As you can see, getting to my yearly top ten list a little later that most has been a longtime problem. Back when the radio movie review program was a going concern, the program went on hiatus during the college’s winter break. Upon our return, we reintroduced ourselves with our respective top ten lists of the prior film year, which could be a challenge even at this late date, since there were plenty of Oscar hopefuls still dragging their feet when it came to claiming a screen in our humble Midwestern town (the nominations announcement and the ceremony itself both took place about a month later than they do now). Still, it was part of the ritual of our program calendar. Since this coming week will bring the beginning of my annual trek through the best films of the year, it seems a fine time to dig into the archive for a similar example from the past. As with most things on the radio show, my colleague and I followed the Siskel & Ebert model, sharing a few selected capsules reviews of picks across our respective lists before counting down the full grouping of ten at the end of the show.
Explosively thrilling and fiercely dark, the film that serves as the directorial debut of Quentin Tarantino represents one of the most aggressively grim movies of the year, and, paradoxically, one of the year’s more entertaining and invigorating as well. From the very beginning of the film, as the scene quickly shifts from a lunch counter discussion of pop culture to a getaway car racing from a botched jewel heist with a bloody, screaming victim in the backseat, the film RESERVOIR DOGS grabs ahold of the viewer and drags them through the hellacious world of a group of bitter criminals. Most of the film takes place in the expansive yet claustrophobic confines of an abandoned warehouse that is the criminals’ rendezvous point after their crime has gone terribly wrong. They deal with the repercussions of the fumbled job while also trying to figure out which one of the thieves’, all strangers to each other, tipped off the police. Tarantino’s dialogue is sharp and fast, and each member of the cast is spectacular, with Harvey Keitel, Steve Buscemi, and Tim Roth leading the way. Michael Madsen may be the standout, as he is given the film’s juiciest character and takes center stage for the picture’s most terrifying, chilling scene, involving the sadistic torturing of a police officer. RESERVOIR DOGS is most definitely not a film for everyone. But for those ready to brave the film’s shocking intensity, RESERVOIR DOGS is a piece of standout filmmaking that revels in its own desperate depravity.