Study Guide

Reservoir Dogs Genre

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Drama, Heist, Mystery

Tarantino loves to admit that he's stolen from every movie ever made.

That's why Dogs seems to be a mashup of a number of different genres. Here are a few.


Is it surprising that a director famous for tons of violence and gore, creating the likes of Kill Bill and Inglorious Basterds, first came on the movie scene by writing a drama?

To be fair, Reservoir Dogs isn't your typical drama. There's no forbidden love or isolation or psychologizing about relationships, and there's a lot of shooting. What we do have are lies and betrayal and lots and lots of dialogue. There are characters working together and characters fighting among themselves, all trying to deal with an unexpected and highly disturbing event.

Maybe if we'd seen the robbery and escape, we'd be talking about it as an action flick, but Tarantino wanted to keep the focus on the aftermath, about what happens to the relationships among the characters in this nightmare situation.


Tarantino was a huge fan of the heist film. He taught us all something with Reservoir Dogs; you don't have to have a heist to have a heist movie. Well, you have to have a heist; you just don't have to show it.

This is actually kind of a heist film in reverse. Normally you've got the cliché flash-forwards, where a character is describing the "plan" but when they're describing it you are actually seeing it put into action (Ocean's Eleven). In Reservoir Dogs the heist has already happened, but as characters like Pink and Orange talk about what went down, we get pieces of it, putting it all together only after it's taken place.

There's also the fact that in 99% of heist movies the heist is successful, but in Reservoir Dogs it's an epic failure. Still, when you have a film where the protagonists are a group of criminals trying to steal some serious ice, you have a heist film.


This aspect of Reservoir Dogs may be a bit overlooked. There's no detective and no investigation, but that doesn't mean there isn't any mystery. Mystery is all about not knowing, and in Reservoir Dogs there are a lot of things we don't know. As Eddie puts it,

EDDIE: I don't know who did what! I don't know who's got the loot. I don't know if anybody's got the loot. I don't know who's dead, I don't know who's alive, I don't know who's caught, I don't know who's not!

As viewers, there's even more we don't know. Who are these guys? Why do they have silly names that are colors? What were they trying to do?

Then, once we piece most of these things together through dialogue and flashbacks, we get the big mystery: Who, if anyone, is the rat? Despite Eddie's insistence that there's no rat, Pink and White's description of the heist leads us to believe they were definitely set up…but who could it be?

Like Pink, we aren't ready to discount Joe or Eddie, and certainly not Pink or White themselves, but the big reveal comes out of nowhere. The person who got shot seems like the least likely person to be working with the police. So then another mystery emerges (how did Orange end up with a bullet in his belly?), with one mystery replacing another as the film progresses.

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