Synopsis: A botched robbery indicates a police informant, and the pressure mounts in the aftermath at a warehouse. Crime begets violence as the survivors -- veteran Mr. White, newcomer Mr. Orange, psychopathic parolee Mr. Blonde, bickering weasel Mr. Pink and Nice Guy Eddie -- unravel.
I recently purchased the 4K Steelbook from Best Buy of this film. The slipcover and steelbook really are a great and unique cover: An amazing 4k transfer and this review is my watch of this new 4k release not the theatrical experience from back in 1990s or the dozens of watches on VHS, SACD, DVD or Blu-ray.
This film truly was an indie darling after premiering at Sundance Film Festival in 1992 and the distribution rights were purchased by Miramax and this film landed Quentin Tarantino as an anchor of modern independent film scene. This film changed how this budding cinephile thought about film, and really established a baseline for what “cinema” could be, and the film I definitely compared all future films to for a decade. I still have a huge amount of affection for this film, it triggers so much nostalgia for me from the dialogue (most of which is truly inappropriate or just unacceptable today), the sense of time and the life I was living when my group of friends watched this likely weekly in the 1990s.
This review won’t waste time on discussing Quentin’s genius, his powerful script and his cinephile’s love of cinema inspired direction. We should also acknowledge two people that don’t get enough acknowledgement for their role on this film and what really bring’s Quentin’s vision to life. First, the cinematographer Andrzej Sekula who shot this gritty and beautiful film and this was his first feature length film. Andrzej has gone on to be a unique and defining cinematographer / director of photography that was behind a lot of films you probably have a lot of feelings about including: Hackers,Pulp Fiction, and American Psycho. The second person we should acknowledge is the casting director, Ronnie Yeskel whose ability to cast this truly amazing ensemble to flesh out the characters from the Quentin’s script to breathe life and embody these complicated men.
Let’s get to the cast, starting with Mr. White played by Harvey Keitel, a hardened, battle-tested thief and tough guy that has a heart that leads the the squad’s downfall. Next up is Mr. Orange, inhabited by Tim Roth, the undercover cop that befriends Mr. White and is shot in the getaway from the job. He spends about 50% of the film lying in a pool of his own blood, only to spring to action to take out Mr. Blonde. Speaking of Mr. Blonde, we have Michael Madsen playing the cool, cold, unflinching killer that has one of the most impactful scenes in not only this film but 90s cinema-at-large. There is Nice Guy Eddie, Blonde’s close friend and the son of Joe the boss of this caper played by Chris Penn, who has the ability to go from quiet to explosion, and Quentin uses this ability perfectly. Lawrence Tierney plays the stoic, carved out of stone visage of a mob boss, Joe Cabot and then there is Mr. Pink, played by Steve Buscemi. Buscemi might be the MVP of this stellar cast, being both the comedic, frenetic clown and the level-headed truth-speaker that starts to let the audience in on what happened off camera. A final call out is to Kirk Baltz who plays the rookie cop that Mr. Blonde captures, tortures and provides the audience the reminder that no matter how “cool” Mr. Blonde is he is a stone cold killer.
This version of the film is a huge upgrade over the blu-ray released 15 years ago, that felt like less of a blu-ray and more of an upscaled DVD, without bringing much clarity and rich detail to the home viewing experience. Also this new 4k has a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track that is a lossless audio format with true surround sound, the blu-ray had a compressed DTS-HD HR 6.1 track. I was in the bag for this release, and knew I needed it in my collection for nostalgia reasons, but I don’t feel like this film has ever looked or sounded better in a home viewing environment. I can’t recommend this version any higher, and I think it is still a film that should be seen and discussed for all budding cinephiles to see where Quentin came from and the DNA of all his script writing, directing and film making are on display and should be celebrated as a visionary auteur teaching fans how to think about dialogue, scene composition and action through the lens of his movie store film school obsessions. There are homages to films from an eclectic batch of international directors like Akira Kurosawa and the multiple perspective storytelling that is inspired by Rashomon. Next would have to be Sergio Corbucci gritty spaghetti western Django that also sees a man getting his ear cut off, and then in that same scene we can see the influence of Stanley Kubrick and A Clockwork Orange as Mr. Blonde perpetrates violence while dancing to an upbeat tune. There is no more obvious homage then the final sequence of the standoff from Ringo Lam’s City on Fire. I can’t tell you that you have to buy this film but I will remind you that Joe told us all, Let’s Go To Work!