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Jeff

Reservoir Dogs (1992)

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A site-search revealed that there is no Arts and Faith topic on this movie, so I thought I'd start one.

Not long ago I checked Reservoir Dogs out of the library. I figured it would be your average crime film, something like Collateral. I also was interested in witnessing the writing/direction of Quentin Tarantino, who guest-starred in the best two episodes of Alias that ever aired.

But now I wish I hadn't bothered.

This had to have been the weirdest, most pointless, and most profane film I've ever seen. I wouldn't neccesarily say that it is the worst, because there were flashes of artistic brilliance here and there (the coffee-shop scene and Mr. Pink's dynamically enraged entrance were both very well-written). But still, what an amoral mess! And what the heck was the point?

In the end, everyone simply gets killed.

What are we supposed to gather from that? That crime doesn't pay? A post-office bulletin board would tell us as much.

Then you have the famous "ear scene". Countless critics have wrote that the film is gritty but that it doesn't glorify violence; did they see the same film that I saw? Cripes, Mr. Blonde actually turns on the radio and freakin' DANCES to a too-cool-for-school soundtrack while he's

cutting some cop's ear off

!

Out of curiousity, and in order to be a good sport, I'm open to hearing more from proponents of this film. But right now, I'm thinking that this is one of the most unpleasant, bizarre, and overhyped movies of all time.

And besides, the great whacko Quentin himself is only in it for a grand total of a minute or two. I felt kind of ripped off; his psycho-lisping delivery is usually pretty awesome.


-"I... drink... your... milkshake! I drink it up!"

Daniel Plainview, There Will Be Blood

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This is easily my favorite Tarantino film, with the possible exception of Kill Bill.

The URL for the old "reservoir dogs affirmation" thread doesn't work any more, and it isn't at web.archive.org, so I'll just repost some of my posts from that thread. First, from September 19, 2002:

Just a note to say I really like Reservoir Dogs, and I especially love the way it has been packaged for its tenth-anniversary DVD. I haven't seen the film in years, but the disc, in addition to bringing back all sorts of memories from the early '90s, has also been an occasion to remember just how cool this film is. I should note that I haven't actually watched the *film* yet since getting the DVD -- I've been too busy going through the several hours of bonus material spread out over the two discs: interviews with most of the cast, half-hour commentaries by three different movie critics, interviews with other indie directors whose works were featured at the Sundance festival in 1992, and on and on and on. I'm nearly finished going through the audio commentary, but not quite; and I have to say, commentaries are a lot harder to focus on when they are connected to films as rich in dialogue as this one is.

*** SPOILERS ***

What do I like about the film? Lots of stuff. I love how it begins with a diner scene in which at least *two* distinct conversations take place, one over the meaning of Madonna's 'Like a Virgin', the other over the logic (or illogic) of tipping. That second conversation, in particular, does a masterful job of setting up the characters -- Harvey Keitel's (limited) sense of compassion and right and wrong, Steve Buscemi's self-centred rationalism (and willingness to compromise, when pushed), Lawrence Tierney's gruff authoritarianism, etc. I love the story's non-linear structure -- especially the way Tim Roth's flashback contains flashbacks within itself, including a flashback to an event that never actually happened -- and the way much of the dialogue consists of the characters trying to piece together why the heist went wrong. I love, love, love the looks on Roth's face as he conveys the tortured conscience of his undercover cop, and the conflicting emotions he feels as he bonds with the villains and reflexively does the one thing that the criminals themselves are virtually sworn not to do. (Remember the scene where Buscemi asks Keitel if he killed any cops, and then he asks, "No real people?" Keitel says no, he didn't kill any real people -- but in fact, yes, he was there when Roth shot the woman in the car. And Keitel spends much of the film seriously pissed off at Michael Madsen's character for being the sort of sociopath who kills civilians without blinking an eye. Within the criminals' "code", Roth -- the undercover cop -- has done the one thing that even the criminals believe they should avoid doing.)

It's a superbly executed tragedy, and I love the way the film plays with its movieness every now and then. The scene where Madsen walks out of the warehouse, when he's in the middle of torturing the one cop, and goes to his car and walks back into the building, all in one take, is a classic -- the way the music dies when he walks out the door, and we hear a lot of everyday ambient outdoors background noise as he goes to his car, and then we come back into the building and the music starts up again, etc. As one of the critics puts it, for a moment, the audience is "safe" when Madsen walks outside, and we are reminded that life goes on outside this place where so much that is wrong is taking place. I also love this scene because I generally like it when the camera follows characters off the "set" (this happens in a few Monty Python films and sketches, but I can't think of any other examples right now); interiors and exteriors are typically filmed in entirely different locations, and each scene could have been shot in a different country for all we know, but scenes like this bring some sort of continuity to the sets -- in this particular film, the movement out of the warehouse and back inside shows that the terrors inside are anchored in a world where things are safer, more banal ... we know that a safer life is possible beyond those walls ... and yet, the fact that so much evil can be taking place behind closed doors in the midst of such everyday banality is horrific in and of itself.

There is a wealth of supplementary material on these discs, and the menus are among the best I've ever seen. It's too bad they couldn't get interviews with Buscemi or Keitel, but the featurettes on Eddie Bunker and Lawrence Tierney have certainly helped me to appreciate the film's genre roots in a way that I never quite "got" them before.

Second, my reply to a person (or persons) whose names I unfortunately did not include:

: Of course the violence is extremely realistic and graphic,

: so that may be part of it.

There isn't that much of it, though. One of the things I like about the movie is the way it rushes by the violence and makes it look messy and chaotic. There *is* a lot of blood, but it comes more from open wounds than it does from opening wounds.

The one major exception is, of course, the torture scene with Michael Madsen and the cop, and Tarantino, in the commentary, openly admits that he's trying to make the audience feel uncomfortable with the fact that they, by enjoying the music the way that Madsen does, have become "complicit" in the crime he commits.

: Perhaps I am uncomfortable because Tarantino's use of

: violence so easily lends itself to humor.

Lends itself? Tarantino openly admits that he's putting jokes in and around the violence in order to set up some sort of dissonance within the audience.

: When I see the movie with a crowd, many of its fans are

: laughing, even cheering, for certain characters... stirred

: up into a kind of bloodlust. It's like going to "Silence

: of the Lambs" and realizing the audience is rooting for

: Lecter because he's so "cool."

But who are they rooting for? FWIW, I have only seen the film on the big screen once, at a midnight screening long after I had seen it on video a couple times, and you could *sense* the change in mood that fell on the audience when the torture scene came. It was more uncomfortable than I had expected it to be, really.

What I find interesting is how a lot of the early hype around this film had focused on the "ear" scene, so much so that when I finally saw the video, and the "ear" scene came, and the camera *looked away* as the ear was cut off, I blurted out, "That's *it*!?" I had been led to expect that we actually saw the act of violence itself. But Tarantino wisely looks away, so that the only thing we are aware of are the cop's grunts of pain. And I find that far more effective than actually *showing* the violence. (Incidentally, the DVD extras include two different deleted shots of the ear itself being cut off, and I am very, very glad that the film did not use them -- both because they would have been too much, and also because they look pretty fake.)

: A friend of mine once confessed to me something that

: really disturbed me. RDogs became one of his favorite

: films because the violence in it was so visceral that it

: made him feel "more alive" than he had felt in years.

Huh. Can't say it has *that* effect on me. I'm not sure what "alive" is supposed to mean here, but my first instinct is to say that films like Secrets and Lies are more likely to have that effect on me -- I haven't seen that particular film in a few years, but I still get choked up just *thinking* about certain scenes in there.

: That makes me wonder, is Tarantino's manipulation of the

: audience into a state of shock, discomfort, and excitement

: something that we should applaud? Is it done in service of

: something edifying? Or is it just subversive and beastly?

: I'm beginning to think it is more devilry than art.

Devilry! Now there's a word we don't hear often enough.
smile.gif

: But as I read the script to "Kill Bill", I fear that my

: long, impassioned defense of "Pulp Fiction", and my

: half-heared defense of RDgos, are falling apart.

Do your defenses of those particular films actually depend on what the filmmaker does in his other movies?

: Tarantino seems most interested in offering us tragedies

: as an *excuse* for serving up gratuitous violence.

Hmmm, where does Jackie Brown fit into this?

: And "Reservoir Dogs" seems to me, in retrospect, more like an

: excercise in macho swagger and "look how I can make you squirm".

:

: Please... convince me otherwise.

I'm not sure I can, but maybe I'll give it a try when I watch the actual film for itself -- so far, I've just been soaking in all the extras on the DVD.

Third, another reply to a person whose name is now long since gone:

: Aside: Peter, nice point about the conversations (and I

: wish QT had done something different than the Madonna

: speech-- maybe the Top Gun Queer Theory or something), but

: there are actually three going on if you count the

: fantastic interplay between Tierney and Keitel over the

: address book. That one's my favorite, and just thinking

: about it makes me laugh.

Ah, good point -- I guess I tend to think of that as more interstitial than a conversation unto itself.

: The Madonna speech, though, is a black mark-- and they

: even put the stupid thing on the soundtrack.

I've never been a huge fan of it, either, but I don't mind the fact that the film begins with such a throwaway bit of dialogue. The thing that fascinates me is that I once heard, way way back in the '80s, that 'Like a Virgin' was originally supposed to be sung by a guy. I don't know how true that is, but if there is any truth to it, I can't help wondering what that does to Tarantino's "John Holmes" theory.

Fourth, a message I posted on September 20, 2002:

: Peter, does the new DVD address accusations that Tarantino

: stole liberally from an Italian film (City of Fire, or

: something like that) in staging certain scenes in Reservoir

: Dogs? I've never heard anyone answer those charges.

City on Fire is actually a Hong Kong film, directed by Ringo Lam; no one mentions it by name on the DVD, but there is one point in the main audio commentary where someone says something like, "Quentin wouldn't deny taking his ideas from other movies -- that's the whole point, he loves those movies." I haven't seen City on Fire myself, so I don't know how close the two movies really are. What I'd really like to see is that new Bollywood adaptation of Reservoir Dogs!

And I think I'll stop the quoting there, for now. smile.gif


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Second, my reply to a person (or persons) whose names I unfortunately did not include:

Well, whaddaya know. That was me. I remember writing those things, and I still know who what friend is who "felt more alive" watching the film.

Gotta say, my opinion of Kill Bill changed entirely when I saw the film. I'm going to stick to seeing QT's films rather than reading his scripts.


P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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I'm a fan of the film:

1. It is the film that set off interesting narrative patterns throughout the 90's.

2. The ensemble cast nicely handles the grim humor and tense scenarios.

3. Harvey Keitel's character has kinship and loyalty toward his injured compadre even though his identity is virtually "white" washed.

4. The film ends up being about the nature of human kind even under the most inhuman of conditions.

5. This film does what Pulp Fiction does but without the cheap shock effects of anal rape and huge syringes in chests.

Edited by DanBuck

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Essentially I have always viewed RDogs like all of QT's films, as a postmodern morality play.

It is no accident that the film begins with a debate over whether it is right or wrong to tip a waitress --- a debate carried on by professional criminals as they get ready to pull off a major robbery. [Just as he does in Pulp Fiction when he has two hitmen discussing whether it is right or wrong to massage a married woman's feet, on their way to a hit.]

As the film continues we see an ever-shifting morality that is determined by the individual's own perception of the situation rather than an absolute law of right and wrong.

I love the fact that the criminals themselves have no idea who to trust or believe. They are incapable of knowing the full story. But we the audience are privileged to know the full story. Thus we are able to judge the events from a much wiser vantage point.

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a debate carried on by professional criminals as they get ready to pull off a major robbery.

These dissonances in a character's sense of right and wrong... that's really Tarantino's storytelling calling card, isn't it?

Think of John Travolta fuming over the jerks that "keyed" his car, and how sick and wrong that is, while he's buying drugs.


P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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I've used this analogy before, but I enjoyed Reservoir Dogs, like most of Tarantino's films, the same way I enjoy watching Michael Jordan play basketball even though I was not a Bulls fan and was hoping for them to lose. Sometimes I just appreciate displays of talent.

I can no more wrench a Christian compatible theme out of the film (not that I say no one can) than I could from, say, King Lear, another depiction of a violent and amoral world from an equally brilliant writer.

Sometimes, as with Lear, contemplating how a great work of art is wrong about the universe can be as (or more) rewarding than affirming how a mediocre work promotes the current orthodoxy.

Hm, you've given me food for thought, Ken, and I thank you for it. I agree that Dogs is indeed a display of talent; in particular, the performances are riveting. Of course, it's a display of talent that makes me uncomfortable, and I still don't like it, but your defense makes sense.

However, I still can't help thinking that Tarantino is indeed glorifying violence in this movie. It's not that he doesn't shy away from showing the considerable effects of violence (i.e., suffering), it's that he does it with a certain relish. The torture scene and its aftermath are grisly, but I get the feeling that we're supposed to think that it's all pretty cool. As a matter of fact (according to IMDB), Michael Madsen had an emotionally rough time during the shooting of that sequence, because of the things he was required to do to a character that was described as a new father.


-"I... drink... your... milkshake! I drink it up!"

Daniel Plainview, There Will Be Blood

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Dunn, your biggest problem is that you've only posted 72 times!!!!  With insights like that SPEAK UP BOY!!

I sincerely thank you for the encouragement. I was posting fairly regularly before but just got busy with other things. Being a son of Adam, I suffer from a sick form of pride that stays my hand from posting unless I'm convinced I have enough time to compose a decent post.

I hereby repent and will endeavor to post more frequently as would be in keeping with the fruits of repentance. blush.gif

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That's funny, my pride makes me think everything that comes into my head is worthwhile.  Note total post count.

laugh.gif You should simply rejoice that you are free to post without fear!

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I was underwhelmed by Reservoir Dogs as well on my first viewing, and I haven't bothered with a second yet. As far as how other things Tarantino was involved in stack up: Hated NBK (so does Tarantino, reportedly), liked True Romance, disliked all things vampire-related, loved Pulp Fiction, neutral on Jackie Brown, disliked Kill Bill 1, and tolerated Kill Bill 2. That list was mostly for trivia, I guess.

I felt, after I'd seen it, that Reservoir Dogs alternated between clever and boring all the way up to the anticlimax. The first scene was great despite its general vulgarity. There were other great scenes interspersed, but much like Mister Jeff I did not feel the film ever made up for its inclusion of the ear scene. However, as Tarantino's first film it deserves a second chance from me.

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I also dislike Reservoir Dogs (and all of Tarantino's stuff, actually). I find it juvenile, obvious and pointless, and a poor copy of a far superior and slicker film: City on Fire. I doubt that Tarantino has ever had an original thought in his life, each of his films being little more than a mishmash of scenes, dialogue and ideas stolen from obscurities of Eastern cinema. Moreover, for someone with a reputation as an action director, he shows zero flair for directing action scenes (his limitations being most clearly exposed in the turkey Kill Bill Part One).

Edited by The Invisible Man

We are part of the generation in which the image has triumphed over the word, when the visual is dominant over the verbal and where entertainment drowns out exposition. We may go so far as to claim that we live in an age of the image which is also the age of anti-word and potentially is the age of the lie. ~ Os Guiness

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17)

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However, I still can't help thinking that Tarantino is indeed glorifying violence in this movie. It's not that he doesn't shy away from showing the considerable effects of violence (i.e., suffering), it's that he does it with a certain relish. The torture scene and its aftermath are grisly, but I get the feeling that we're supposed to think that it's all pretty cool. As a matter of fact (according to IMDB), Michael Madsen had an emotionally rough time during the shooting of that sequence, because of the things he was required to do to a character that was described as a new father.
You know, I never thought Madson's character was cool in that bit, just that he was a sicko who was pretty impressed and amused by his own sickness.

Scott -- 2nd Story -- Twitter

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As a person that managed the largest video store in a town of about 25,000 from '94 to '99, I can personally recount that Reservoir Dogs was one of those rare movies that far outlived the normal rental's shelf life. What do you make of these films? I can cite a dozen off the top of my head.

In contrast, Pulp Fiction, which had far more critical acclaim, performed the normal trajectory of a video rental. Likewise, Jackie Brown wasn't anything special. But long after both had died, Reservoir Dogs was still going out nearly every weekend. What do you guys make of that? Did it simply have cult movie appeal?


"Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others." - Groucho Marx

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With little insight to heap onto the pile in this thread, I thought I'd nonetheless address the accusations that Reservoir Dogs is nothing but rip-off of City on Fire.

Perhaps I'm not qualified to do so, seeing as I haven't seen COF in years and when I did it was English-dubbed (though the HK post-syncs of that time generally bother me almost as much), but I've always felt the similarities were greatly exaggerated. The first 3/4's of COF have little to nothing in common with the entirety of RD. The end in the warehouse with the Mexican standoff is really the only major plot detail that I remember being possibly lifted, but even that isn't an outrageously original idea. There were a couple other parallels, I remember the scene in Reservoir Dogs when Keitel turns around the corner, pistols in each hand, and kills two cops through the windshield of the car being directly taken from COF, but Tarantino (and many filmmakers) do this sort of thing all the time, and I'd imagine Lam would probably be flattered by it's inclusion in RD (on a side note, does anyone know if Lam has been approached about RD).

I can see COF as a springboard for Tarantino's ideas, but little more. A rough analogy would be that Tarantino's thoughts on an essay may have been motivated by the musings of a classmate, but everything thereafter belongs solely to Tarantino, as opposed to looking over Lams shoulder and plagiarizing his work. He took some basic ideas that were casually tossed in at the end of COF (although perhaps I'm being too dismissive of COF considering I haven't seen the subbed version ), stretched them to fit an entire feature, and gave them density they never had before through terrific writing and equally terrific acting.

I simply don't agree with the accusations of Tarantino being a thief (though I haven't seen the Scorsese documentary that supposedly the first act of Pulp Fiction was stolen from). He's always been open about his influences, but regardless of the fact that he isn't really a pioneer, his pictures do typically feel fresh. I'm not nearly as big a fan of his as many are, but I certainly aknowledge his talent (talent that I'd wish he'd get back to utilizing, rather than spoiling them on recycled cliches of a dormant, disposable genre).

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Link to the thread on Chris Penn's death.

I finally re-watched this again just now having sort of watched it / sort of fell asleep when it was on at the end of a party when I was a student in about 1994.

Firatly a few things that surprised me.

1 - This film is now 20 years old. :o

2 - That there are so few posts on it

3 - How much I enjoyed it compared to my previous experience

I really loved it this time. Of course some of the clever groundbreaking things here will look lame for the newcomer, but the editing; non-linearity; witty, everyday banter; graphic, but not so graphic violence; and the outrageously good soundtrack all really stand out, not to mention the brilliant acting and the cinematography.

And it also critiques that (allegedly) post-modern relativism and exposes it. The debate over the meaning of the Madonna song is just the first indicator of the film's exploration of different takes on the truth and that not all viewpoints and "moral" distinctions / codes are equally valid.

And the torture scene is horrendous and visceral without being graphic. I can't help but feel Hitchcock would have approved of it. All tell and no show.

I could probably watch it again right now.

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that ending breaks my heart every time...


I don't deny that there should be priests to remind men that they will one day die. I only say it is necessary to have another kind of priests, called poets, to remind men that they are not dead yet. - G. K. Chesterton

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I'm not worrying about spoilers in this post.


I finally re-watched this again ...

1 - This film is now 20 years old.
2 - That there are so few posts on it
3 - How much I enjoyed it compared to my previous experience

It's one of the lasting classics from the 1990s. And it's the very beginning of Tarantino's fascinating movie career (even though his first script, True Romance, was sold to make money to produce Reservoir Dogs, TR didn't come out until 1993.

And it also critiques that (allegedly) post-modern relativism and exposes it. The debate over the meaning of the Madonna song is just the first indicator of the film's exploration of different takes on the truth and that not all viewpoints and "moral" distinctions / codes are equally valid.

And everyone says Tarantino's films are post-modern - they certainly seem to have pretty distinct moral lines to me.


Then you have the famous "ear scene". Countless critics have wrote that the film is gritty but that it doesn't glorify violence; did they see the same film that I saw? Cripes, Mr. Blonde actually turns on the radio and freakin' DANCES to a too-cool-for-school soundtrack while he...

I've always wondered how the film is supposed to be glorifying violence just because Michael Madsen's character is "cool." Bad guys can be cool. Evil can look and act attractive. When a film demonstrates this, that doesn't mean it's glorifying them.

As has already been noted, the ear getting cut off does not happen on camera. But I would like to point out that when the camera pans away from the violent act, it focuses instead on a part of the warehouse with a sign that says "Watch Your Head."


I love, love, love the looks on Roth's face as he conveys the tortured conscience of his undercover cop, and the conflicting emotions he feels as he bonds with the villains and reflexively does the one thing that the criminals themselves are virtually sworn not to do. (Remember the scene where Buscemi asks Keitel if he killed any cops, and then he asks, "No real people?" Keitel says no, he didn't kill any real people -- but in fact, yes, he was there when Roth shot the woman in the car. And Keitel spends much of the film seriously pissed off at Michael Madsen's character for being the sort of sociopath who kills civilians without blinking an eye. Within the criminals' "code", Roth -- the undercover cop -- has done the one thing that even the criminals believe they should avoid doing.) It's a superbly executed tragedy ...

Peter is the only one here who touches on the redemptive part of Reservoir Dogs. How could anyone see this and not know that it's Tim Roth's 'Mr. Orange'. He risks his life to work undercover where it is his job to make friends and then betray those friends. He makes friends with one criminal (Keitel) who actually changes for the better because of their friendship. You may get caught up in all the dialogue and the mystery that each character is trying to solve. But it's not until halfway through the film (after the stories of Mr. White, Mr. Pink, Mr. Blonde and after the torture scene) that Tarantino even reveals that Tim Roth has been the cop all along. And what a revelation it was. It consists of suddenly and surprisingly emptying an entire magazine. It's a final and just conclusion to the torture scene.

In fact, not only is he the cop, but he's a man who is scared to death because he has been gut-shot ... and in spite of everything, even knowing that waiting any longer to call for backup could mean that he dies, he has actually been laying there, bleeding all this time, purposefully waiting for the entire gang to get there so that the police can catch all of them (including the boss). In other words, he saves Marvin's life and then comforts him. He waits with the knowledge that waiting is going to kill him just so he can get the bad guys. And then, at the end, with help there and things having worked themselves out, he can't in good conscience lie to Harvey Keitel's character anymore and confesses to him, basically out of nothing more than friendship.

If that is not a story of self-sacrifice in the face of impossible circumstances, I don't know what is. Mr. Orange is a self-sacrificial hero in this story, who turns out to be far more stronger than he first appears to be. Remember, the first couple minutes of the film consist of nothing but him writhing and crying out in agony.


I can no more wrench a Christian compatible theme out of the film (not that I say no one can) than I could from, say, King Lear, another depiction of a violent and amoral world from an equally brilliant writer.

See the above paragraph. For King Lear, read Telling the Truth by Frederick Buechner. Buechner's wresting the gospel from King Lear is pretty compelling.

However, I still can't help thinking that Tarantino is indeed glorifying violence in this movie. It's not that he doesn't shy away from showing the considerable effects of violence (i.e., suffering), it's that he does it with a certain relish. The torture scene and its aftermath are grisly, but I get the feeling that we're supposed to think that it's all pretty cool. As a matter of fact (according to IMDB), Michael Madsen had an emotionally rough time during the shooting of that sequence, because of the things he was required to do to a character that was described as a new father.

Perhaps it's just that colorful, creative, and personable bad guys make for a much more compelling conflict when they are pitted against a good guy who is creative, colorful and personable himself ... and less that Tarantino is glorifying violence. Die Hard would never have been as good without Alan Rickman's delightfully deliberate Hans Gruber, making the conflict with John McClane all the more fun.

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And everyone says Tarantino's films are post-modern - they certainly seem to have pretty distinct moral lines to me.

Maybe, maybe not. I'm always conflicted with a Tarantino film. Anything he suggests about the morality of his characters' actions seems somewhat thwarted by his characters' complete artificiality and outrageousness. There are exclusions to this in his films, though, with those characters that rise above (Jackie Brown and Max Cherry, for example).

Perhaps it's just that colorful, creative, and personable bad guys make for a much more compelling conflict when they are pitted against a good guy who is creative, colorful and personable himself ... and less that Tarantino is glorifying violence. Die Hard would never have been as good without Alan Rickman's delightfully deliberate Hans Gruber, making the conflict with John McClane all the more fun.

It depends what you mean by glorifying. He certainly seems to be enjoying violence, which may or may not be the same thing as glorifying it.

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And everyone says Tarantino's films are post-modern - they certainly seem to have pretty distinct moral lines to me.

Maybe, maybe not. I'm always conflicted with a Tarantino film. Anything he suggests about the morality of his characters' actions seems somewhat thwarted by his characters' complete artificiality and outrageousness. There are exclusions to this in his films, though, with those characters that rise above (Jackie Brown and Max Cherry, for example).

Perhaps it's just that colorful, creative, and personable bad guys make for a much more compelling conflict when they are pitted against a good guy who is creative, colorful and personable himself ... and less that Tarantino is glorifying violence. Die Hard would never have been as good without Alan Rickman's delightfully deliberate Hans Gruber, making the conflict with John McClane all the more fun.

It depends what you mean by glorifying. He certainly seems to be enjoying violence, which may or may not be the same thing as glorifying it.

It's been years since I re-watched RD but I still hold it in high regard. I have cooled off toward Tarantino himself though. The more movies he makes and the more interviews he gives, the more I've had to accept that he is not so concerned with meaning as with stories about stories/ movies about movies. He just happens to be incredibly talented at what he does.

As for the morality angle, I don't just don't believe Tarantino is actually concerned with it beyond story structure. Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill, and Inglourious Basterds all include scenes where characters are threatened with death and we are made to feel bad for them because they have children. The cop in RD, Vernita Green (Vivica Fox) in Kill Bill, and the young German soldier in the basement bar in Inglourious Basterds. Does anyone believe Tarantino actually cares about these people as human beings? I don't. But I do think Tarantino is smart enough and aware enough of genre conventions to use that angle to raise questions, purely in the interest of drama.

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The more movies he makes and the more interviews he gives, the more I've had to accept that he is not so concerned with meaning as with stories about stories/ movies about movies. He just happens to be incredibly talented at what he does.

And that is the reason he is referred to as post-modern, not anything to do with a morality of one of his characters. It is the style of the film itself. Like I talked about recently on the Blade Runner thread, although I think it is less self-aware in that film.


In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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And everyone says Tarantino's films are post-modern - they certainly seem to have pretty distinct moral lines to me.

Maybe, maybe not. I'm always conflicted with a Tarantino film. Anything he suggests about the morality of his characters' actions seems somewhat thwarted by his characters' complete artificiality and outrageousness. There are exclusions to this in his films, though, with those characters that rise above (Jackie Brown and Max Cherry, for example).

I guess I just don't see how the moral rightness of certain characters in his films can be doubted.

Mr. Orange is the good guy in Reservoir Dogs - and you realize towards the end the self-sacrifice that he's making.

Clarence and Alabama are clearly good in True Romance, even if they are involved in a questionable drug deal at the end they somehow maintain an innocence about them that isn't shared by the world they find themselves in. Dennis Hopper's Mr. Worley, on the other hand, is spotless.

In Pulp Fiction, Butch is the good guy (who just happens to double-cross the mob, but I can't hold that against him). He proves it later by going back and risking his life to save his mortal enemy. Jules, on the other hand, turns good by trying to suddenly apply a Bible verse to himself that he's only just understood for the first time. For all the story leaves us with, Jules has just turned into a saint.

I'd actually consider Jackie Brown and Max Cherry, and then Beatrix in the Kill Bill films as the most questionable of Tarantino's protagonists. Brown's a smuggler and a thief (even if a likeable one), and Cherry works for Ordell. Beatrix is out for revenge for the entire story.

Death Proof isn't much more than a stylized serial killer movie just used as an excuse for hot girls, hours of dialogue, old bars and jukeboxes, and old muscle cars.

Then we get Inglourious Basterds where Aldo Raine and the bastards are engaged in a legitimate form of warfare against evil. That makes them heroes in my estimation. Then add to that Shosanna being as pure as the driven snow.

In each film, just like in Reservoir Dogs, you are cheering for the good guys ... I mean, aren't you?

Edited by Persiflage

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I guess I just don't see how the moral rightness of certain characters in his films can be doubted.

I'm not doubting their "rightness," per se, just whether or not any moral throughline in Tarantino's films is particularly effective taken as a whole.

Then we get Inglourious Basterds where Aldo Raine and the bastards are engaged in a legitimate form of warfare against evil. That makes them heroes in my estimation. Then add to that Shosanna being as pure as the driven snow.

I like INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, but I find this reading of these characters very, very questionable. And it's not one supported by Tarantino himself, who suggested in an interview that, if the film did have a moral, it was that "everyone is everyone," part hero, part villain, and that he was continually playing with that ambiguity throughout the film. I don't think that BASTERDS has clear-cut heroes (it has something of a clear-cut villain in Hans Landa, however).

Edited by Ryan H.

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