This violent, bloody, and profanity soaked film was Quentin Tarantino’s break-out debut and his first feature-length movie as a director, though he’d had scripts made into feature films before. The premise isn’t complicated. It’s about a gang of robbers brought together by a minor crime kingpin to pull off a diamond heist. They are all experienced criminals, but they don’t know each other, referring to themselves by colors instead of names: Mr. White (Harvey Keitel), Mr. Orange (TimRoth), Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen), Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi), Mr. Blue (Edward Bunker) and Mr. Brown (Tarantino), who all wore the same uniform for the heist: a black suit, with a thin black tie, a white shirt, and black Ray Ban sunglasses.
The idea of using colors for names seems to have been borrowed from the classic movie from 1974 The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, where a gang of bad guys hijacking an NYC subway train do the same thing—and one of the bad guys is a violent loose cannon—sound familiar? The bad guys in Pelham also dress alike and have similar glasses, hats, and fake mustaches.
Reservoir Dogs established a lot of what would become Tarantino’s signature moves as a director—long unbroken tracking shots, lots of profanity, blood, gunplay, pop culture references, cool dialogue, and lots of cool music. It’s also arranged somewhat out of sequence with long flashbacks peppered throughout—a non-linear technique he would employ more in his next film. Another interesting choice from QT: the movie only depicts the events before and immediately after the robbery, never showing the actual crime itself. He lets what happened at the jewelry store be slowly revealed through the dialogue.
This is where the ultra slow-mo walk started and where your opinion about “Stuck in the Middle With You” by Steelers Wheel may have changed forever.The movie was also one of the first widely popular independent films and soon became a cult classic. It was even named “Greatest Independent Film of all Time” by Empire magazine.RD made about $2.8 million on a $1.2 million budget in the U.S. and it earned £6.5 million in the UK. It became quite a bit more popular on VHS after the release of Pulp Fiction two years later.
This movie has a particularly funny memory from high school attached to it for me. I took Italian instead of Spanish and during a week with a holiday, our teacher, who was from Italy and didn’t see American movies very much, said we wouldn’t be doing a lesson the day before our day off and would watch a movie instead.We begged him to let us bring something in instead of watching Cinema Paradiso or Austin Powers again, the only two tapes in his desk. One kid convinced him to put on the tape he brought, Reservoir Dogs. I guess all the film festival award logos on the VHS case duped him. We made it to the middle of the “Like a Virgin” conversation in the opening diner scene before he leapt up and turned it off. Austin Powers it was…did I mention this was a Catholic school?
Lets take a look at the guns used by the robbers in this cult classic:
Just as the robbers are all given the same suit, they are all given the same gun for the robbery, a Smith & Wesson Model 659. However, we see Mr. White also using the very similar looking S&W 639 with Pachmayr grips. It is assumed that this is his personal firearm that he brought along.
During the getaway at the beginning of the movie, Mr. White is seen duel wielding the 639 with the 659, proving his different handgun is not a continuity error.
You can tell the difference between the two guns by the shape of the trigger guard: the 659’s is squared off guard, the 639 has a rounded trigger guard.
The S&W Model 59 series was a double action handgun family introduced in 1971, adapted from the earlier Model 39 with a 14-round double stack magazine.
The original Model 59 was actually designed for the U.S. Navy SEALs but was not adopted after field evaluations.
It was sold until 1980 when it was replaced by the improved second generation series as the Model 459
The S&W 659 is the stainless steel version of the blued, alloyed framed Smith & Wesson 459 and blue all-steel Smith & Wesson 559. It has a 14-round magazine and a 4-inch barrel. It was eventually replaced by Smith & Wesson’s ‘3rd Generation’ 5900 Series of stainless semiautos.
Mr. White, Mr. Orange, Mr. Pink, and Mr. Blonde were all armed with one Smith & Wesson 659 9mm pistol each. Most of them carry their pistols in their waistband, but Mr. Blonde carries his in a shoulder holster.
The iconic black and white movie poster depicting a man on the floor pointing his S&W up at another man who is aiming his gun back at him is taken from a scene early in the film with Mr. Pink and Mr. White.
Tim Roth’s Mr. Orange is the most fleshed out character, other than Mr. White, who could be called the protagonist. We find out that Orange is actually an undercover cop named Freddy who was tasked with setting up the gang to be taken during the robbery.
Though he spends most of the movie lying on the floor, covered in blood, and squirming in pain from a gunshot wound to the gut, we do get to see him acting in his undercover capacity through flashbacks.
When he goes to meet with Nice Guy Eddie (Chris Penn) who is helping organize the heist, he carries two covert pistols with him. One is a Beretta 950 Jetfire in .25 ACP on his ankle. We see him loading the small automatic and checking its chamber before leaving his apartment.
The larger handgun Orange carries is a Charter Arms Off Duty in .38 Special with Pachmayr grips. When he checks his Beretta he also checks his revolver, swinging the cylinder open and then closing it before stashing it in his coat pocket.
We also see him with the revolver in a paddle holster on his belt in an earlier scene.
When Orange is on the ground suffering from his wound, he still has his S&W 659, which he fires empty to kill Mr. Blonde as he is about to light a hostage police officer on fire after torturing him. You can check out that famous Steelers Wheel scene at the bottom of this post.
“You gonna bark all day, little doggie…or you gonna bite?”
In the scene where we finally find out what happened to Mr. Orange, he and White are in the back seat of a stolen car, escaping the bungled robbery with Mr. Brown at the wheel.
A disoriented Brown has a head wound and crashes the car into a parked vehicle, getting the bumpers hooked on each other.
White and Orange exit the vehicle and a police cruiser comes around the corner. Mr. White opens fire with his two S&W pistols, shooting them through the cruiser’s windshield. Afterward, they discover Brown is dead, so it’s likely he was also shot in the body somewhere.
In a long tracking shot, the two men walk down an alley to a street and find a car going by. They both stand in front of it, pointing their weapons, attempting to carjack the female driver. As soon as she sees the men with guns, she leans over and pulls a pre-1972 nickel plated Colt Detective Special revolver from her glove compartment and shoots Mr. Orange in the gut as he opens the door to drag her out of the car.
As an almost automatic reaction to being shot, Orange quickly shoots the woman once, killing her.
Mr White puts him in the back of the car and they make their way to the hideout.
Nice Guy Eddie
Nice Guy Eddie is the son of crime boss Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney). The two are responsible for putting together the crew and the robbery itself.
Eddie gets some flak for choosing his friend, Mr. Blonde, to be part of the robbery, as it was his homicidal tendencies that screwed up the job to begin with. Those tendencies also got him killed. In one of the flashbacks, we learn that Blonde’s real name is Vic Vega. In Tarantino’s next movie, we meet Vic’s brother Vincent Vega, played by John Travolta.
At one time, Tarantino was interested in making a movie about the Vega brothers (which obviously would have had to take place before both Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction) but it never came together.
At the end of the movie, in the final standoff between Eddie, Cabot, and Mr. White, Eddie pulls a snub-nosed Smith & Wesson Model 66 threatening to kill White if he doesn’t stop pointing his gun as his father.
It doesn’t go well for any of them.
And just to save you a YouTube search…here’s Kid Billy’s Super Sounds of the 70s, with Steelers Wheel. Keep…on…truckin’: