[8]

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.[1] After this movie, Tarantino was also compared to Martin Scorsese, Sam Peckinpah, John Singleton, Gus Van Sant, and Abel Ferrara.[9] For its nonlinear storyline, Reservoir Dogs has also often been compared to Rashomon.[9] Critic James Berardinelli was of a similar opinion; he complimented both the cast and Tarantino's dialogue writing abilities.[10] Hal Hinson of The Washington Post was also enthusiastic about the cast, complimenting the movie on its "deadpan sense of humor".[11] Todd McCarthy called the movie "undeniably impressive" and was of the opinion that it was influenced by Mean Streets, Goodfellas and The Killing.[12]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Hartl, John (1992-10-29). "'Dogs' Gets Walkouts and Raves". The Seattle Times. pp. Arts, Entertainment, page F5. Archived from the original on 2009-01-26. Retrieved 2009-01-18.
  2. Howe, Desse (1992-10-23). "Reservoir Dogs". Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-05-05.
  3. Persall, Steve (2002-08-27). "The 'Reservoir' watershed". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved 2007-05-25.
  4. Canby, Vincent (1992-10-23). "Vincent Canby review of Reservoir Dogs". New York Times. pp. Section C, page 14, column 1.
  5. Turan, Kenneth (1992-10-23). "Movie Reviews; City Mauls, N.Y. to L.A.; Reservoir Dogs, Tarantino's Brash Debut Film, Announces a Director to be Reckoned with". LA Times. pp. Calendar, Part F, Page 1, Column 4, Entertainment Desk.
  6. Ebert, Roger (1992-10-26). "Roger Ebert review". Reservoir Dogs Looks Tougher Than It Really Is. Chicago Sun-Times. pp. Section 2, Features, Movies, pg. 30.
  7. Rensin, David (1995). "Playboy- 20 Questions". Playboy Magazine. Archived from the original on 30 September 2010.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Clarkson, Wensley (1995). Quentin Tarantino – Shooting From The Hip. London: Piatkus. pp. 180–181. ISBN 0-7499-1555-2.
  9. 9.0 9.1 de Vries, Hilary (1994-09-11). "Cover Story; A Chat with Mr. Mayhem; Quentin Tarantino Quickly Acquired Quite the Reputation for Violence; His 1992 Film, "Reservoir Dogs", was a Cult Hit, Now Comes "Pulp Fiction". Is he Trying to Outgun Himself or all of Hollywood?". Los Angeles Times. pp. Calendar, p. 6, Calendar desk.
  10. Berardinelli, James. "Reservoir Dogs". ReelViews. Retrieved 2008-11-03.
  11. Hinson, Hal (1992-10-24). "Reservoir Dogs". Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-03-11.
  12. McCarthy, Todd (1992-01-27). "Reservoir Dogs". Variety. Retrieved 2008-03-11.

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