Creatives don’t always have to have a large resume in order to make a big impact. Sometimes it’s what they do with the small contributions they offer that makes the difference. Such is the case with writer/actor/director Quentin Tarantino whose nine completed films are oft-discussed for their direction, their writing, and the performances the auteur pulls from his often eclectic casts (for good and for bad). All of it, though, begins with the 1991 release Reservoir Dogs, a tightly-packed tension-filled heist film where the crime takes place away from the prying eyes of the audience and it opts to present the terrible fallout and the planning in time-bending fashion. Presented for the first-time in 4K UHD, Lionsgate re-releases Tarantino’s initial film with all the legacy features, enabling audiences to re-experience this story in the best possible format (short of 35mm).
Brought together by one man, several criminals with specialties gather to pull off a targeted jewelry heist. Problem is, everything goes wrong with some ending up dead and others wounded. As those whom remain gather at the rendezvous spot, tensions run high as a theory for what went wrong gathers evidence: one among them is a rat.
Plenty can be and has already been said about Tarantino’s work regarding his use of slurs, the denigrating tone and view of women, and the general view of violence. This review is going to focus solely on Reservoir Dogs because this is where it all begins for him. Having been years since my last watch, it’s fascinating to look back on the film and see all the places that the creative cribbed in other works. Joe’s (Lawrence Tierney) use of the phrase “Ramblers, let’s get rambling” before they leave the diner in the opening gets re-used in the Tarantino-written, Robert Rodriguez-directed From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) by George Clooney’s Seth Gecko. There’s also very similar dialogue in the scene where Harvey Keitel’s Mr. White tries to get Steve Buscemi’s Mr. Pink to “be cool” compared to that between Seth and the family he and his brother have kidnapped (amusingly, it’s a family led by Keitel’s lapsed-priest Jacob Fuller.) While his other films often use time in fluid ways, Dogs is almost entirely out of order, replicated to a different effect in Pulp Fiction (1994), making the whole experience oddly richer as each scene offers answers to the previous while setting up more questions to be answered in the next. It’s a densely packed story that’s as fun of a ride now as it was then. Say what you will about his later projects (and I’m not as big a fan of them), but his first is such a shotgun blast that few can argue its merits or displayed talent.
As such, it delights to no end that the 4K UHD edition is positively beautiful to behold. There’s almost no visible grain, there’s improved noticeable detail, and the shift in color vibrancy is remarkable. The blood on Tim Roth’s Mr. Orange grows a deeper crimson as he bleeds out, the walls at the warehouse possess varies shades of blues and greens not noticed before, and you can even notice the fabric of the group’s white shirts just a little more (take note when Michael Madsen’s Mr. Blonde takes his jacket off). Though there’s no improved or altered audio track on this edition, the complexity of the visual improvements literally make one feel like they’re seeing a whole new film, modern in vibrancy though obviously from the past given the ages of the cast. It’s an impressive feat which not many remaster/restorations can accomplish where the newer version doesn’t just feel like a cash grab but whose quality makes the case strongly for a new format edition.
Sadly, there are no new bonus features to commemorate the new edition. So if you had any of the previous releases, you’ve likely already watched the deleted scenes and two featurettes. Perhaps because this isn’t an anniversary edition but just a regular re-release the value of attempting to create or offer something new wasn’t viewed as viable, but there’s certainly a desire for it. Anecdotal though it may be, January 2020 I went with several friends to see Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood (2019) at the New Beverly (Tarantino’s theater in Los Angeles) and it just so happened that Madsen was there to do a Q&A. He told stories not just from shooting OUTIH but Dogs, many of which made the audience roar with laughter and excitement. If his stories or those of Roth or Keitel were put on tape, that would incredible.
One last piece of information worth noting on this 4K UHD release is there are two options: regular 4K UHD Blu-ray combo or a steelbook edition with artwork from Mr. White’s now iconic torture sequence. The steelbook doesn’t appear to be limited to select retailers, which is a plus given how many are relegated to either Best Buy only or places like Mondo and Zaavi.
It’s an absolute delight to revisit a film you remember fondly and have it meet your memory. In the case of the 4K UHD edition Reservoir Dogs, it not only meets my memory, but exceeds it. I won’t argue that the bits that make one uncomfortable, typically coming from Mr. Pink or Chris Penn’s Nice Guy Eddie via their various slurs, continue to make one uncomfortable (not that they were great at the time). But if one considers this initial film as it is, a stamp made from a storyteller just getting started, Reservoir Dogs maintains its strength and vitality. All of which are improved by the UHD experience.
Reservoir Dogs Legacy Blu-ray Special Features:
- Deleted Scenes
- “Playing it Fast and Loose” Featurette
- “Profiling Res Dogs” Featurette
Available on 4K UHD and digital November 15th, 2022.
Categories: Films To Watch, Home Release, Home Video, Recommendation, Reviews, streaming
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