Reservoir Dogs

Imagine living with someone for nearly 18 years and in that time watching many, many movies, some of them your favourites, some of them theirs and some of them movies that neither of you have ever seen before. During that time you’d pretty much know what films each of you haven’t seen and surely there should be no surprise? Well, looking through my “100 Must See Movies” my partner, whom I have three children with, announced she’d never seen Reservoir Dogs before!

Now this confused me, I’m certain I’ve watched it since we met (I obviously watched it before we met), and thats not to say we only ever watch films together as thats not always the case (work, sleep, life etc means thats not always going to happen, not to mention individual tastes, there are films she loves I dont enjoy so will do something else when she fancies watching them, as is the case for every couple out there). So one day recently, once the kids were at school, I cooked us up a meal and we sat down and watched the film that introduced the world to Quentin Tarantino.

Reservoir Dogs wasn’t my first Tarantino, I think that was technically From Dusk Till Dawn, its also technically a Robert Rodriguez movie as he directed it (Tarantino provided the script), which also started a lifelong infatuation with Salma Hayek. Anyway, onto the film itself.

It’s a very simple affair and going back to it now we’re reaching what feels like the end of Tarantino’s career (there’s been alot of noise about Once Upon A Time in Hollywood being his last movie, but then I’m sure that happens with every film he makes) you can see alot of the stuff thats become what people look for in a Tarantino movie.

Most notable, and obvious, is the dialogue, there’s something very distinctive about Tarantino’s dialogue. Not just the language used, but the references being thrown around, but the tempo of the dialogue is always the giveaway in his films. It’s very fast paced, back and forth, everyone trying to out do each other throughout. It grabs the attention but it can also be exhausting and whilst it felt fresh in Reservoir Dogs, that element of each character trying to be a bigger character than the last makes it difficult to want to see more of these characters. I get that their not really supposed to be likable, with Mr White being the only one with any semblance of some humanity, but it also makes them feel very one dimensional. He does get better at this, but we’re not looking at his other films, we’re looking at Reservoir Dogs.

He does like to let them act though, they really are given every opportunity to show us just how good they are and its no real surprise that he’s managed to work with most of the long-term big names in Hollywood at least once with many of them returning for multiple films. Here whilst the two characters we, arguably, spend the most time with are Harvey Keitel and Steve Buscemi, who both put in excellent performances, the two stand out performances in my opinion are Tim Roth and Michael Madsen (the latter of which appears in many of Tarantino’s movies). It’s easy to say that Roth over-acts the dying man, but I think thats the point. Yes he’s dying and desperate, but he’s also trying to be a believable criminal, he’s the only one who’s background isn’t known to their boss and, being an undercover cop, he has to make sure he’s not found out or no one is going to get him the help he needs.

Michael Madsen seems to excel at playing an unhinged, menacing bastard and thats more than obvious here. You always get the sense that one comment is enough to push him over the edge, but not into the mad shouting crazy man that you’d expect in any other movie. No, Madsen is cold, calculating and appears to enjoy seeing people suffering, be it physically or emotionally. He knows what buttons to push to get someone to that point, but also enjoys playing the game to get them there rather than just simply pushing and pushing. He’ll push, back off and give the impression that its not him thats the problem, its everybody else, then applies the tension again.

There were a few points where I had to explain things to my partner, or remind her who was who, but she did seem to enjoy it. She was a bit confused that Tarantino didn’t show the heist at first but then grew to understand that that wasn’t the point of this film, that thats every other heist film out there and I did say that if she wanted to see something like that we could always watch something like Heat or Ronin (I think she’s seen the former, but I’ve never watched the latter with her). Overall though I think she enjoyed it and, for me, its one I love returning to mainly because of the performances mentioned above (though its not my favourite Tarantino, that goes to Deathproof).

Books, Movies

The Killing Joke

This week we were given a glimpse of what is in store for us in the new Joaquin Phoenix led “Joker”, an origin of the titular Batman villain. The film is set in 1981 and shows us failed stand-up comedian Arthur Fleck who through a variety of events becomes the Joker. Here’s the trailer in case you haven’t seen it already


And so it was, after watching the above, I decided to re-read The Killing Joke, the Alan Moore penned comic that gave us a glimpse of an origin story, among other things, for Batman’s most infamous villain.

Despite it being a slim book Moore gives us two tales, the meat of the book is taken up by the Joker trying to drive Commissioner Gordon insane by paralyzing his daughter Barbara Gordon and subjecting him to photographs of her naked body as a part of some horrific Ghost Train ride. It doesn’t really work as intended and leads Gordon to command Batman to “bring him in by the book” to “show him our way works”.

The other part of the book, is as mentioned, an origin story. the reader is introduced to unnamed former employee of a chemical plant who has decided to try his hand on the comedy circuit and is finding he’s not as funny as he or his pregnant wife, Jeannie, think. He is coaxed into helping two criminals attempt to rob his former employers, but on the night of the break in his wife is killed in an unfortunate accident. Still, his new employers demand he goes through with the job and disguise him as the Red Hood (a known criminal), but it all goes wrong, he falls into a vat of chemicals after Batman tries to intervene and he becomes the Joker.

Or thats what the Joker wants us to believe, he wants to push an agenda that all it takes to become as crazy as others perceive him to be is “one bad day”, although he say himself: “Something like that happened to me, you know. I… I’m not exactly sure what it was. Sometimes I remember it one way, somestimes another…” “If I’m going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice! Ha Ha Ha!”. Thats the Joker right there, there never will be a true origin story for him. There will be no mugging, no radioactive spider, no failed experiment. Because the Joker will always tell the tale that best suits his agenda at any given time, Heath Ledger’s “Why so serious?” speech encapsulated why the Joker is so fascinating, Batman, Gordon, Gotham, the reader, the movie-goer, the videogamer, everyone wants to know where he came from, it would make us understand his motives, but the Joker doesn’t really want that.

So we come full circle to Warner Bros’ new Joker movie, its another tale. It’s being sold as a stand-alone character piece, much like The Killing Joke was a standalone graphic novel, but its yet another addition to the mystery that is the Joker.