Reservoir Dogs is Quentin Tarantino's 1992 debut as a director and a screenwriter. The film largely takes place in the aftermath of a jewelry heist gone wrong. After the robbery is interrupted by the police, the surviving criminals — all of whom are using color-based pseudonyms, and none of whom knew the others before this job — escape to an abandoned warehouse and try to work out what went wrong, eventually deciding that there must be an undercover cop in their midst. Frequent flashbacks give the back story of several of the characters and fill in the details of the crime, telling the story in a non-linear fashion (which would become Tarantino's Signature Style); in fact, the movie contains a lot of elements Tarantino would use in later films, such as brutal violence and Seinfeldian Conversation (though not at the same time).A video game was produced that followed the plot of the movie and allowed the player to actually commit the heist that was only alluded to in the film.
This film provides examples of:
Ambiguous Ending: Did Mr. White kill Mr. Orange or commit Suicide by Cop? Though signs point more to the former, the film notably makes sure that Orange and Mr. White's hand are offscreen when White fires his final shot so it could go both ways.
An Aesop: Gosh, crime doesn't seem to pay, does it?
Awesome McCoolname: Discussed. Joe actively avoids this on the grounds that the groups working for him always gets hung up on who gets to be "Mr. Black".
Ax-Crazy: Mr. Blonde's trigger happy behavior leads to Mr. Pink's realization that they were set up, when the cops show up early. He's the only member of the team that Pink declares that he absolutely trusts not to be a rat — "he's too damn homicidal to be working with the cops!"
Mr. Blonde: He doesn't like alarms. Don't insinuate that he has a "boss". In spite of his violent reactions, we never actually see him lose his temper.
Mr. White: Don't call him an asshole. Don't threaten people he has gotten to like.
Beware the Nice Ones: The aptly-named "Nice Guy" Eddie (who is really only comparatively nice) is chubby, goofy, and really doesn't look too threatening, especially when surrounded by cool criminals in suits and ties. By the time he got really serious, his manner of speaking changed to something deep, diabolically raspy, and utterly psychotic.
Black and Gray Morality: Though both are hardened criminals who will kill people if they have no other option, both White and Pink were disgusted by Blonde's senseless killing spree and consider him a psychopath.
Blond Guys Are Evil: Played with, as the only outright evil heist member is "Mr. Blonde", although he isn't actually blond-haired.
Inverted with undercover cop Mr Orange, whose hair is dirty blond / light brown.
Brutal Honesty: Blonde gives the cop an honest lecture on the type of man he is, and what the cop should expect.
A better example would be Eddie Bunker (Mr. Blue), who has fewer lines and less screen time. He is even occasionally omitted from promo materials. Even the tagline at the top mentions 5 when there are 6 men.
Steven Wright is the voice of the disk jockey. Using the low-key-to-the-point-of-coma Wright to play a DJ has to be a joke.
The Caper: The movie does an interesting version by completely skipping the caper itself, making it a subversion.
Cold-Blooded Torture: The infamous scene where Mr. Blonde slices the bank cop's ear off and slashes his face.
Color-Coded Characters: Played with; although each of the robbers has a colour-based codename (Mr. White, Mr. Orange, Mr. Pink, Mr. Brown, Mr. Blue, and Mr. Blonde), they all wear identical black suits, shades, and have their (mostly dark) hair slicked back in order to make identification more difficult for witnesses.
Cop Killer: The gangsters kill several police officers during the heist. At the very end of the movie during Mr. Pink's arrest (which can be faintly overheard), the cops angrily yell at him that he's a cop killer after shooting him.
Cult Soundtrack: As with most of Tarantino's soundstracks. Especially Little Green Bag by the George Baker Selection and Stuck In The Middle With You by Stealers Wheel gained new popularity and even Pop-Cultural Osmosis thanks to this picture.
Deadpan Snarker: Everybody gets their shot in at one point, but especially Mr. Pink (including the "world's smallest violin" bit).
Death by Disfigurement: The cop is killed after he receives facial scars and loses an ear, even pointing out that he's "deformed" before he's killed.
Decoy Protagonist: Mr. White is the clear protagonist of the first part of the film, but drops out of the story for a while, during which Mr. Orange seems to shift to the protagonist role. The climax of the film revolves around the two of them and thus they share the spotlight.
Ear Ache: You won't be able to listen to "Stuck in the Middle With You" the same way again.
Establishing Character Moment: We learn everything we need to know about the main four gangsters in the opening diner scene. Mr. Pink refuses to tip the waitress, showing that he's self-centered and has little sympathy for others. Mr. White gets angry at him and passionately explains why waitresses need tips, showing that he's good-natured and sympathetic. Mr. Blonde jokingly offers to shoot him for not tipping, showing that he's a violent psychopath. Also, notice that when Joe asks the crew which one of them didn't tip, Mr. Orange immediately rats Mr. Pink out — foreshadowing the revelation that he's the rat.
Even Evil Has Standards: Mr. White and Mr. Pink are extremely disgusted with Mr. Blonde's shootup of the store. And disgusted at Mr. Pink's refusal to tip the waitress (in fact, Mr. Blonde actually proceeds to speak for the waitresses, though not to the extent Mr. White does so).
Flash Back: Several, for most of the main characters. Denied by Tarantino, who claims to hate these scenes being referred to as flashbacks, and prefers to think of it as a particular order that the audience will receive information in. Lending credence to this is the fact that none of the flashback scenes are preceded by a character reminiscing to past events.
Fluffy the Terrible: Nice Guy Eddie. All of the really murderous robbers have names like "Mr. Pink" and "Mr. Blonde".
Foil: Everybody acts as a foil to Mr. White. Whereas Mr. White is a relatively moral guy, Mr. Blonde is a cheerfully amoral psychopath. Whereas Mr. White is governed more by his emotions (as evidenced by his attachment to Orange), Mr. Pink is a logical and professional guy. Whereas White is very experienced and knowledgeable, Mr. Orange is very inexperienced.
Foreshadowing: Loads. The opening sequence foreshadows about half the movie. Orange's flashback foreshadows the ending. There's even foreshadowing combined with Visual Gag. Pay close attention to any object whose color matches one of the main characters' names. The warehouse, where the majority of the film takes place, is practically empty, except for a random selection of coffins.
For the Evulz: Mr. Blonde states bluntly that he's going to torture the cop purely because he enjoys it, not to gain information.
Choleric: Mr. Pink — The domineering, obsessive perfectionist who takes charge when the heist goes awry.
Melancholic: Mr. Blonde — The stone-cold, introverted Badass who hides his psychopathic streak from the others.
Leukine: Mr. Orange — The naive rookie who looks up to the others and remains trusting when he gets in over his head.
Sanguine: Mr. White — The good-natured, charismatic veteran who sticks up for the rookie and remains optimistic when everything goes to hell.
Gay Bravado: Between Mr. Blonde and Nice Guy Eddie in the former's introductory chapter.
Geek: Mr. Orange. In a flashback, model painting kits and Silver Surfer posters can be seen in his apartment; he is also knowledgeable about pop culture (mentioning the Fantastic Four in one scene), but not to the extent of being able to distinguish one Madonna song from another.
Gory Discretion Shot: Used during the infamous torture scene. However, the aftermath is shown somewhat frequently.
Guns Akimbo: Mr. White has a scene where he uses a pair of pistols to shoot some policemen through the windshield of their cruiser.
Hold Me: Mr. Orange begs Mr. White to hold him, 'cause he's so fucking scared. He complies several times.
Human Shield: Mr. Pink escapes the shootout by using a cop as one; the same cop Mr. Blonde tortures.
I Have a Family: The line is actually improv, and made finishing the scene more difficult for Madsen.
Averted with Mr. Brown, who had taken a bullet to the head. In an unusually realistic manner, he lived long enough to drive away from the scene of the crime with blood streaming down his face. The wound was clearly playing havoc with his perception or cognitive processes, since he did okay until he crashed into another car.
Internal Reveal: When Mr. Orange reveals to the cop from the bank that he is also a cop.
Proposed, but shot down by Nice Guy Eddie: "If you fucking beat this prick long enough, he'll tell you he started the goddamn Chicago fire, now that don't necessarily make it fucking so!"
Referenced, but never practiced, by Mr. White:
Now if it's a manager, that's a different story. Managers know better than to fuck around, so if you get one that's giving you static, he probably thinks he's a real cowboy, so you gotta break that son of a bitch in two. If you wanna know something and he won't tell you, cut off one of his fingers. The little one. Then tell him his thumb's next. After that he'll tell you if he wears ladies underwear. I'm hungry. Let's get a taco.
Jerkass: Every named character in this movie, especially Mr. Pink and Nice Guy Eddie. Mr. Blonde is more than that, however.
Let Me Get This Straight: Nice Guy Eddie does this when he refuses to believe Mr. Orange's explanation for why he had to shoot Mr. Blonde:
Nice Guy Eddie: Okay, let me just say this out loud, cause I wanna get this straight in my head. You're saying that Mr. Blonde was gonna kill you, and then when we got back he was gonna kill us, take the satchel of diamonds and scram, I'm right about that right, that's correct, that's your story?
Kill 'em All: The only survivor is Mr. Pink. You need to listen closely for Mr. Pink's fate: you hear him get caught by the police. The Waitress makes it, though.
Meaningful Background Event: Mr. Pink's aforementioned arrest. It takes place off screen the exact moment that Mr. orange confesses to Mr. White that he was an undercover cop.
Minimalism: Reservoir Dogs doesn't actually show the jewel heist, nor does it show much of anything. With the vast majority of the film set in an empty warehouse that is serving as the gangsters' hideout, we don't get to see the elaborate planning or the shootouts that ensued; instead, what we get to see is the crooks sitting around discussing the aftermath. The film also has no orchestral score, relying instead on select songs to carry the audience through quiet passages. In fact, it's easy to imagine this as a play.
Monochrome Casting: The only non-white speaking role is a black cop that is not directly involved in the heist or its aftermath. The white robbers talk about characters of a variety of races, though entirely in slurs and stereotypes.
Moral Myopia: Mr. White is sickened by the fact that Mr. Blonde killed random innocent civilians, yet kills cops without remorse and claims he will gladly shoot or harm anyone who gets in his way during an escape.
During a planning scene for the heist, Mr. White mentions this to Mr. Orange:
"If you wanna know something and he won't tell you, cut off one of his fingers. The little one. Then tell him his thumb's next. After that he'll tell ya if he wears ladies underwear. I'm hungry. Let's get a taco."
Defied by Mr. Blond in the torture scene. He starts cutting pieces off the cop he captured (Marvin Nash), but he specifically notes beforehand that he doesn't care at all about any information the cop might tell him; he's doing this just for fun.
My God, What Have I Done?: In the final scene of the movie, Mr. White realizes too late that he killed his boss and got himself shot so he could protect a police informant.
We also see a flash of this on Orange's face after he kills the woman who was defending herself against their carjacking. She shot him first, but still, he's a cop who just killed a civilian in the heat of the moment.
Nice Guy: Subverted with White. He's the most likable of the thieves, sticks his neck out for Mr. Orange, and expresses moral disgust at Mr. Blonde's behavior, but he's also a cold-blooded murderer who slaughters several cops and has no qualms with brutalizing people up for their money. "Nice Guy" Eddie is also nice to his friends... but isn't quite as nice to cops or people shooting his closest friends.
Nice to the Waiter: Subverted. The opinionated Mr. Pink (who later turns out to be one of the more levelheaded robbers) doesn't believe in tipping just because "society tells him to," but the rest of the criminals, some of them pretty rough customers, are all united in finding that behavior unacceptable.
Noble Demon: Mr. White may be the most likeable and moral of the criminals, but he's still a ruthless criminal who will shoot any "dumb motherfucker" in his way to get out clean.
Noodle Incident: We see the planning and we see the aftermath, and we get plenty of hints about what went down, but the actual heist itself goes unseen.
No Name Given: Mr. Pink, Mr. Brown, Mr. White and Mr. Blue, although we find out that Mr. White's first name is "Larry".
Only Sane Man: Mr. Pink spends a lot of time playing this role ("Am I the only fucking professional here!?") as things get more heated between the other thieves.
Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Tim Roth clearly has a hard time maintaining his fake American accent while also using a writhing in pain voice
Oblivious Guilt Slinging: Kinda taken to the next level. White takes a bullet trying to convince Joe that Orange is not the rat. Orange feels indebted. Problem is, he actually is the rat.
The Penance: It only really becomes clear after watching it a second time, but by the end of the movie it's clear that the robbers are actively being injured according to who they've hurt/killed:
Mr. Pink is shown shooting a cop in the arm during his escape and is shot non-fatally off-screen.
Mr. White kills three cops (including Mr. Orange) and is shot three times.
Mr. Blonde (off-screen) goes on a homicidal rampage, killing several customers, and is shot 12 times by Mr. Orange.
Mr. Orange shoots and kills a woman and Mr. Blonde. He is shot twice.
Nice Guy Eddie, while not a robber, shoots and kills Marvin Nash.He is shot once by Mr. White.
Joe Cabot shoot Mr. Orange once, and is also shot once by Mr. White.
The Power Of Trust: Subverted and played horribly straight in the same action. Orange tells White that he's a cop, obviously upset due to White having taken a bullet for him now. White, horrified at the revelation, shoots him.
Power Walk: The gang does this just before the credits. This is probably one of the most famous images from the movie.
Psycho for Hire: Mr. Blonde is described as having gone berserk during the robbery, and the other robbers take him to task for being a "psychopath" instead of a "professional." The "ear" scene is one of the most sadistically twisted scenes in film history. He even managed to disturb his own actor, thanks to an ad-lib by his victim. Ultimately deconstructed, as the fact that Blonde is completely Ax-Crazy leads to far too many problems for his employers than they can handle, and his associates would never have done a job with him if they knew, because someone who enjoys what he does that much is just inherently unpredictable.
Punk in the Trunk: Nash, the cop that Mr. Blonde grabbed as a hostage during the robbery.
Dillinger: In the film, Joe Cabot mentions that Mr. Blue is "dead as Dillinger", and in the video game it is revealed that he was gunned down in a movie theater (a reference to how John Dillinger was gunned down near a movie theater). Doubles as an Actor Allusion, as Lawrence Tierney (Joe) had played Dillinger in a film by the same name in 1945. invoked
Mr. Orange says that Joe looks like the Thing from the Fantastic Four.
Also "Coconut" playing over the final credits. Going from "PUT THE GUN DOWN ON THE GROUND!"BAMBAMBAM to Put da lime in da coconut is very strange indeed. May count as a joke, as Mr. Orange had a bellyache throughout most of the movie.
The song Coconut is actually a metaphor for the events of the movie going from calm and collected to chaotic and hectic. As the song goes from a quiet pitch to a louder pitch as the song progresses.
Stock Scream: The infamous Wilhelm scream can be heard as Mr. Pink flees the scene of the crime.
Deconstructed with Mr. Blonde. He's an unflappable, perma-cool stoic... because he's also a complete Ax-Crazy sociopath.
Mr. Blue fits this considering he barely has any lines.
Story Within a Story: Even as Mr. Orange is relating his story about walking past three cops in the bathroom with a briefcase full of drugs, one of the cops in the story is talking about how he nearly blew away someone reaching for his license and registration.
Both of which are in a story that Mr. Orange is telling... which is in the Mr. Orange story... which is part of the Reservoir Dogs story.
Sympathetic P.O.V.: Intentionally utilized with the character of Mr. White. Most of the film's first half is told from his perspective and he comes off as a much more sympathetic and heroic character than both Mr. Pink and Mr. Blonde as a result. Later on we get to see flashbacks from other character's perspectives that show him to be a cold blooded killer and shameless racist. He's still more sympathetic than most of his accomplices, but it becomes clear that he is also not the straightforward Anti-Villain he was first presented as either.
Joe: No no no. Tried it [letting people pick their own names] before, doesn't work. You end up with four guys all fighting over who gets to be "Mr. Black". Nobody knows anybody else so nobody wants to back down. No way. I pick. You're Mr. Pink. Be thankful you're not Mr. Yellow.
Torture Always Works: Averted; despite being beaten and having petrol poured on him, uniformed officer Marvin Nash doesn't give away that Mr Orange is an undercover police officer. Nash knew who Orange was, having met him an another police officer's party. Previously discussed by Nice Guy Eddie when he points out that even if the guys do get the cop to talk, he'll start telling them outright nonsense if they beat him enough.
Tranquil Fury: In spite of being a psychopath, Mr. Blonde never raises his voice and has a perpetually casual, amused air about him. He's so relaxed that he stopped for a post-shootout snack with a cop in his trunk.
Trunk Shot: The first movie Tarantino used it in, in fact.
The Verse: Word of God is that this movie takes place in the same universe as Pulp Fiction (Marcellus Wallace is referenced), and that Vic Vega/Mr. Blonde is Vincent Vega's brother. Common fanon is that the mysterious case in Pulp Fiction held the diamonds from this movie's heist. Tarantino himself confirmed that this was supposed to be the case, but changed it to an Unreveal because he liked the idea of the audience coming up with their own interpretation.
Two Words: Mr. Pink has them: "Learn to fucking type."
In the finale of the movie, Nice Guy Eddie when he finds out from Mr. Orange about Mr. Blonde wanting to rip them off. His first action is to shoot Marvin Nash, who is a policeman tied up to a chair. And when Eddie gets involved in the Mexican Standoff between himself, his dad and Mr. White, he screams out to Mr. White not to point the gun at his dad before getting killed.
Mr. White when he finds out that his newfound friend - that he just killed a fellow, well-trusted friend for and defended to the very last - is actually a policeman all along.
Villain Protagonist: Pretty much everybody, as the main characters display Black and Gray Morality at best. Although White is a Noble Demon and Orange is arguably good. Well, except for shooting the civilian woman during the carjacking in retaliation to being shot himself, though he did show remorse for the deed.
In fairness, Orange shooting the woman appeared to just be the instinctive reaction to getting shot while you're pointing a gun at someone
Visual Gag: The warehouse, where the majority of the film takes place, is practically empty except for a random selection of coffins
Wham Line: "Listen to me, Marvin Nash. I'm a cop."
What Happened to the Mouse?: Mr. Pink makes off with the suitcase and we never learn what happened to him, although noises suggest he is arrested. The mysterious suitcase in Pulp Fiction was originally supposed to have contained a cache of diamonds, which has led many fans to speculate that it's the same suitcase as in this movie (which would mean that someone managed to sell the diamonds sometime after the robbery).
If you listen closely to the background while Mr. White is cradling Mr. Orange, you can hear Mr. Pink being arrested outside. There's the sound of gunfire, Mr. Pink cries out that he's been shot, and the police accuse him of being a cop-killer. See FAQ section here.
Orange is shot by Joe. Joe is shot by White. White is shot by Eddie. Eddie is shot by....???? White was originally intended to shoot him but there was a mixup with the effects and Tarrantino decided to leave it a mystery what happened to him.
What Measure Is a Mook?: Mr. Pink asks Mr. White if he had to kill anyone. White admits to killing a few cops, to which Pink replies, "Any real people?" The response: "No, just cops."
Whip Pan: Used when Mr. Orange is telling his imaginary story (encountering the cops in a restroom while he's toting marijuana) to the hoodlums.
Wild Mass Guessing: In-Universe, Mr. Brown talks his perspective of "Like a Virgin"; specifically his theory that it's actually about how the pain the main character of the song, a sex maniac, feels during her recent act of sex is the same as the first time she had sex. "Hence, 'Like a Virgin'."
Word Salad Title: "Reservoir Dogs" comes from Tarantino's video store boss referring to Au revoir les enfants as "that reservoir dogs movie." Tarantino simply liked the phrase, and it has no official meaning in regards to the film, which features zero real dogs (the only one we see is in a false recollection by Mr. Orange) and zero reservoirs. Unless you count it as a pun on "dam(n) sons of bitches".
World's Smallest Violin: Mr. Pink plays the world's smallest violin for underpaid waitresses during a debate about tipping.
Mr. Pink: Do you know what this is? This is the world's smallest violin playing just for the waitresses.