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Films

Decoding the opening scene of Quentin Tarantino's 'Reservoir Dogs'

Reservoir Dogs the outstanding debut movie from Quentin Tarantino is now available to stream on Netflix and with that wonderful news ringing in our ears, we thought it was about time we dissected one of its most iconic shots.

Thanks to being one of the most influential filmmakers of contemporary cinema, with his frenetic flair, stylish flourish and taste for pulpy violence thrilling audiences worldwide, Quentin Tarantino is responsible for some truly iconic shots. Whilst films like Django Unchained, The Hateful Eight and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood are known for their dazzling cinematography, for this story behind the shot, we’re going back to the very start of Tarantino’s career, with 1992’s Reservoir Dogs.

Radiating the same flair and enthusiasm that would later make him a household name, Tarantino made his debut with all the pent-up enthusiasm of a 28-year-old cinephile whose chance to impress had finally arrived. Incorporating many motifs that have since become hallmarks of Tarantino, the film is laden with crime, pop-culture references, eccentric characters and the use of nonlinear storytelling that has long set the filmmaker apart from his peers. 

Telling the story of a simple jewellery heist that goes disastrously wrong, Miramax gave the director a generous cast, including notable genre stars Tim Roth, Chris Penn, Harvey Keitel, Steve Buscemi and Michael Madsen for Tarantino to be able to carry out his ambitious debut. The result was impressive, to say the least, with the director snatching critical and commercial attention for his staggering independent release. 

Over 30 years later, the film remains a seminal piece of ’90s filmmaking, with several scenes going on to confirm Tarantino’s status as one of the greatest living filmmakers. One such scene was the dazzling opening sequence, where the team of criminals and soon-to-be robbers walk stylishly down the street suited and booted, whilst ‘Little Green Bag’ by George Baker Selection plays over the credits. 

“One of the things I do when I am starting a movie, when I’m writing a movie or when I have an idea for a film is, I go through my record collection and just start playing songs, trying to find the personality of the movie, find the spirit of the movie,” the director explained, revealing the importance of music in his movies. Continuing, he adds, “To me, the opening credits are very important because that’s the only mood time that most movies give themselves”. 

Running on a loop in the minds of almost each and every excitable teenage boy in the ’90s, the introductory scene acted as the perfect announcement of Tarantino’s arrival, forecasting his future style whilst establishing his passion for the history of cinema. Indeed, much like most of his movies, this scene too is a mosaic of cinematic tributes as Tarantino doffs his figurative cap to the likes of John Woo, Sam Peckinpah and Stanley Kubrick

‘The Power Walk’ itself, as it is known in cinematic circles, might have been popularised by Tarantino in his Reservoir Dogs introduction, but many filmmakers have used similar machismo struts throughout 20th-century cinema. Examples appear way back in the 1960s when Lewis Milestone’s Ocean’s Eleven showed a similar band of crooks expressing their style, whilst Sam Peckinpah utilised a similar shot for his western action flick The Wild Bunch in 1969. 

Perhaps the most obvious inspiration came from Kubrick’s 1971 movie A Clockwork Orange, with Tarantino taking creative liberties during the moment when Alex and his Droogs are walking down the marina in slow-motion. A vocal fan of the film, which he calls: “about as poppy and visceral and perfect a piece of cinematic moviemaking as I think had ever been done up until that time,” Tarantino paid homage to Kubrick in his opening scene and added to the cinematic trend of the ‘Power Walk’. 

Tarantino’s very first cinematic statement during the opening of Reservoir Dogs was a fateful one, creating a post-modern version of one of cinema’s quietest trends, igniting its prominence as a result. These days, the ‘Power Walk’ is more of a cliché, appearing in numerous spoof movies and eye-rolling scenes of irony, but every trope starts off as a great idea. 

Watch Reservoir Dogs on Netflix now.