15 May 2011

Reservoir Dogs

So I decided to watch Reservoir Dogs the other day... I've seen it a hundred times before but it's been a while since I last sat down and watched the film that made Tarantino the household name that he is today. I was looking forward to witnessing again everything that the movie was notorious for; violence, blood, bad language, good music and of course Mr Blonde's ear chopping fun... however from the opening line, things didn't go well.

Reservoir Dogs begins in the coffee shop with the gang talking about Madonna and her big dick. Or to be more specific, Reservoir Dogs begins in the coffee shop with Tarantino talking about Madonna and her big dick. To me, this just doesn't make any sense. Tarantino is not an actor and if he thinks he is, then he's certainly not a good one. So why in God's name would he make the decision to be the most vocal actor in the very first scene of his very first film? Especially when he has surrounded himself with such an amazing cast including Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Steve Buscemi, Chris Penn and Michael Madsen.

In Death Proof, there was a similar scene to this in which all the girls sat around the table and talked in a similar way. However every single one of them spoke in the exact same way as each other and Tarantino. They used his same speech pattern and phrases; when they spoke, I couldn't hear their voice... all I could hear was his. Since then, this has been something that has annoyed me about his films, so to start Reservoir Dogs off with him chatting in exactly the same way to how he does in real life put me in an instantly cynical mood.

After this, we are thrown into a fairly bloody car in which Mr. Orange lies on the backseat dying as Mr. White drives him to their warehouse. Before I go on, I should point out that I love Tim Roth; I love him in Made In Britain and I even love him in The Incredible Hulk. However, what the Hell is that weird voice he's doing whilst he bleeds to death? It was a bit like a prepubescent impression of Christian Bale's Batman voice. Kind of like what it might sound like if the Dark Knight was kicked in the bollocks. This didn't ruin the film for me or even annoy me, it just kept taking me out of the moment and left me simply pondering its oddness. Imagine if you looked out of your bedroom window at night and saw your neighbours playing in a paddling pool... it wouldn't annoy you, but you wouldn't be able to enjoy the view of their otherwise lovely garden without being distracted by their strange and abnormal antics. Basically, that's how Tim Roth makes me feel when he's dying.

Once at the warehouse, they are just about to make themselves comfortable when Mr. Pink walks in and ruins the otherwise peaceful vibe with his machine-gun speed whining. In my memory of this film, it's Mr. Blonde who steals the show however having watched it again I think I'm going to change my mind. In my opinion, Steve Buscemi is by far the greatest thing about Reservoir Dogs being both funny, believable, to some degree relatable and just plain brilliant. As far as I'm concerned, he was the most watchable thing within its hour and a half running time.

By this point, things are obviously racing towards the infamous torture scene which, despite its notoriety, is actually relatively tame. What is interesting about it however, is the amount of fun the violence-desensitised viewer will have watching it. Assuming you don't mind seeing a bit of blood in your films, this scene is great fun with Mr. Blonde having the time of his life dancing away to 'Stealers Wheels' and making jokes as he prepares to hack away the ear of an unfortunate police man that he kept in his car boot.

I can't emphasise how much I enjoy this scene. The sense of fun that old Blonde is having is masterfully portrayed by Tarantino and infectiously played by Madsen. It also makes me laugh at how controversial it supposedly was when the violence takes place off screen. Compare that to the gratuitous torture in franchises like Saw and Hostel and I'm sure todays youth will wonder what the hell all the fuss was about.

Unfortunately, the end of this scene also, for me, marked the end of my enjoyment of Reservoir Dogs. From this point until the end everything, personally just comes across as slow and boring. I've never really warmed to Mr. White and so I don't care to spend time finding out more about who he is. Nothing against Harvey Keitel, I just don't like the character which isn't a problem, except that I think that you are meant to. Which leads me to my other new problem with the film.

Every single last character here with the exception of Marvin the Policeman and Mr. Orange are scumbags. With films like Goodfellas and The Godfather, I feel that as likeable as the characters may be, we are always aware that they are ultimately bastards, and in most cases 'evil'. When Scorsese's rent-a-nutter Joe Pesci flips out, we are disgusted by his actions. As much as Scorsese might glamorise his mafia, he always shows the underbelly of detest, hatred and dishonesty that makes the mob what it is.

Tarantino on the other hand, seems to simply be happy to show his murdering fuckheads as nothing but honourable and cool. When his psycho gets a bit knifey, we as the audience are enjoying what we see. The music is cool, Madsen is cool, and who doesn't feel a sense of disappointment when he's offed by Mr. Orange who, in the nick of time, empties a gun into Blonde's chest? Although Roth is ultimately as cool as the others and is himself a good guy, there really isn't any sense of judgement regarding the gang's decision to kill the ensuing police who, lets face it, are just normal guys doing their job.

After we've discovered Orange's true motivations regarding the heist, we're treated to his backstory as an undercover police guy. I like this section, I guess, but only because Tim Roth is a watchable and likeable actor. Roth aside however, I just think that this bit drags on and goes nowhere. We listen to him learning an anecdote for like ten minutes or so only for it to end having gone absolutely nowhere. Personally, if I was Lawrence Harvey, I'd kick him out of my gang for just telling such a shit story.

I have a theory about this film, and that is that it's great as long as you're only watching for the first, or maybe second time. I can't deny that I've seen it loads of times before and thought I liked it, however as the film went on, I started to get bored, and I started to remember that this wasn't the first time I'd got bored watching it. I always remember it fondly and I can only suppose that this is because I'm remembering the first few and most impactful experiences of having seen it. I know I'll watch it again, and I know that when I put it on it will be with excitement and optimism but for now, at least, perhaps for me, Reservoir Dogs just doesn't stand up to repeat viewings. I'd like this not to be the case and I'd like to be wrong but when it gets to the scene in which they talk about Pam Grier, all I can think about is how much better Jackie Brown is and how I'd much rather be watching that than this...

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6 May 2011

Where Has De Niro Gone?

Who is the greatest actor of all time? There are many contenders for the title but often it seems that the most popular choices boil down to one of two people; De Niro or Pacino. Both men are great at what they do, and both have brought us some of the greatest characters cinema has had to offer. It's hard to believe that Jake La Motte and Rupert Pupkin are really the same person, just like it is hard to believe that Michael Corleone and Tony Montana are.

However for me, I've always swayed towards preferring De Niro. There's no real reason for this, I just think that I prefer his films and his sense of humour that seems to leak out (from time to time). In my eyes, the man is a God which is why I find it so devastating to see the shite that he is churning out these days. I mean, what the fuck is the man behind Taxi Driver doing working with retarded tits like the rapper '50 Cent'? I'd hate to call ol' Fiddy Diddy a crap actor that's not worthy of owning a De Niro film, let alone appearing on one, but that doesn't stop it being true. In my opinion, Fiddy D isn't even worthy of being referred to as an actor, regardless of whether it was preceded by the word 'crap'.

In the 70's and 80's it seemed like every film De Niro starred in was bound to be an instant classic. Outside of his collaborations with Scorsese, he worked on The Untouchables, Midnight Run, Brazil, Once Upon a Time in America and of course, The Godfather Part Two. Then came the 90's which started off well with the amazing Goodfellas, but unfortunately was cut short in 1995 the year the real De Niro seems to have died.

To produce one classic is impressive, but to star in two classics in one year and with the back catalogue that De Niro does is nothing short of legendary. In 1995, De Niro starred in both Heat and Casino, both of which are important in their own right. Casino was the last time, so far, that he worked with Scorsese and was (in my opinion) one of their best films. On release, Casino was unfairly compared to Goodfellas with most critics feeling that it went over similar territory.

This however, in my opinion, is just not true. Goodfellas is about what life is like from within the mafia, Casino is the story of one man's desperate attempt to avoid them whilst trying to survive in Las Vegas, the ultimate place of evil. Casino is more epic than Goodfellas with a much more interesting plot than the done to death life of a gangster. It has a career-best performance from Sharon Stone who, this time, works without resorting to having to flash her gash and has an angry midget Joe Pesci doing what he does best by being an angry midget- although this time with a fancy new pen as a weapon.

Heat, too, is in my opinion, perfect. This was obviously the first film to feature both De Niro and Pacino in the same scene and is one of director Michael Mann's best. Although this is one of the few films in which Valerie Kilmer is pretty good, this is clearly a film belonging to those other two acting titans of the seventies. The cat and mouse between De Niro and Pacino is almost magical but it is in fact their characters' relationship that is more memorable particularly if relating it to their real life careers and greatest actor poll rivalry.

And then after that, it was all down hill. I don't know what happened after these films but it just seems to have gone so wrong for De Niro. I'd rather he just quit acting and ended on that high note than have him appear in the shit that he has. Meet the Fockers, Hide and Seek and worst of all The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle. I mean what the fuck is he doing? Why is he ruining his own legacy? Maybe he does have a hotel chain to pay for and maybe he has lost interest in the acting, but that's not an excuse to shit all over your life's work. He might not care about his legacy, but I do.

Meanwhile Pacino's not exactly doing his best work either, but at least he's not sunk to the depths of the ex-Travis Bickle. Since Heat, Pacino has appeared in Christopher Nolan's excellent and somewhat forgotten Insomnia. He also re-teamed with Michael Mann to make yet another masterpiece focusing on the tobacco industry with The Insider, and he appeared as a more sympathetic, lower level mafia member in Mike Newell's Donnie Brasco which also features a rare and excellent non-wierdo turn; Jonny Depp.

It's now been almost a decade and a half since De Niro showed the world the talent that he truly is. Him and Scorsese have always been teasing us with another film from them both. Lets just hope that happens soon and maybe the great man can redeem himself from all the brain dead crap that he's recently been inflicting on us. Maybe he'll go out on a high and end his career with a better film than other legends such as Sean Connery and Gene Hackman have with The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Welcome to Mooseport. Please De Niro don't leave it like this! I miss the old you!!

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