Reservoir Dogs (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

While Lionsgate has had plenty of fun providing 4K upgrades for the most popular hits in their bargain bin collection, it’s nice to see the studio finally provide this proper 4K release for Quentin Tarantino’s debut film, Reservoir Dogs. An indie cult classic from the early 90s, here’s a film that’s oozed cool all the way through thanks to the combination of a fiery set of character actors led by the intense Harvey Keitel, and its sharp ear for dialogue filled with profanity and pop culture references that would define Tarantino for a good portion of his career. This new release delivers the best way to watch the film at home. While it may be light on extras, the rewatchability remains plenty intact.


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For those new to this hip crime thriller, the setup involves a jewelry heist gone wrong. Six criminals (Keitel, Tim Roth, Steve Buscemi, Michael Madsen, Eddie Bunker, and Tarantino) working for a mob boss (Lawrence Tierney) and his son (Chris Penn) are introduced as a team of professionals debating the finer things like the meaning of Madonna’s “Like a Virgin,” only for the audience to jump ahead in time and see how everything has become a bloody mess. Using a nonlinear structure, we jump back and forth between an aftermath set in an abandoned warehouse and some events that led up to the heist gone wrong.

The reliance on this structure does allow Reservoir Dogs to stand out. It’s not entirely original, as so much of what Tarantino has explored are ways of capturing the spirit and feel of movies and novels he’s seen and read throughout his life. Still, as an American gangster film, filled to the brim with quotable dialogue, it had an undeniable spark. Having to catch up with some aspects of the story is neat, as is how the different segments of the story do enough to reveal what’s needed about certain characters. Given how these guys speak (let alone the fact that they are criminals), developing empathy for those with a twisted sense of morality means gaining a further appreciation for fresh takes on anti-heroes.

Naturally, so much of my fondness for this film comes from the characters and their dialogue. Everyone has their favorites, and watching this film for the umpteenth time, it’s hard to say whether I’m still more inclined to prefer the motor-mouthed Mr. Pink (Buscemi) or the threatening yet low-key nature of Mr. Blonde (Madsen). Of course, plenty may have more to say about Keitel’s rage as Mr. White that comes from his nurturing nature towards Roth’s injured Mr. Orange. Regardless, the simplicity of only having to go by a colorful name and some character traits (ideas mined from films such as The Friends of Eddie Coyle and The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3) means latching onto what they’re saying, how they want to say it, and what it gets them in return.

That also allows for interesting balances in power. Early on, we watch these guys playing nice with each other while sitting at a diner. They trade quips and even smile. Midway into the movie, and their pulling guns on each other. We learn they are strangers to each other, so none of them are wise to who the other is for the sake of anonymity were they to be pinched by the cops. That leaves a gulf of understanding regarding how hard one should go at the other, let alone what to think when suspicions of a rat in the house grow in concern.

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As a director, Tarantino brings plenty of visual flourishes. Some are subtle, such as how the camera knows when to linger, when to follow, and when to drift off to another part of the room while something terrible is happening. Other moments play around with the low-budget nature of the film, using Los Angeles as a great resource when finding interesting imagery. Equipped with a proper filmmaking team, we get just the right amount of details regarding things such as costumes, the minor action bits, and what characters to suddenly present more of a backstory for.

Does it get hung up anywhere? When you watch a movie enough, the imperfections can stand out. Some moments where it feels like the actors get stuck on the dialogue begin to feel more awkward. The backstory for Mr. Orange feels like it goes on a lot longer than it should. Most notably, however, for all the effort to show off style and note how these characters should be seen as despicable, given how much stronger Tarantino became (off an already great directorial debut), there is a sense of feeling like the “cool factor” was priority number one in a way that hasn’t aged well when listening to this entirely white, male cast frequently drop the n-word and other racial epithets so casually.

Of course, so many other elements can smooth over a film with such a clear appeal in the realm of crime flicks with an attitude that feels unique unto itself. And not hurting at all – K-Billy’s Super Sounds of the 70s allow the film to glide on such a smooth groove throughout, whether it’s the way we now all associate “Stuck in the Middle with You” with a horrific scene of torture and dance, or like to think “Little Green Bag” is playing, anytime a cadre of friends are making their exit (and not for nothing, but “Hooked on a Feeling” is the song I know from this film, not Guardians of the Galaxy).

Reservoir Dogs remains iconic for many reasons. That’s all due to what Tarantino assembled on a reasonably low budget. As one of my favorite filmmakers, the level of consistency he’s achieved since is pretty astounding, making it odd that this incredibly entertaining and thrilling film ranks fairly low when looking at most of his filmography. But that matters little; Reservoir Dogs is a terrific entry in the crime genre and one of the best filmmaker debuts out there.



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Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Clarity/Detail: So, this is a real treat. As one who has owned many versions of Reservoir Dogs, it’s great to see the extra effort Lionsgate put into this release. It feels like more than just a standard upgrade. For a film so cheap compared to…I dunno, Dwayne Johnson’s Snitch, we get a real feel for the atmosphere originally developed for this film as a theatrical release. The warehouse feels colder, yet we can really see the detail in the environment. The little wrinkles and other imperfections in the character’s clothes and even their hair stand out. A pivotal scene set in a bathroom looks clearer than ever. You can see how this transfer stands out if you know this film well.

Depth: Depth is great. The character spacing registers as well as it needs to, which is helpful for a unique film such as this. Just look a the final standoff to see that pay off.

Black Levels: Some minor crushing in some spots, but for a film featuring characters primarily dressed in black, there’s a lot to admire about the final product.

Color Reproduction: The reds! There are a lot of splashes of color throughout, given some of the shirts and locations we see, but keep your eye on Mr. Orange’s blood-soaked clothes. There’s a lot of pop when we see him crumpled up on the floor. Also great – Nice Guy Eddie’s tracksuit.

Flesh Tones: Characters shot in closeup can be seen in their sweaty glory, notably Mr. White.

Noise/Artifacts: This is a clean-looking disc.



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Audio Format(s): English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD, Spanish 2.0 Dolby Audio

Subtitles: English, Spanish, English SDH

Dynamics: Given the sound design of this independent film, the Dolby TrueHD track does what’s needed to capture the primary elements heard in this film.

Low-Frequency Extension: There are a few bass-pumping moments regarding some soundtrack choices and bits, like when Mr. Pink gets nailed by a car.

Surround Sound Presentation: The surround is a little softer than expected, but nothing threatening to the audio presentation as a whole.

Dialogue Reproduction: Everyone is heard loud and clear, which is the most important element of a film like this.



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We are far away from the bounty of extras collected on that classic DVD release with the multiple slipcovers (remember all that?). Instead, it’s really just the basics here – a retrospective and some deleted scenes, all of which are only featured on the Blu-ray copy of the film.

Features Include:

  • Deleted Scenes (SD, 12:43)
  • Playing It Fast and Loose (HD, 15:43) – A retrospective featuring various talking heads. Fun but nothing new at this point.
  • Profiling the Reservoir Dogs (HD, 7:06) – A series of intros for the main characters.
  • Digital HD Copy of the film



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Reservoir Dogs remains a stunning debut. It’s hip, sharp, tense, and often very funny. Even if I feel Tarantino topped himself several times over, one can’t deny just how much he nailed it on his first time out. The 4K release is terrific, providing a proper transfer that allows the film to look better than ever. I wish there were more extras packaged in as well, especially given how much older the film is at this point (newer film fans may like getting more of the history), but that doesn’t stop this release from being as strong as it is. Time to get ramblin’.

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reservoir dogs

reservoir dogs


Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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