Pulp Fiction may have been the film that made an uber-hotshot of Quentin Tarantino, but it was his first film, Reservoir Dogs -- the hit of the 1992 Sundance Film Festival -- that announced him as a major talent. Watching the earlier film again, especially as it's so lovingly presented in the extras-laden 10th anniversary DVD edition released last month by Artisan, I'm loathe to say which is the appreciably better film.
Certainly, all the things that everyone would rave about in Pulp Fiction are there in Dogs: the incredible energy; the homages to other directors and movies, the incessant cultural references; the jumping back and forth in time; the sure-footed, cutting-edge direction that somehow manages to never draw attention to itself, but rather seems perfectly suited to the scene or the characters.
Reservoir Dogs centers on a jewel heist gone disastrously bad -- even though the heist itself is never shown. Rather, we watch the lead-in, as crime boss Joe Cabot (the late Lawrence Tierney, the subject of an amusing series of personal reminiscences included on the two-disc set) recruits six wiseguys to rob the store, and the bloody fallout, as everyone tries figuring out what went wrong and who is the stoolie they're convinced ratted them out.
The cast includes Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Steve Buscemi, Michael Madsen, Edward Bunker and Tarantino as the six (known by their aliases, Messrs. White, Orange, Pink, Blonde, Blue and Brown, respectively), with Chris Penn as Cabot's son and Kirk Baltz as a captured cop who, in the film's most infamous scene, loses his ear to the cause. (Alternate takes of the ear scene are included, and they'll make you glad Tarantino chose the one he did.)
Reservoir Dogs has never looked better, and while the behind-the-scenes commentary is only average -- a few too many people are interviewed, and what they say isn't all that revelatory -- there are plenty of other wonderful extras included. That includes everything from Tarantino citing his influences to a look at action figures based on the movie.