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Reservoir Dogs has had so many different releases over the years that it must rival the Evil Dead movies. First there was the old non-anamorphic region one release, then the anamorphic region two. Then came the 10th Anniversary Special Edition (complete with its video problems) and then the 15th Anniversary Edition, which turned out to be the best of the lot. Thankfully this Lionsgate Blu-ray release is based on that effort, although admittedly it's a little late for the fifteenth anniversary celebrations.

 Reservoir Dogs

Feature


For the most part, Reservervoir Dogs concerns the aftermath of a bungled jewel heist and how the criminals involved deal with a situation gone awry. The majority of the action is set in an abandoned warehouse, and we are introduced to the protagonists by the clever implementation of non-sequitur flashback sequences. It is in between these flashbacks that the four surviving gangsters try to piece together what went wrong, who is to blame, and how they are going to get out of the mess that they now find themselves in. Unbeknownst to them, one of their ranks is actually an undercover cop that has infiltrated the group so that Joe Cabot, the criminal mastermind behind the job, can be brought to justice. As the film hurtles towards its bloody climax we learn more about the gangsters' backgrounds and motivations, especially the characters of Mr. Blonde, Mr. Orange and Mr. White.

Featuring brilliant performances from all of the principals, Reservoir Dogs is a powerful bit of cinema. The dialogue is, to paraphrase one of the characters, 'super cool', and is littered with pop culture references. Just check out Mr. Brown’s (Quentin Tarantino) opening ‘Madonna speech’ for proof of that. Steve Buscemi is simply awesome as the snivelling Mr Pink, the weasel-like gangster who is ultimately revealed to be the only professional among the bunch. Michael Madsen plays his usual tough guy/psycho role to a tee and Harvey Keitel also puts in a fine performance as the father figure of the group. An extra special mention must go to Tim Roth for his portrayal of Mr. Orange, as he is simply superb. It’s also worth watching out for great performances from the late Lawrence Tierney (as Joe Cabot) and Chris Penn as his son (Nice Guy Eddie). However, it is the film’s non-linear nature that impresses the most, and this is certainly a worthy precursor to Quentin’s more famous follow-up, Pulp Fiction.

 Reservoir Dogs

Video


The main feature is presented in 1080p MPEG-2 at its theatrical ratio of 2.35:1. While MPEG-2 isn't as efficient as VC-1 or AVC, it's still possible to get perfectly good results if you have enough disc space, and Reservoir Dogs arrives on a BD50 disc. It’s possible that superior results could have been achieved had it been authored in say, AVC, but I guess we won’t know until the next release hits shelves. I briefly compared the BD to the most recent DVD release and found that the increase in detail wasn’t as dramatic as I might have hoped, but it is a definite improvement. Fine detail is just that bit sharper, allowing the viewer to pick out writing on signs that just look like a blur on the upscaled DVD. The image is still somewhat softer than most new releases though, so don’t expect to be blown away.

Those of you who bought the 10th Anniversary edition of the film on DVD will probably remember the contrast issues with that release. The image was entirely too bright, rendering blacks a sort of charcoal grey colour. Thankfully this edition corrects the contrast problem, ensuring that blacks are black (or at least blacker).  However, it’s the accuracy of the colours that impress the most. There’s plenty of claret on show in Reservoir Dogs and the reds are reproduced wonderfully. The green tint that was so prevalent in previous versions is also much less apparent this time around, and the image is much cleaner for it. Flesh tones appear reasonably accurate, although possibly a little oversaturated at times, especially when compared to equivalent scenes from the DVD. Film grain is present, but never distracting, the image is relatively free from defects, and although I did notice one or two minor film artefacts it’s nothing that will spoil your enjoyment. All this is a competent transfer that does justice to the film, although it’s not going to win any ‘Best Transfer’ awards.

 Reservoir Dogs

Audio


Lionsgate has provided two soundtracks—a DTS-HD High Resolution Audio 6.1 track, and a Dolby Digital 5.1 EX track. Unfortunately the original Stereo isn't included. I'm sure there will be raised eyebrows over the lack of DTS-HD Master Audio, especially since most Lionsgate releases have it, but to be perfectly honest there's really nothing in Reservoir Dogs' sound design that is going to suffer from the lack of Master Audio.

Obviously the film is a dialogue driven affair, so I was happy that levels were audible and spoken words relatively distinct. I say relatively, because the dialogue isn’t as crisp as your average feature, sounding much more like it was recorded on set, rather than the ADR we’re used to from most big-budget movies. This somewhat hollow dialogue is accompanied by some slightly tinny sounding effects, although bass is actually quite powerful for such a low budget early nineties film. Stereo panning across the front of the soundstage is limited, although used to good effect on a couple of occasions. Surround utilisation is minimal, but the rears spring to life during the musical numbers and some of the action scenes to generate a little more atmosphere than the old Stereo track was capable of. Speaking of the musical numbers, it wouldn’t be a Tarantino film without a super-cool soundtrack packed full of seventies classics. I lost count of the number of times I listened to the soundtrack album when I was in my teens, and all the tracks sound great here. Like the video before it the audio is perfectly functional, if some way off of reference quality, and it serves the film well.

 Reservoir Dogs

Extras


Lionsgate has assembled an interesting collection of supplemental features to complement the main feature, although some of the features are bordering on filler. If memory serves, this Blu-ray includes everything found on the 15th Anniversary DVD set, which I believe included most, if not everything found on the 10th Anniversary disc. A nice touch is that all of the extras are presented in 1080i.

First up we have a commentary track featuring Quentin Tarantino, producer Lawrence Bender, executive producer Monte Hellman, cinematographer Andrezj Sekla, editor Sally Menke, and cast members Tim Roth, Chris Penn, Michael Madsen and Kirk Baltz. The track is actually just a series of interview clips stitched together to run the whole length of the feature. The content is fairly interesting, and occasionally relevant to the scene you’re watching, but at times the sound quality leaves much to be desired. Personally I'm not particularly fond of patchwork' commentaries, but it's nice to hear the participants' thoughts all the same.

The 'Pulp Factoid' feature periodically displays relevant bits of pop-up trivia throughout the film. I wouldn't recommend using this on your first run through, but if you switch it on during subsequent viewings you might just learn something you didn't know. The time between facts can sometimes seem like an eternity, but on the whole it’s a welcome addition. I just wish they'd used a slightly bigger font.

 Reservoir Dogs
Moving on we come to the critics’ commentaries. This section features Amy Taubin, Peter Travers and Emanuel Levy, who offer commentary on specific scenes from the movie. Now this may forever label me a philistine, but I really think some of these critics need to chill out and stop reading so much into the films they watch. Sometimes a chocolate bar is just a chocolate bar, not a phallic symbol… Taubin in particular seems to make great leaps of logic simply to justify her existence as a critic. Or maybe it’s just me. Still, if you like this sort of thing then the fifty odd minutes of commentary found here will be right up your street.

'Playing it Fast and Loose' is a retrospective documentary that takes a look at the legacy of Reservoir Dogs. A selection of critics and lecturers talk about the movie's importance in transforming early nineties cinema, but there's really nothing here that you haven't seen or heard a thousand times before. The worst part is that they roped Harry Knowles into participating and he is just about the most annoying person I've ever had to watch in one of these featurettes. Apart from being totally ineloquent, he seems to lack the ability to stop his mouth uttering the words 'you know' every five seconds and constantly refers to the film as 'Res Dogs'.

'Profiling the Reservoir Dogs' is an odd little feature that actually turned out to be marginally interesting. Basically it's a series of psychological profiles for four of the characters (White, Blonde, Pink and Brown) read out rather unenthusiastically by some random bloke. There are also more detailed text files to wade through if you so desire. Like I said, it's an odd feature, but there is some entertainment value, even if the information is totally made up.

 Reservoir Dogs
The 'Tipping Guide' probably seemed like a good idea, but I found it fairly redundant. Basically it's just a table showing how much any of the characters would tip in any given situation. Um, yeah, right...

Next up we have a featurette entitled ‘The Class of ‘92’ and features around forty to forty-five minutes of interviews with the likes of Tarantino, Alex Rockwell, Chris Munch, Katt Shea and Tom Kalin. The interviews concentrate on the filmmakers’ experiences at the 1992 Sundance Film Festival and makes for interesting viewing.

The next featurette ties in closely with the last. ‘ Tarantino's Sundance Institute Film-Makers Lab’ features actors Steve Buscemi, Quentin Tarantino (watch out for his horrendous overacting) and an unknown running through a couple of scenes from the film. It’s nice to see Steve Buscemi’s take on Mr. White, although the guy who played Joe Cabot really wasn’t suited to the part.

 Reservoir Dogs
The 'Introduction to Film Noir' contains around twenty minutes of interviews with Mike Hodges, Robert Polito, John Boorman, Donald Westlake and Stephen Frears, who discuss the art of film noir adaptation. The text-based features from the 10th Anniversary are not included. This is either a blessing or a curse, depending on your point of view. Personally I found it tiresome wading through then for the last review, so I was quite glad they weren't here!

Another four-minute feature entitled ‘Securing the Shot: Location Scouting with Billy Fox’ is a short walk through of the various locations used in the film. Marginally interesting, if a bit perfunctory.

The original interviews segment features conversations with Chris Penn, Kirk Baltz, Michael Madsen, Lawrence Bender, Tim Roth and Quentin Tarantino. Each interview lasts between six and fifteen minutes, and make for very interesting viewing. While watching Chris Penn, whose interview is supposedly filmed in the back of a truck, I was reminded of how much I enjoyed it when he popped up in films like True Romance and Rush Hour. It's very sad that he died so young.

 Reservoir Dogs
For me, the deleted scenes are one of the most interesting aspects of this release. Five are included, although the last two are simply alternate angles of the infamous scene in which Mr Blonde removes a cop’s ear with the aid of a straight razor… The first scene, which is entitled ‘Background Check’, runs for a little under five minutes and provides a more background information on the character played by Harvey Keitel. Although this is an enjoyable scene I can understand the reasons behind its omission from the final cut. I feel the characters work very well with a certain air of mystery about them, and this scene removed some of that mystery. Having said that, it would have been the only scene in the film with a major female character and there's a nice joke about 'The Monkees'.

The second scene, entitled ‘No Protection’, runs for just under three minutes and concerns Mr Orange’s discomfort about the lack of protection he’ll receive during his undercover mission, while the two and a half minute ‘Doing My Job’ features Mr White, Mr Pink and Nice Guy Eddie taking a car ride after the heist. This scene would supposedly have taken place around the same time Mr Blonde was having fun with the cop in the warehouse, and it mostly deals with Mr White’s insistence that Nice Guy Eddy get a doctor to care for Mr Orange. Fans of Pulp Fiction may notice that a certain nurse also gets a mention during this scene. As I mentioned before, scenes four and five are simply alternate takes of the ear removal scene in which you get to actually see the removal of the cop’s prosthetic ear. The scenes aren’t entirely finished, and aren’t anywhere near as shocking as you might think.

 Reservoir Dogs
'Reservoir Dolls' is another of those random features that could probably have been omitted. It's basically some bloke acting out the 'ear cutting' scene from the film with Mr Blonde and Marvin Nash action figures. Okay then...

'K-Billy Super Sounds of the '70s' is a pseudo radio station that offers an interview with Gerry Rafferty, the original K-Billy recording session and an interview with a real criminal to get his perspective on the film. The recording session with Steven Wright is pretty amusing, and both he and Quentin frequently crack up.

The ‘Reservoir Dogs Style Guide’ is an impossibly short (twenty two seconds) feature that shows clips of the characters looking, well, stylish! Utterly pointless.

The 'Dedications' feature a number of interviews with people such as Monty Hellman, Jack Hill, Pam Grier and Roger Corman. The interviews are very interesting, and run from anywhere from two and a half to five and a half minutes. Unfortunately the tributes from the 10th Anniversary DVD set are not included this time around.

Finally we have the original theatrical trailer, which runs for around one and a half minutes. The trailer does a fairly good job of promoting the film, but I doubt many will give this a second look.

 Reservoir Dogs

Overall


More than fifteen years on from its original theatrical release, Reservoir Dogs is still one of the 'coolest' gangster films around and a personal favourite of mine. However, although the film has stood the test of time I didn’t find it as powerful or cool as I did when I was younger (when I positively adored it). Of course this isn’t a reflection of the quality of the film, just an illustration of how people’s tastes can change as they get older. For the record I now prefer Tarantino’s later work and consider Jackie Brown to be his best film.

Technically this Blu-ray release is solid enough, offering a superior audio-visual experience to any of the DVD releases. Although the lack of full DTS-HD Master Audio is lamentable, it’s not a deal breaker as the video quality and generous bonus material offset any perceived audio shortcomings. I’ve not seen Lionsgate’s US release of Reservoir Dogs, but from what I’ve read it’s missing a lot of the extras as a result of being on a BD25, rather than a BD50. This makes the UK release the best version currently available and a no-brainer purchase for fans of the film.

* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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