Reservoir Dogs (1992) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Lions Gate Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Jari Kovalainen (28th March 2007).
The Film

Everybody has their own favourite when it comes to films from director/writer/actor Quentin Tarantino. For many his ultimate achievement so far is “Pulp Fiction (1994)”, some feel that “Jackie Brown (1997)” is way underrated and the newer generation often remembers “Kill Bill: Vol. 1 & 2 (2003-2004)”. “Grindhouse (2007)” - the upcoming collaboration with Robert Rodriguez, might find some new fans from the horror-buffs. There are still many that were introduced to the Tarantino-world via his debut feature film “Reservoir Dogs (1992)”. This was the film where the talent and strengths of Tarantino were right there for everyone to see and which he perfected in “Pulp Fiction (1994)”; non-linearity, witty - in-your-face - dialogue, violence, black humour and numerous references to popular culture. And of course his style to use several different characters, sometimes in a way that it was difficult to say which was the “lead role” and which the “supporting” one. “Reservoir Dogs” premiered at the “Sundance Film Festival” in 1992 and took the movie world by storm. Tarantino was the talent that everybody has been waiting for and who made the independent films again “cool”.

The film opens with a memorable conversation of Madonna and her song “Like a Virgin”. This scene introduces 6 men that are about to make a heist of the diamond wholesale store and are using only aliases with each other; Mr. White (Harvey Keitel - also co-producer), Mr. Orange (Tim Roth), Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen), Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi), Mr. Blue (Edward Bunker), and Mr. Brown (Tarantino). Their contact is Nice Guy Eddie (Chris Penn - passed away last year) - the son of Joe (Lawrence Tierney), who is the ultimate boss of the whole operation. Soon the chatty mood dramatically changes, when we suddenly fast forward to the aftermath of the robbery gone bad; Mr. White is trying to calm Mr. Orange, who´s lying in his own blood at the back of a car, shot in the stomach. They manage to get in their rendevouz location in the warehouse outskirts of the town. Soon also Mr. Pink arrives at the same place and is convinced that they were set-up - the cops just arrived too fast. This starts the intense study of crime, violence, loyalty and betrayal and everything is told in a non-linear way. Bit by bit the events are starting to reveal themselves in the form of flashbacks and you´ll learn more about the different characters. During the process you´ll see who is the most psychotic one and who has the diamonds. One cop (Kirk Baltz) has also ended up in the trunk of the car and his fate won´t be pleasant. The answer to the big question; “Who is the traitor - if anyone?” will be revealed. You´ll also hear plenty of uses of the F-word. 252 times to be exact, based on the IMDb.

“Reservoir Dogs” is a fine little film, which has suffered a minor inflation during the 15 years. It doesn´t look as “fresh” as it did back in the early 1990s, mainly because so many similar films have been made after that and independent films are generally doing well at the box office - young directors rise in the spotlight all the time now (some fail almost as fast, though). Tarantino´s on-going references to the films, comics and TV is also something that we might have heard too many times in his scripts now and I have to admit that some “stories” in “Reservoir Dogs” (told by one of the characters to the other ones) felt a bit too long. Also the much talked about violence of the film doesn´t feel very severe now, at least not after many other more nihilistic films that have been produced over the years and where the violence doen´t necessarily support the story as it does in “Reservoir Dogs” (the recent British film “Outlaw (2007)” comes to mind). The strength of “Reservoir Dogs” is that every piece of the puzzle is in the right place (or at least very close); the script and the dialogue are mostly clever, the non-linear storyline adds the certain mystery and confuses the audience in a pleasant way, the actors are professional and the visual look is at the same time down to earth - yet adding a few more experimental shots from time to time. The editing is mostly calm, with many wide shots and long takes; like the camera would be catching the moments from a distance (this film is meant to be seen in 2.35:1). Then the mood can suddenly changes and the camera is right there next to a bleeding Mr. Orange. The film is not burying itself into the unnecessary violence, and can be humorous even, but still keeps everything on the edge, such as reminding that this is an urban crime-film where people die and blood is red. It keeps the audience focused. The use of music is also another aspect that the director handles well, often using already recorded songs instead of a composer. In “Reservoir Dogs”, all music is pre-recorded. I can´t say that I like all the songs, but I admit that they work pretty well.

Tarantino is a director that can turn his influences and endless imagination to something original, something that many times looks and feels familiar, but yet always is “Tarantino”. “Reservoir Dogs” is a prime example of how you create an interesting film mainly with good dialogue and pacing - and choosing the right actor for every part, no matter how small. And of course adding some realistic violence and “street knowledge”. Perhaps “Pulp Fiction (1994)” is a more “full” cinematic experience and more rich in terms of story and characters, but “Reservoir Dogs” will probably always be my favorite Tarantino-film. “All right ramblers, let's get rambling!”

Video

“Reservoir Dogs” is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen (1080p 24fps) and is using MPEG-2 compression. I believe the Blu-ray-release originates from the same master as the 2006 “15th Anniversary Edition” DVD, which already looked pretty good. Thanks to the increased sharpness and detail level, the Blu-ray -release looks even better and does full justice to the film. Image is sharp, black levels are bold, colours quite natural and I didn´t see any compression issues (bitrate is around 20 Mbps). There are occasional, very minor film artifacts (you have to look for them), but nothing to really worry about. “Reservoir Dogs” is a film that has a bit of a “flat” look originally - with some film grain, so the colours are not as vivid as in some other movies. Good effort by “Lionsgate” and fans should be pleased. For the record, the 2002 “10th AE” DVD looks rather washed out in both colours and black levels compared to the “15th AE” DVD and Blu-ray. The film runs 99:07 minutes and is using “BD-25”-disc. There are 16 chapters. Note that the disc is confirmed to be "Region A" (packaging states disc is "Region 1”).

About the “missing dialogue”; there have been plenty of discussion about the fact that at least one dialogue bit was missing from the 2002 “10th AE” DVD and there was some confusion about a few others. I compared the 2002 “10th AE” DVD, 2006 “15th AE” DVD and the Blu-ray-release, when it comes to three “suspected” scenes and here´s my conclusion (times refer to the R1 and Blu-ray-releases):

1) (approx.) 0:28:32 minutes - Mr. White: "I think he just passed out".
This line is indeed missing from the “10th AE” DVD, but IS included in both “15th AE” DVD/Blu-ray. The scene in question is the dialogue change between Mr. White and Mr. Pink about the wounded Mr. Orange.

2) (approx.) 0:38:23 minutes - Mr. Blonde: "Joe".
This line in question has never been missing, but is a very quiet mumble in the “10th AE” DVD. Well, it´s very similar in both “15th AE” DVD/Blu-ray-releases also. Perhaps the line is a bit louder in the “15th AE”-releases, but even if that´s the case, not significantly. The scene in question is where Mr. Blonde meets Joe after a while, replying to Joe when he says: “Welcome home, Vic”.

3) (approx.) 0:51:33 Marvin Nash: “I haven't been looking”.
This line in question has never been missing, but is a very quiet mumble in the “10th AE” DVD and is very similar in both “15th AE” DVD/Blu-ray-releases also.
Right after that:
Mr. Pink: “Shut the..."
There has been no evidence that this line was ever said, so this one is still unconfirmed. You can only hear “F*** up!” in all releases, including the “15th AE” DVD/Blu-ray. The scene in question is when the tied up cop is trying to say that he hasn´t seen the faces of the gang and which pisses off Mr. Pink.

If we find any new (confirmed) info, we´ll update our comparison page and also this review. Now it seems that only one line was missing in the first place.

Review equipment: Sony Bravia KDL-40W2000 LCD (1080p) + Playstation 3, via HDMI cable.

Audio

The disc includes two audio tracks; English DTS-HD High Resolution 6.1 ES discrete and English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (in 640 Kbps). I watched the movie with DTS-HD track, which was downconverted from 3039 Kbps to 1536 Kbps DTS (equal to “full bitrate” DTS from the selected standard DVDs). At this point my receiver can´t support the full DTS-HD-audio, but fortunately the HD tracks are backwards compatible. My receiver also indicated that the track was “ES discrete”.

The track is ultimately quite dialogue driven and rear channels are mainly use for general ambience, music and selected sound effects (like gun shots). The track is still focused to the front channels and there are a few directional pans with the dialogue. The dialogue sounds a bit “rough” compared to some more recent films, but I assume it´s just due the original production. Good and effective soundtrack, but nothing that special. English and Spanish subtitles are also included (there are no English HoH subtitles). So far “Lionsgate” have been using “DTS-HD High Resolution” (not Master).

Extras

Now comes the disappointing part. Only a few of the extra-features are ported from the earlier ”10th AE” and “15th AE” DVD-releases and it looks like some of the most boring ones are chosen. Gone are e.g. the Audio commentaries and none of the actors are heard in the extras (meaning the interviews etc). There are no ”HD exclusive” extra features and no subtitles for the extras.

-“Pulp Factoid Viewer” -trivia track works within a subtitle stream, bringing pop-up trivia to screen throughout the movie. Instead of regular subtitles, the small “boxes” appears from time to time. This track gives a wide range of information from different themes and influences of the film, Tarantino and his style and something about the actors also. The track also points out all the different songs from the film. The track gives good amount of info in some sections of the film and then not much on others, so the ideal way would be to choose it together with Audio commentary. Alone the trivia track runs out of steam quickly and you might find yourself reading the magazine next to you.

-“Playing It Fast & Loose” -featurette runs 15:44 minutes and is presented in 1080i HD. Here the selected film critics and the “movie geeks” like Harry Knowles talk about the style, language and violence of the film, but hardly in an interesting way. Next one, please.

-“Profiling the Reservoir Dogs” -featurette runs 7:05 minutes and is also presented in 1080i HD. This introduces the “made up” profiles and history of the main characters. Okay, nice. Next.

-Five deleted scenes (12:42 minutes) saves the day for the extra-section (not listed on the back cover) and they´re presented in 480p SD and are taken from the rough looking source. You can also use “Play All”-option. Do note, that this section might include SPOILERS, so if you haven´t seen the film… :

1) "Background Check" (4:41 min)
Mr. Orange (Tim Roth) and his contact Holdaway (Randy Brooks) are briefed by McKlusky (Nina Siemaszko) - the only speaking female character of the film. They´re doing a background check on Mr. White.

2) "No Protection" (2:59 min)
Mr. Orange and Holdaway talking and arguing in the roof.

3) "Doing My Job" (2:33 min)
Nice Guy Eddie, Mr. Pink and Mr. White talk in a car, on their way from the warehouse (where the cop and Mr. Blonde in the meantime are completely doing something else).

4) “Cutting Off the Ear (Alternate Take A) (01:01 min)
The famous scene shot from the back but still not that graphic. A few jump cuts are included.

5) “Cutting Off the Ear (Alternate Take B) (1:25 min)
Another shot from the scene, this time in extreme close-up and much more graphic than the one in the film. The ear is a bit fake looking (the special make-up effects are created by the now famed “K.N.B. Effects Group”) at the beginning of the scene, so that was probably another reason not to include it.

Some bonus trailers are also included (in 1080p - running 4:32 min): “Crank (2006)”, “The Descent (2005)”, and “Saw III (2006)”. This disc is packaged in a standard “blue” case (no “metal gasoline can" packaging, like the DVD).

Overall

“Reservoir Dogs” is a modern classic, but perhaps not a film for everyone. It still has enough power, wittiness, violence, humour and F-words to keep you highly entertained and intrigued. You may not like it - fine, but you probably have to admit that many new filmmakers owe something to Tarantino - just as he owes to different films, comics and music over the years. The Blu-ray offers great transfer and good audio, but disappoints in the extras-department.

For more info, please visit the homepage of Lionsgate Home Entertainment.

The Film: Video: Audio: Extras: Overall:

 


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