RESERVOIR DOGS: A Character Analysis

[SPOILER ALERT]

In 1992, a young director Quentin Tarantino shocked the world with his debut film Reservoir Dogs. Although it wasn’t really popular during its theatrical run, it later became a smash cult hit on home video. Whether you consider it an unofficial remake of Ringo Lam’s City On Fire or not, this is a dialogue-driven masterpiece that has no boring moments thanks to the music, pop culture references and interesting characters. In fact, I liked this film so much I got a paperback version of the screenplay so I can read it whenever I’m bored. It’s a unique one because it feels more like reading a crime novel than a movie script since the lines are intense and inexplicably tell us the character backgrounds as well. These elements also add more dimension to the story itself. Moreover, the screenplay that I have has deleted dialogue and sequences. To be honest, most of them should be deleted anyway since what I saw on the screen is already great. One of those is text that appears during opening the credits…

“One of these men is a cop.
And by the end, all but one will be dead.”

I’m glad Quentin deleted this because the audience would pay too much attention to the “cop” aspect. When I watched the film for the first time, I thought there was no cop in the gang and Mr. Pink was just a paranoid nut. This is the reason why that text should be deleted since it limits the viewers imagination.

Before we continue, let me recap the storyline in Reservoir Dogs again in order. Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney), a mob boss, hires five guys to pull a diamond heist at Karina’s Wholesale Diamonds. There are rules here. The robbers have to use fake names, wear matching suits and NEVER reveal their real identity to each other, in order to protect themselves from police as well as prevent any betrayal towards Joe. Here’s the duty of each member…

Getaway car driver – Mr. Brown (Quentin Tarantino)
Door guard – Mr. Orange (Tim Roth)
Crowd control – Mr. Blonde and Mr. Blue (Michael Madsen, Eddie Bunker)
Main robbers – Mr. White and Mr. Pink (Harvey Keitel, Steve Buscemi)

Unfortunately, the heist goes bad but they escape from the police. Some arrive at the rendezvous, which is an abandoned warehouse. Some have an unknown fate. And some believe that there was a set-up.

At this point, I think all of us know what happens at the end. If not, I’m totally surprised that you read this article so far without noticing the huge SPOILER ALERT above. Trust me, please watch the film first since this analysis contains the fate of each character I’m going to talk about: Mr. White, Mr. Orange, Mr. Pink, Mr. Blonde, and Joe.

1) Mr. White
Personally, I consider him to be the leader of the group, although Joe doesn’t assign him. He’s the most mature one in terms of experience as well as his communication skills. Remember when he debates with Mr. Pink about giving a tip to the waitress? He’s the only person who uses facts during the discussion.

“Waitressing is the number one occupation for female non-college graduates in this country. It’s the one jab basically any woman can get, and make a living on. The reason is because of tips.”

Unfortunately, he has one strong disadvantage. He lets his emotions take control over reason. The reason why he trusts Mr. Orange is because he teaches him about things before the heist and thinks that Mr. Orange gets shot and it’s his fault…so it has to be his task to take care of Mr. Orange. Mr. White’s guilty feeling leads to breaking the group’s rule since he reveals his name and his identity to Mr. Orange. This fact pisses everybody off, while Mr. White believes that he had to do something to comfort an injured co-worker. It also contradicts the fact that he has been a criminal for several years and, at one point, he discovered an undercover cop during a job.

It’s hard to believe that an experienced criminal like him has no idea that Mr. Orange is the undercover police officer. We’ll talk more about this later on.

2) Mr. Orange
Of course, he’s the undercover cop. His plan is to catch Joe. He has an ambition to practice how to convince Joe that he’s a real pot dealer and he’s so confident about himself. In fact, before he goes to the briefing before the robbery, this is what he says to himself…

“Don’t pussy out on me now. They don’t know. They don’t know shit. You’re not gonna get hurt. You’re fucking Baretta. They believe every fucking word because you’re super cool.”

Although it’s more likely that he says it to lower his fear (since this is probably the first undercover job for him and weeks earlier he had no idea how to improvise dialogue in front of Joe), we all know that he gets shot later. You can tell that he’s a good cop since he never gives up his real identity, no matter what others accuse him of, until the final scene in which he breaks Mr. White’s heart. At least I have to give him credit since he’s still pretending that he’s not undercover, although he has no idea whether the police department has abandoned him or not.

3) Mr. Pink
Here it is. My favorite character from this film and one of my all-time favorite film characters. He’s the deconstruction of guys like Snake Plissken (Escape From New York) and other anti-hero characters. This is a badass character that looks realistic since he talks a lot, but always stick to his instincts and, most of the time, he’s correct. He’s also outspoken and says things that nobody dares to  speak about in public like his whole rant about giving tips or when he says this to stop Mr. White and Mr.Blonde fighting…

“You two assholes, calm the fuck down! Hey, come on! What, are we on the playground here, huh? Am I the only professional? Fucking guys like a bunch of fucking n*ggers, man! You’ve ever worked with n*ggers, huh? Just like you two. Always gonna kill each other.”

Whether this statement is true or not, he believes that he’s the only professional on this job. So what’s his past? Well, according to the dialogue, he was a pot dealer before and he doesn’t want to do this job due to his instincts. Sadly, he needs money so he accepts it. I’m not sure that this could be considered as “professional” or not, but at least we know that Mr. White is way more “professional” than him in terms of experience. Also, look closely when Mr. Pink punches the cop. After he punches him his hand hurts so much so that he has to walk away and let Mr. White punch him instead. It doesn’t sound like a real bad guy at all since, at least, Mr. White can punch the poor cop without getting hurt.

Nonetheless, he’s the only character who strongly believes about the set up. He tells us that the cop had arrived earlier at the scene than the standard 4-minute time period. At least he has information about the usual time length between them pressing an alarm and the cops arriving, which strongly supports his argument. Later, he’s paranoid about Joe, who might betray the team, and the cop who may come to their hideout at any time since he has no idea what happened to Mr. Blue and Mr. Brown. Plus, he believes in hiding his identity from everyone. It sparks an argument between him and Mr. White because of this…to the point that they almost shoot each other. Shortly after that, Mr. Pink tells us that he believes a maniac (Mr. Blonde) more than Mr. White because at least he didn’t tell his real name to other people.

In the end, he’s smart enough to survive the Mexican standoff since as soon as Nice Guy Eddie (Chris Penn), Mr. White, and Joe pull out their guns, Mr. Pink runs away and hides. But, according to the screenplay, he gets caught outside the warehouse by the cops. This is kinda unfortunate since he should be the one who gets away. Mr. Pink somehow reminds me of characters in Spaghetti Western films since he never trusts anyone and he’s there only for the money.

4) Mr. Blonde (aka “Toothpick” Vic Vega) 
A psycho who is always at the wrong place at the wrong time. Basically, he just got released from prison and already wants to get back into the underworld. While he talks with Joe about his future, Nice Guy Eddie shows up and persuades his dad to include Vic as a member of an upcoming heist. Although Blonde has sadistic behavior (like shooting clerks at the jewelry store or torturing the cop at the warehouse), his loyalty to Eddie and Joe later becomes useful…after he’s dead. After Mr. Orange shoots him, Eddie, Mr. Pink and Mr. White arrive. Eddie doesn’t believe Orange who claims that Blonde was going to kill Eddie since they have known each other for so long. Thus, he realizes that Orange is the “rat”. Of course, Mr. White still believes Orange either because he still feels guilty about him getting shot or Mr. Blonde’s shootout during the heist is still prominent in his mind. Regardless, this is another time when Mr.White chooses emotion over rational logic.

5) Joe Cabot
The mastermind behind everything here. I have to admit that his plan is pretty smart. Robbing the place during the daytime and in a crowded area is something a little bit unusual and risky, but it’s different from sneaking into some ultra-high security place in the night like in other films. I also like the whole fake name thing since it can prevent witnesses from learning their real names and hinder the betrayal among the other members. He also ignores Mr.Pink, who wants to change his fake name (to something more cool sounding). Joe replies that the names can’t be changed since there was a time in the past when everyone wanted to be Mr. Black and nobody backed down since they didn’t know each other.

He also shares a bit about using your gut feeling, like Mr. Pink. He says that he never trusted Mr. Orange 100% and that was the only member he was suspicious of. He’s correct. I have no idea what would happen if Mr. Pink, Eddie, and Joe were the survivors here.

To sum up, this is one of my all-time favorite movies and one of the main reasons is the variety of characters and their dialogue. Although they are bad guys, you’ll soon find yourself liking them due to their outrageous behavior. Highly recommended.

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Nuttawut Permphithak

Nuttawut is a Thai student who’s spending his final year in university studying marketing. In his free time he watches exploitation films… or any films from the past, writing articles, taking photos, and reviewing films for the GCDB. These activities sometimes make him “mad as hell”, but he really likes that feeling!

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