Ever notice that every blockbuster movie has the same fundamental pieces? A hero, a journey, some conflicts to muck it all up, a reward, and the hero returning home and everybody applauding his or her swag? Yeah, scholar Joseph Campbell noticed first—in 1949. He wrote The Hero with a Thousand Faces, in which he outlined the 17 stages of a mythological hero's journey.
About half a century later, Christopher Vogler condensed those stages down to 12 in an attempt to show Hollywood how every story ever written should—and, uh, does—follow Campbell's pattern. We're working with those 12 stages, so take a look. (P.S. Want more? We have an entire Online Course devoted to the hero's journey.)
It's hard to find much of a hero's journey in Reservoir Dogs. Nobody here is a hero.
But, if we focus on Orange, we can piece together his adventure stage by stage. It starts in his apartment. All we really get about his ordinary world are bits and pieces of who he is; little details like the superhero action figures to show he's just your average dude, not some super spy infiltrating a top secret crime organization.
Call To Adventure
There isn't one. Orange is a cop. He has an in with Longbeach Mike. Not much more to it.
Refusal Of The Call
"I gotta memorize this? It's over four f***ing pages…"
Yeah, Orange isn't too hot on the whole commode story thing. He isn't buying it at first, but eventually he gives it a try.
Meeting The Mentor
The identity of Orange's mentor is up for debate. The easy answer is to say Holdaway. He teaches Orange how to be cool and how to use a funny, fictional experience to gain a crook's confidence.
On the other hand, White is almost like a father to the poor dying Orange through most of the movie. Unfortunately, their meeting in the bar is entirely built around Orange's lie.
Crossing The Threshold
Orange crossing the threshold is the commode story he tells White, Eddie, and Joe. This is his big moment, the last push he needs to get through to the other side of the law. It's in this moment we find out what Orange is made of. His story is so real we can see it…and so can Joe.
Orange has the cool to go undercover.
Tests, Allies, Enemies
Okay, the diner scene may not seem like much of a test, but this is where Orange is making allies with enemies. This scene and the name assignment meeting we see much later are all the tests Orange gets before things get ugly.
Approach To The Inmost Cave
We never get to see this calm before the storm…because we don't see the storm itself.
We also never see the ordeal—but we know what goes down. Blonde starts shooting up the place and the team scatters. During the escape, Orange is shot by a woman who's car he and White are taking.
Orange is starting to die. So much for the hero's triumph.
Reward (Seizing The Sword)
The reward isn't yet in sight for Orange. He was supposed to be the hero and capture the baddies, but now he's stuck in a warehouse with them, slowly bleeding out.
The Road Back
The road back is a bumpy one for Orange, and it mostly involves lying on the ground and focusing on not dying. Orange pleads for a doctor but knows he won't get one. He's in it for the long haul.
This is the moment Orange shoots Blonde (who's about to kill Martin). Orange has finally had enough. He can no longer participate in the violence of the criminals and must stand up for Martin, possibly exposing himself and ultimately causing the chaotic standoff that ends the film.
Return With The Elixir
Orange's elixir is his integrity. Orange has been lying (both figuratively and literally) to White and crew the entire movie. As both of them are bleeding in each other's arms, Orange finally reveals to White that he was the rat, something which the morality within the film dictated he must do.