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Reservoir Dogs is the most important film of the 90’s

2 Mar
Reservoir Dogs (1992)

Reservoir Dogs (1992)


Let me start by saying, this is not a review about ‘Reservoir Dogs’. It’s more about my personal account on how ‘Reservoir Dogs’ affected me and the decade which I grew up in, which is the 90’s.  I’m pretty lucky to have seen ‘Reservoir Dogs’ when it first came out on the big screen, by accident.

I went to study in Perth, Australia when I was in my teen. Prior to that, I was studying in Singapore for a few years. Although, I’ve enjoyed my stay in Singapore, the place was starting to feel a bit claustrophobic. There’s so much sterile cleanliness, consumerism and civil obedience for a kid like me could barely cope.

Growing up in Perth is probably one of the best thing that could’ve happened to me because it helped me –for better or worse- to be the person that I am today. Growing up in a society that respects arts, free speech/expression and individuality does that to you but ultimately it still comes down to your choice. I knew some friends from Indonesia/Malaysia/Korea/Singapore who studied in Australia but never really made the effort to get to know the country and it’s people. They’re content in hanging around with their countrymen, eating the same food just like back home and generally just being typical polite overseas students proned to home sickness and listening to horrible pop music from their respected countries.

Not me though, I milked every experiences I had for whatever it’s worth. Especially films, TV, music and comic books and the many interesting individuals/places I’ve met from different countries/backgrounds.

At the end of school’s term break, I’d normally go to Sydney where my cousin used to live for a short holiday. He’d normally go to work for the whole day, so I’m happily cruising all over Sydney to kill time until we meet up for dinner. So there I was on George St, contemplating whether to see some crappy Hollywood movies or just aimlessly bumming around. Until I saw this photograph in front of an old movie theater:

 “What’s this? It  looks fucking cool!”

I did remember reading a short article on ‘Reservoir Dogs’ on some obscure indie film magazine and it had great review. So fuck it, let’s see it. It must’ve been 1993 so internet was still a piece of crap. There was no marketing hype, no twitter, no youtube, no facebook, no excited fanboys drooling over 30secs trailer and orgasming all over your face telling you it’s the greatest 30 secs of cinema they’ve ever seen and if you don’t see it, you will miss out on the greatest event in humanity’s history ( yeah you, fucking ‘The dark knight rises’ fanboys, that was a piece of shit btw).

So I went in, wanting to buy the ticket and I saw the R rated sign which means you have to be over 18 yrs old to see the film and I was 16 at the time. Oh crap. Should I continue onwards and be bold or admit defeat, act like a pussy and watch some horrible Mel Gibson movie across the street?

“Fuck no! live a little Joe.”

I walked to the counter and asked for a ticket. I Remember, the dude had a long blonde pony tail and looked like a cool artsy type who probably smoked great weed and probably also had a cool girlfriend. Since it was an old proper theatre that only played art films and probably subsidized by the government, so obviously, there wasn’t anybody around. The pony tail dude was cool enough to let me in and didn’t even ask for my ID.

I got that same rush the day I stole my dad’s Playboy from his closet.

Walked into the theatre, it was a beautiful huge old school theatre that’d shit all over today’s multiplex, and there were only four people inside. In front of me was a blonde dreadlock guy looking half asleep, probably friends with the pony tail dude or maybe he was his pot dealer and maybe the pony tail dude didn’t have enough money to pay for his weed so he let him in for free.

Thank you pony tail dude.

“Well if the film turns out bad, I could always leave.”

It turned out to be one of the greatest 99 minutes piece of cinema I’ve ever seen.

You see, up until that point, independet/art cinema didn’t mean much to me. The only art cinema that was cool to me up until that point was Jean Luc Godard’s ‘Breathless’ (which I later found out, is one of Tarantino’s fav film) which I saw on TV (thank you SBS, best channel ever). Granted I wasn’t able to watch much art films on SBS because I was staying in a boarding school at the time, so our TV viewing was very restricted. My knowledge of independent cinema was also very limited, I could only read about the ones on some rare indie film magazine  and most of the films I saw were really boring and just taking it self way too seriously and got lost in it’s own ass. It had no bite, was made for intellectuals/high art crowds so they could cleverly talk amongst themselves during dinner about some delightful French film they saw last weekend. In other words, it was boring as shit for a teenager like me.

But ‘Reservoir Dogs’ changed all that, it truly showed me that there were other cool type of films that had exciting story, gutsy, smart, fresh, different and funny as hell so ‘average’ people like me could like and root for and it didn’t need to have explosions every 5 minutes or big Hollywood stars or blockbusters hype or Mel Gibson’s mullet. It didn’t have to be a ‘high art’ about boring story of a couple who are arguing in the kitchen for forty minutes. Just great story and characters and some kick ass dialogues and some mean bursts of violence here and there to keep you engaged.

When in the opening scene the guys casually arguing over the meaning of Madonna’s song ‘Like a virgin’ whether it’s about love or because Madonna gets fucked by a dick so massive that it feels like being fucked for the first time and then they casually walk together in the parking lot in a jagged slow-mo effect, in cool black suits, white shirts and skinny ties. I knew I was watching greatness.

Watching ‘Reservoir Dogs’ is like watching cool bits of cinema and pop culture from every decade being mixed tape by Tarantino. Yeah of course everybody knows this now but back then? When there were only me and four other guys in the cinema? It’s like accidentally stumbling into a dingy bar and seeing Joy Division playing live to five people and you’re one of them.

Historical is the word I’m looking for.

And that ear cutting scene? I was literally cringing and turning my head in spasm mode like the time when my mom forced me to eat vegetables when I was a toddler and I fought valiantly to keep it off my mouth.

How about the final Mexican stand off? Where everybody shoots off at the same time?

“What was that? The fuck just happened??” yelled the the dreadlock guy, finally awake for the first time in six years.

My mouth was wide open.

Film’s finished, lights back on.

I was still stunned in my seat.

“The fuck just happened??” said the dreadlock guy in a confused state as we walked out.

Here’s my take on why ‘Reservoir Dogs’ is the most important film of the 90’s. It came at the same time when grunge exploded in the early 90’s  and single handedly destroyed poodle rock scene (Poison, Warrant, White Lion) to oblivion. It made music mattered again. Nirvana spearheaded a movement with ‘Nevermind’ and made music that was catchy, angry, complex and downright anthemic to capture the spirit of dissatisfied youth.  Overnight, the music landscape changed.

‘Reservoir Dogs’ has the same importance. It gave independent cinema a new blood. Tarantino helped to spearhead a new generation of indie filmmakers  bursting out into the scene and made films mattered again. Films that were exciting and personal and just didn’t give a fuck about establishment.

I was lucky to be caught in the middle of two great art movements.

Not long later, ‘Pulp Fiction’ was a big hit at Cannes film festival and won best film. The mainstream took notice. Anticipation was overwhelming. This time I watched it with my friends, we were still underage but didn’t give a toss, and somehow we got in.

This time the theatre was packed and the film killed the audience like I’ve never seen before.

People were laughing/screaming and going insane.

“What the fuck was that? What the fuck was that?” said a bewildered guy in his 40’s walking out of the cinema.

“I know exactly how you feel.”

Thank you pony tail dude.


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