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Reservoir Dogs: 15th Anniversary Edition

Lionsgate Home Entertainment // R // October 24, 2006
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Preston Jones | posted October 31, 2006 | E-mail the Author
The Movie

This is the film that started it all -- not only igniting Quentin Tarantino's still-flourishing directorial career, a surge in the Nineties indie renaissance and ushering in a wave of copycat crime flicks, but also the film that pushed me over the edge into a full-blown, unabashed love affair with cinema. I vividly remember sitting down in my friend's living room at the impressionable age of 15 to watch a VHS copy of Reservoir Dogs and being completely blown away. It was unlike anything I'd seen before (and still holds up more than a decade later); raw, violent and suspenseful, it was a compact little piece of storytelling that folded back on itself, culminating in a bleak, nihilistic ending and announcing Tarantino as a creative force to be reckoned with.

Time hasn't dulled my appreciation or enthusiasm for Reservoir Dogs; if anything, I have a deeper appreciation for what Tarantino wrought having been more fully educated about the history of film and the filmmaking process, now able to respond on an intellectual and technical level, rather than just a visceral level. But whether you've got a film theory degree or just a rabid affection for all things cinematic, Reservoir Dogs speaks to you, seeming to bottle the very essence of cool that cemented this film as an iconic work. From the sharp black suits, flippant, profanity-laden odes to Madonna or the slow-motion strides to camera, Reservoir Dogs oozes hipness from every frame of its 100 minutes.

It also bleeds, swears and fires a hefty supply of bullets -- for as much as it celebrated gruff machismo, Reservoir Dogs was also taken to task for its unflinching depictions of brutal violence; Mr. Orange's seeping gut begets the hapless Marvin Nash's severed ear, which begets the number of police and civilian casualties sustained in the criminals' getaway. Soaked in blunt, gutter-level ugliness, Tarantino fused his pop culture-addled sensibilities with a virtuosic flair worthy of Scorsese, Fuller or Peckinpah, masterfully orchestrating this temporally fractured tale of six color-coded criminals -- Mr. White (Harvey Keitel), Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen), Mr. Brown (Tarantino), Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi), Mr. Blue (Eddie Bunker) and Mr. Orange (Tim Roth) -- whose in-and-out jewel heist goes south, racking up a body count and rampant suspicion about an undercover mole who may have tipped off the cops.

For his astonishingly assured debut, Tarantino assembled a nigh-perfect cast to realize his rapid-fire words: godfather Keitel, who first took an interest in helping marshal Tarantino's vision to the screen; Roth, Madsen, Buscemi, legendary character actor Lawrence Tierney, Chris Penn and former ex-con Bunker all lend a palpable reality to the proceedings, fleshing out these admittedly thinly-written individuals and giving them some weight. The poignant final scene wouldn't have nearly the punch it does were it not for the exceptional work of this ensemble.

It's comforting to know that I can continue to pop Reservoir Dogs into my DVD player whenever the urge strikes me (at least once a year) and it feels just as fresh, effortless and powerful as it did way back at my first viewing; Tarantino harnesses some of cinema's most elemental powers in this, his first (and arguably, one of his best) film -- it's a searing, sexy thriller that sinks its hooks into from that first, endless tracking shot to the final, lead-ridden confession. Reservoir Dogs is, quite simply, one of the Nineties' best and most complete works, a true auteur's vision and one which re-shaped and continues to influence a whole new generation of filmmakers.

This "15th anniversary edition," complete with utterly bad-ass (and reportedly limited) gasoline can packaging, marks the third region one release of Reservoir Dogs on DVD. The first release, in June 1997, was bare-bones while the second, more lavish, release in June 2003 was billed as the "10th anniversary edition," featuring collectable covers and a wealth of supplements. This latest, "15th anniversary edition" is in some ways an improvement, but in others, not as complete -- I'll detail the differences more extensively below, but will say that for those who have not yet purchased Reservoir Dogs on DVD (what exactly have you been waiting for, anyway?), this newest version is your best bet.


The Video:

One of the fans' biggest beefs with the "10th anniversary edition" was that, visually, Reservoir Dogs looked, charitably, less than great. Thankfully, Lionsgate has rectified this previous error with a sharp, crisp 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, boasting brilliant whites, eye-popping reds and crisp, rich blacks -- gone is the washed out, greenish hue afflicting the previous transfer. A side-by-side comparison shows that this transfer is cleaner and more accurate -- this is how Reservoir Dogs was meant to be seen. (For the completists out there, it's worth noting that the senseless 1.33:1 fullscreen transfer from the "10th anniversary edition" has been dropped from this latest version.)

The Audio:

Fans didn't tear into the audio end of the "10th anniversary edition," seeming mostly content with the DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby 2.0 stereo soundtracks. On this "15th anniversary edition," all three of the aforementioned tracks have been dropped, in favor of a DTS-ES 6.1 track and a Dolby Digital 5.1 EX track. Sonic upgrade, anyone? I sampled both tracks and from the satisfying thump of "Little Green Bag" to the jaunty bounce of "Stuck in the MIddle with You" to the startling report of fired rounds, this is an exceptional aural representation. If you loved what Reservoir Dogs sounded like before, you'll love it now. Optional English and Spanish subtitles are also on board. And yes, those fleeting moments of previously unheard dialogue are here, intact.

The Extras:

How about that packaging? Lionsgate gets major points for this stylish presentation: a metal gasoline can, slipped into which is a matchbook that folds out, revealing the two DVDs. It's a very handsome, if easily bent, container that is just about as wide as a regular keepcase. Very, very nice. Now, let's turn our attention to bonus features and begin with what isn't here and what holds me back from awarding this set a full five stars for its bonus content: the interviews with Chris Penn, Kirk Baltz, Michael Madsen, Lawrence Bender, Tim Roth and Quentin Tarantino that were featured on the "10th anniversary edition" (you remember, Penn conducting his interview, inexplicably, in the back of a truck). I cannot fathom why this material didn't make the leap and it strikes me as a poor decision on Lionsgate's part not to include it. Three other supplements are AWOL on this newest edition: the four minute, five second "Small Dogs" featurette about the genesis of the Reservoir Dogs action figures, along with the informative "Film Noir Web" and the poster gallery. Die-hard Reservoir Dogs fans will want to hang onto their "10th anniversary edition," not only for that swank collectible cover, but also, primarily, the interview footage.

So what made it out alive for this "15th anniversary edition"? On the first disc of this double-wide set, you'll find the previously available, pieced together commentary track featuring Quentin Tarantino, producer Lawrence Bender, cinematographer Andrezj Sekula, actor Kirk Baltz, producer Monte Hellman, Tim Roth, editor Sally Menke, Chris Penn and Michael Madsen. Also ported over is the "critics commentaries," sequences of the film featuring thoughts from Film Comment's Amy Taubin, Rolling Stone's Peter Travers and author Emanuel Levy. The final bonus feature of the first disc is new: the "Pulp Factoid" viewer, a variation on the now-defunct VH1 show "Pop-Up Video," which dispenses tidbits of trivia throughout the film.

The second disc houses the bulk of the supplements, kicking things off with the newly created 15 minute, 44 second mini-doc "Playing It Fast and Loose," presented in anamorphic widescreen and including thoughts from Harry Knowles, Sharon Waxman, Peter Markham and Mark Evan Schwartz. The lame "Profiling The Reservoir Dogs" creates fictional histories for Mr. Brown, Mr. Pink, Mr. White and Mr. Blonde, laying them like mini-biographies. The just-as-lame "Tipping Guide" shows you what Mssrs. Pink, Orange, Blonde and White would tip for totals of $10, $20, $30 and $40. I can't quite fathom why the set's producers included "Reservoir Dolls," the two minute, 17 second re-enactment of the ear-severing scene as performed by action figures and the shameless three minute, 25 second psuedo-commercial for the Reservoir Dogs video game left me wondering exactly where, again, were those missing interviews?

The exact same set of deleted scenes as found on the "10th anniversary edition"-- five in all, including two alternate angles of the infamous ear-severing scene -- are here, as is the "K-Billy Sounds of the 70s" interactive radio feature. The 14 minute, 47 second Lawrence Tierney tribute and the eight minute, three second Eddie Bunker tribute, along with the four minute, 43 second Monte Hellman tribute, the five minute, 49 second Jack Hill tribute, the two minute, 20 second Pam Grier tribute and five minute Roger Corman tributes make the transition to this "15th anniversary edition." The 28 minute, 43 second mini-doc "The Class of '92: The Memories, The Moments and The Misery of the Sundance Film Festival" survived intact, as did the four minute, 20 second featurette "Securing The Shot: Location Scouting with Billy A. Fox and the film's theatrical trailer, presented in rough-looking non-anamorphic widescreen. Rounding the second disc, and the set, are trailers for Saw II: Special Edition, Hard Candy, The Descent, See No Evil and Saw III.

Final Thoughts:

Writer/director Quentin Tarantino harnesses some of cinema's most elemental powers in this, his first (and arguably, one of his best) film -- it's a searing, sexy thriller that sinks its hooks into from that first, endless tracking shot to the final, lead-ridden confession. Reservoir Dogs is, quite simply, one of the Nineties' best and most complete works, a true auteur's vision and one which re-shaped and continues to influence a whole new generation of filmmakers. Despite the lack of what I consider some essential bonus features, there is still enough here, particularly visually and aurally, to award this "15th anniversary edition" of Reservoir Dogs DVD Talk's highest rating: DVD Talk Collectors Series.

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