Mr. Pink doesn't like his name. Mr. Pink also doesn't like to tip. Mr. Pink is kind of a weasel.
He's also a colorful, hyped-up guy. In the diner Eddie jokes, "Excuse me, Mr. Pink — the last f***ing thing you need's another cup of coffee" and we learn that Eddie's right when Mr. Pink gets into an animated rant about tipping. He says flat out that he doesn't believe in tipping, as if tipping were something that required belief in the first place, like some sort of religious ritual.
He says that he once worked a minimum wage job and never got any tips. He isn't one to bow to cultural expectations, which is probably why he's a criminal. He says he'd sign a petition or vote that the government should tax tips, but what he won't do is "play ball." He also says the waitresses should've learned to type. Maybe he's a bit harsh, but at least he does cough up a buck in the end.
"Professional" becomes Pink's catch phrase over the course of the film. Really, when it comes to being professional, we think that Pink is probably the best crook of them all. Just because he's a high-energy kind of guy doesn't mean he can't keep his cool. That's his definition of "professional."
He keeps his head during all the craziness in the abandoned funeral home and has the most rational explanation for what happened and what they need to do next. He knows they've been set up because it takes four minutes after an alarm goes off for the police to get anywhere; these cops showed up immediately so they must have been outside waiting.
He keeps telling White that they're crazy to stay in the funeral home. Not only does the rat know about the funeral home, but if Blonde or Blue were captured they could be "singing" about it. He says they should have their heads examined for even coming back to the funeral home, but at least he was smart enough to stash the diamonds beforehand. If only White would've taken him up on his offer, they could have grabbed the ice and bounced.
He also knows the ramifications of White's telling Orange where he's from, and why they can't possibly take Orange to the hospital.
PINK: I have one question for you. Do they have a sheet on you, where you're from?
PINK: Well, that's that, man. Jesus Christ, I was worried about mug shot possibilities as it was. Now he knows a), your name, b) what you look like, c) where you're from, and d) what your specialty is. They're not gonna have to show him a hell of a lot of pictures for him to pick you out.
Pink's also smart about who the insider could be. White's very willing to dismiss Orange, Joe, and at first Pink, until Pink says that White himself could be the rat. When White counters, "For all I know, you're the f***ing rat," Pink says,
"All right! Now you're using your f***ing head!"
He knows that anybody could be the rat. It seems even Joe and Eddie aren't smart enough to stay away from the funeral home. Who knows why they went in; maybe Joe was so angry with Orange that he wanted to shoot him himself. Pink seems to be the only one with a working flight instinct, which would've been more useful if he hadn't been held back by the others.
Pink's also the one who's constantly trying to keep the guys at the funeral home from blowing each other's brains out. That doesn't mean he's a sweetheart—he has no trouble brutally beating on Marvin—but he's trying to salvage what he can from the botched operation and keep any more guys from being shot.
Pink understands that everybody panics at some point in the middle of a job:
PINK: I mean, everybody panics. Everybody. Things get tense. It's human nature, you panic. I don't care what your name is. You can't help it. F***, man, you panic on the inside, in your head, you know? You give yourself a couple of seconds. You get ahold of the situation. You deal with it. What you don't do is start shooting up the place and start killing people.
We're guessing he probably had a few months of cognitive-behavioral therapy. Even at the very end, when Joe and Eddie and White are all aiming guns at one another, Pink tries to remind them, "We're supposed to be f***in' professionals." Unfortunately, no one except Pink is. That's probably why he's the only one left alive.
Pink had the brains to hide during the final standoff. If he'd pulled out his own piece, there's no doubt that he'd have been a victim, too. Unfortunately, Pink's great escape was a little too late. If you listen closely while the camera stays on Orange and White, we can hear Pink ordered to stop and eventually be shot at and cry out. At least one of them will be doing a little time.
Is it a coincidence that the oldest, most veteran man of the group gets the name Mr. White? His hair may not have gone too gray yet, but there's no doubt that he's the old man of the (surviving) group. White's the least amused guy at the diner. He isn't really feeling Brown's sexual interpretation of "Like a Virgin." When Blue asks, "How many dicks is that?" White says, "a lot" with a nice little eye roll thrown in for good measure. He's a grown-up.
White plays the role of a father or mentor to the younger Orange. We see this throughout the film, even in the diner scene where White and Orange are sitting next to each other and Orange at one point even has his hand on the back of White's chair, and vice versa. White's there with Eddie and Joe for Orange's bathroom story, and after the meeting, White and Orange sit in a car and talk about the plan. White gives him the rundown on how to handle uncooperative employees and customers. You can see the camaraderie in the scene.
We learn later that White shared some personal info about himself with Orange despite Joe's prohibition. He really chafes under this whole anonymity requirement. When he's with Pink in the abandoned funeral home, he wants to tell him his name. He wants to engage.
White shows a mind-blowing amount of compassion when Orange is shot. He holds his bloody hand and tries to calm him down and talk him through the pain. He even tells him his real first name:
PINK: What was telling him your name when you weren't supposed to?
WHITE: He asked. We had just gotten away from the cops. He just got shot. It was my fault he got shot. He's a f***ing bloody mess. He's screaming. I swear to God I thought he was gonna die then and there. I'm trying to comfort him, telling him not to worry, everything will be okay, I'm gonna take care of him. And he asked me what my name was. What was I supposed to do, tell him I'm sorry, I can't give out f***ing information? It's against the rules? I don't trust you enough? Maybe I should've but I couldn't.
Once White gets them to the funeral home, he carries Orange inside and lies down with him. He holds him, whispers to him, combs his hair, does just about everything he can. It's a very tender scene, a counterpoint to the horror all around them. At one point it almost looks like he's about to kiss his head.
During the entire time at the funeral home, he's pleading for someone to get Orange some medical attention. He won't leave Orange alone. He's relentless about it with Pink and later even with Eddie, who's got other stuff on his mind:
WHITE: What are you gonna do about him?
EDDIE: Jesus Christ. Give me a f***ing chance to breathe. I got a few questions of my own here.
WHITE: You ain't dying. He is.
EDDIE: All right, Mr. F***ing Compassion. I'll call somebody.
EDDIE: A f***ing snake charmer! What do you think? I'll call a doctor. He'll fix him right up.
Orange isn't the only one White worries about. Even though he's done his share of beating up Marvin, he doesn't want to leave him alone with Blonde.
WHITE: We can't leave these guys here with him.
EDDIE: Why not?
WHITE: 'Cause he's a f***ing psycho.
At the end of the film, White's feeling of responsibility for Orange's shooting morphs into a trust that Orange doesn't deserve. Joe's convinced Orange is the rat. White counters:
WHITE: Joe, Joe. I don't know what you think you know, but you're wrong.
JOE: Like hell I am.
WHITE: Joe, trust me on this. You've made a mistake. He's a good kid. I understand. You're hot. You're super f***ing pissed. We're all real emotional. But you're barking up the wrong tree. I know this man. He wouldn't do that
This trust in Orange's innocence is total, but it's White's undoing. He puts his life on the line for Orange. When Joe lifts his gun to shoot Orange, White pulls a gun on him and Eddie pulls his on White.
WHITE: Joe, you're making a terrible mistake. I'm not gonna let you make it.
PINK: Come on, guys. Nobody wants this. We're supposed to be f***ing professionals.
EDDIE: All right, look, it's been quite a long time, a lot of jobs. There's no need for this, man. Let's put our guns down and just settle this with a f***ing conversation.
WHITE: Joe, if you kill that man, you die next. I repeat: if you kill that man, you die next.
EDDIE: Larry, we have been friends, and you respect my dad and I respect you, but I will put f***ing bullets right through your heart. You put that f***ing gun down. Now.
Knowing what we know, this is a hugely dramatic and tragic moment. We're thinking, OMG, he doesn't know...
White goes down and even when he's mortally wounded, he crawls over to Orange and cradles his head. More OMG moments. When Orange finally admits he's a cop, White can't deal. He's sobbing, overwhelmed with anger and grief.
He shoves the gun in Orange's face and we have a few seconds to wonder whether he can bring himself to pull the trigger. With a boatload of cops with guns drawn ordering him to drop the weapon, he shoots Orange and gets blown out of the frame by gunfire.
Why this commitment to Orange? Sure he likes the kid, but he hardly knows him.
Maybe what White feels isn't trust but guilt—notice that he's the one who leads the shell-shocked Orange away from the dead Brown and dead cops. It's he who stops the car speeding towards them. White thinks, and even says to Pink,
WHITE: The bullet in his belly is my fault. Now, while that might not mean jack s*** to you, it means a hell of a lot to me.
White accuses Joe of not having any proof that Orange is a rat, but White himself has no proof that Orange is innocent. He lets his guilt feelings get in the way of his logic
What do we make of a cold-blooded lifelong criminal who manages to show compassion for a dying guy, and wants to get closer to his co-conspirators by revealing his name and other personal information? Who takes personal responsibility? He's a violent guy; he kills cops. Maybe not so cold-blooded? What gives?
Keitel told an interviewer that he never plays violent people; he plays conflicted people who have a need to use violence as a result of their conflict. That's the actor's take, though. Tarantino never gets into the psychology of his characters. He just shows us them being who they are and we try to figure them out.
Orange is a relatively young undercover cop who infiltrates a crime boss' planned jewelry heist. He gets tutored by one of his superiors and makes a pretty convincing criminal—he's just not convincing enough. The crime boss figures out he's the rat and it doesn't look good for our boy Orange. Even before that, he gets shot in the gut and spends most of the film bleeding out. He has two specialties: lying and dying.
Lie. That's literally all Orange does. Orange is the center of the big reveal—there's a rat in the house, and it's him.
The first set of lies involves what he needs to do to infiltrate the gang. We learn a lot about Orange from his extended flashback chapter. We learn that, while he's an undercover cop, he's not exactly what you (or Mr. Pink) would call a professional. We see him talking with his boy Holdaway in a diner and then practicing his lines on a rooftop. It doesn't look like he's done much of this kind of thing before.
What he is, apparently, is a good actor. With a little help from Long Beach Mike he lands the gig. His commode story ("commode" meaning "toilet," fyi) is so convincing that even we as viewers forget that it never actually happened. We visually see him walk in and start to think of him as Mr. Calm and Collected: a stone-faced cop pretending to be a stone-faced bad guy.
Really, though, none of that happened. It's all in his head… and now it's in Joe's head and our head. The way he pushes the button on the air dryer with such confidence, how he takes the time to make sure his hands are nice and dry, not even caring that at any moment he could be apprehended seems so real.
Orange lies until the very end. He makes up a story to explain why he shot Blonde—that Blonde said he'd kill Joe and Eddie and run off with the diamonds. Big mistake. Eddie knows how loyal Blonde was to his father. Orange's last lie: When Joe identifies him as the rat, he denies it all on his mother's eternal soul.
From Orange's perspective, all these lies are necessary for the greater good, which is to catch Joe Cabot and bust up his crime ring. After all, that's what undercover operations are all about: effective deception.
During all of the present action in the film, Orange is either bleeding in the car or bleeding on the abandoned funeral home floor. He never gets up (though he does try at one point). He does some whining and yelling and panicking and pleading when he's still conscious; he knows he's dying and he's not stoic about it. At one point he tries to pull it together:
ORANGE: I was panicking for a minute back there, but I got my senses back now. Situation is I'm shot in the belly. Without medical attention, I'm going to die.
Orange's position is actually worse than just that. Getting shot in the gut hurts, but what hurts more is the knowledge that help is just around the corner (literally) but still out of reach. He knows that at any moment the police could storm the funeral home, take everyone by force, and rush him to a hospital. He also knows that this is never going to happen.
The cops are there for Joe and Joe alone, none of these small fries like White and Pink. Marvin, the other cop, is distraught about losing an ear and being mutilated. Orange's situation doesn't allow for a whole lot of sympathy as he responds, "F*** you! I'm f***ing dying here! I'm f***ing dying!"
It's a revealing scene in Orange's apartment where he looks in the mirror before he goes to meet Joe. He closes the door with his finger in the same way we imagined himself turning on the air dryer. He looks in the mirror and tries to muster up as much confidence as possible.
ORANGE: Don't pussy out on me now. They don't know. They don't know s***. You're not going to get hurt. You're f***ing Baretta. They believe every f***ing word 'cause you're super cool.
He may tell himself that, but normally people who look in the mirror and say "you're super cool" are… not super cool.
While he's bleeding on the funeral home floor, Orange totally loses his cool. We can't blame him; he's scared to death. Like a little kid, he reaches out to White, who he now calls by name. He needs some human connection, and White provides it big time.
ORANGE: Larry… I'm so f***ing scared, man. Would you please hold me?
WHITE: Yeah, sure. It's all right. It's all right.
ORANGE: [moans in pain]
WHITE: You go ahead and be scared. You've been brave enough for one day. I just want you to relax now, okay? You're not going to f***ing die. You're gonna be fine. When Joe gets here, he'll make you 100% again.
ORANGE: I'm hurt. I'm hurt bad, Larry.
WHITE: It's not good. No.
ORANGE: Hey, Larry, bless your heart for what you're trying to do. I was panicking for a minute back there, but I got my senses back now. Situation is I'm shot in the belly. Without medical attention I'm gonna die.
It's been a bad day for Mr. Orange. Moral dilemmas abound. He watches some civilians and fellow cops get killed, as well as seeing Brown take a bullet to the head. He's shot in the gut by a carjacking victim and has to kill her to keep up his cover. He even sees that the woman had a car seat in her car; he killed a mother. He makes the mistake of asking for White's name, making it much more unlikely that White would take him to a hospital.
After all the compassion White's shown him, imagine what he must have felt lying on the floor knowing White's trust in him was hugely misplaced. Best-case scenario would be that White would do some serious time after the police burst in and arrested the robbers.
However, it gets worse. Orange has to lie there watching Larry put his life on the line to defend him from the accusations of being a rat. Maybe that's punishment enough for all those lies.
While Orange might have shot himself in the foot by asking White's name, he shoots himself in the head by confessing to White that he is a cop, a cop that White just defended with his life, and because of whose lies White just killed two close friends.
We never actually see Orange take a bullet to the head, but the timing of the shots (one, then a slight pause, followed by a barrage of shots that hit White) tells us that there's no other interpretation that makes sense. Orange, in what must have been a seriously intense bout of guilt, has to confess his true identity to the man who, in only a very short period of time, has become a father-like figure to him. It's really the only intimate relationship that the film develops.
Poor Orange; it's a tragic end.
Ever since that first diner scene, Eddie Cabot stands out. All the men are wearing suits and ties for the job, while Eddie is kicking it in his '80s jacket. Eddie's the son of the big boss Joe, so he doesn't get a name like the others and he's not going to be working "in the field" at all. Eddie's just a coordinator like his pops but he still hangs out as if he's one of the guys.
He jokes around at the diner, with Blonde in his father's office (he has quite the sense of humor), and in the car with White and Pink and Orange. He's sort of in charge of things but he doesn't have the responsibilities of his father, so he has plenty of time to debate the identity of different actresses and tell stories about Lady E. and crazy glue.
We don't know if Nice Guy Eddie is a descriptive or ironic nickname. We're sure Eddie is a real swell fellow if you catch him on a good day. Unfortunately, the day the robbery goes haywire is not a good day.
Eddie has some tough words for White and Pink when he gets to the abandoned funeral home. He yells at them for beating a cop:
EDDIE: If you f***ing beat this prick long enough, he'll tell you who started the goddamn Chicago fire. Now that don't necessarily make it f***ing so!
He also berates them for even suggesting there's a rat and especially for leaving all their cars parked outside like "Sam's hot car lot." He's clearly a sensible guy when it comes to crime.
When Eddie gets back from moving the cars, things start to really go down. His old friend, Vic Vega (Blonde), is dead and Eddie is not happy. Orange starts to tell the truth about what Blonde was going to do (and already did) to the cop. Eddie's response is to say, "this cop?" and shoot him three times in the chest.
Eddie doesn't mess around.
Then he gets all up in Orange's face (or as close as he can since Orange is lying in a pool of blood on the ground about ten feet in diameter). Tarantino doesn't use a whole lot of close-ups, but when Eddie starts getting angry we get super up close and personal; we can see the spit fly from his lips and his eyes start to bulge out of their sockets.
Eddie, like his father, is a man who values loyalty. He knows that Vic would never have done what Orange says. He also doesn't hesitate to take out an old friend when his own father's life is threatened. As much as he doesn't want to shoot White, Eddie can't stand somebody pointing a gun at his father, so when White shoots Joe, Eddie shoots back and everybody dies.
When we first meet Mr. Blonde, he comes across as one of the more sensible members of the group. When Mr. Brown is going off about how "Like a Virgin" is all about a woman who meets a man with a particularly large penis, Blonde says,
BLONDE: No, it ain't. It's about a girl who's very vulnerable. She's been f***ed over a few times and then she meets a guy who's very sensitive.
That sounds like a more accurate interpretation to us (and to Madonna; she told Tarantino it was about love, not sex). Anyway, we're starting to think that Blonde's a pretty sensitive guy himself, right?
Oh so wrong.
The other pre-heist scene we have with Blonde also makes him seem just like a regular down-to-earth guy. He's just done four years in prison and he's visiting Joe and Eddie and having some laughs and talking about life. He's basically like family to them, which explains why Eddie trusts him so much. If he was loyal when a simple name drop would've bought him four years of his life, it doesn't seem too likely he'd go crazy and mess up Joe's operation.
What do you make of a guy who's so loyal to his friends that he goes to jail rather than rat on them—and then turns around and doesn't give a thought to shooting a crowd of innocent people? Who casually tortures a cop? Is he just flat-out nuts, or does he have some kind of warped moral code we just don't get?
We know from Pink and White's conversation that Blonde went nuts and started shooting the civilians when the alarm went off at the jewelry store. We don't really know why, just that it happened and that it was "the most insane f***ing thing I have ever seen." Pink even says that, "I came this close to taking his ass out myself" and describes Blonde as a an unprofessional psychopath; you never know what a psychopath is going to do.
When we finally see Blonde, he needs no introduction. We've already heard about how crazy he is and now we get to witness his craziness first hand. Except… he doesn't really seem crazy at all. In fact, he's a really laid back, cool dude. He's so cool that during his escape he was not only able to take a cop hostage, but to hit up a drive-through and order some fries and a soda. When White starts yelling his lungs out at Blonde, he calmly responds, "Are you gonna bark all day little doggy, or are you gonna bite?" This guy is the definition of cool.
Until he loses it.
Then we get one of the most unfortunately memorable scenes of the movie. We know something's a little off when Blonde talks about why he started shooting civilians. He simply says that they set off the alarm when he told them not to and that they "deserve what they got." Seems a little extreme, but maybe that's what it takes to be a hardened criminal.
When the torture scene happens, however, we get a whole different picture. Blonde doesn't want information. He says, "It's amusing to me to torture a cop." Blond himself is pretty amusing in this scene. He grooves out to some '70s music, and pretends like torturing was the cop's idea, and like he hadn't even considered it until Marvin brought it up. He pretends like he's going to shoot him, then laughs, and… cuts his ear off.
Then he talks into the ear, and tells him not to go anywhere while he goes out for a minute.
If you think Blonde can't get any more demented, think again. He goes out to get gasoline, which he dumps all over Marvin before flicking his lighter.
This all isn't bothering Blonde one bit. If you had any doubts about Blonde's sanity, now you know that our first impression of him as a psychopath from White and Pink's conversation was completely accurate. The dude isn't misunderstood; he's seriously messed up, but still cool—no one said psychopaths can't be slickly dressed. He really rocks those aviators.
Joe is definitely the boss; he's like everyone's father. There's lots of tough love, but that's just because he has everyone's best interests at heart. He wants a successful diamond heist with no drama, so he's assembled this particular crew. He's obviously been in the business a long time, so he's got a large pool of contacts to select from. Joe may be a little forgetful when it comes to remembering names from an address book he hasn't seen in forever.
He's also the man with the plan, and the target of the undercover operation. The police are willing to risk the life of their undercover guy just to nail Joe. He's a major crime boss.
We get to see a human side of Joe every once in a while, just to remind us that this guy is a family man, a man who values community and loyalty. We hear him talking on the phone before Mr. Blonde walks in. The person he's talking to has apparently has fallen on tough times, but Joe isn't worried about the money he owes him. He tells the guy to take his time and keep his chin up. We also see him treat Vic Vega (Blonde) like family. He sends him a lot of packages in prison because Vic was willing to do four years and not squeal.
Of course, Joe's views on loyalty also can work in the other direction. When he finds out Orange is the rat, he wastes no time shooting Orange despite White pointing the gun at him. We like to imagine him thinking it's worth it on his way to the underworld.
To some extent, Joe's a mob-movie stereotype: the violent mobster with a heart of gold when it comes to friends and family, who thinks nothing of going out and blowing people's brains out after he makes dinner and tucks the kids into bed.
We don't really know much about Marvin Nash except his bad, bad luck. He tells Blonde that he's been on the force for only eight months and doesn't know anything about the heist. He also tells him he has a little kid at home.
We don't know how long he's actually been on the force and whether or not he's a father, but the whole "not knowing anything" is definitely a lie. He admits to Freddie (Orange) that he knows he's a cop; in fact, they've even been introduced although Freddie doesn't remember him.
However, it doesn't really matter; everything Marvin says is futile because he's totally helpless, thrown in a trunk or tied to a chair and beaten within an inch of his life. Even when Blonde's killed, the only difference it makes to Marvin is that he's shot to death instead of burned to death (which is admittedly an improvement, but still).
With the cops just sitting on their haunches a mere block away as they wait for Joe, both Marvin and Freddie have to endure the terror for the greater good of catching a crime boss. At least he doesn't have to worry about being disfigured for life anymore.
Holdaway's an experienced guy when it comes to undercover work. He's assigned to mentor Orange (Freddie) through the process of infiltrating Joe Cabot's gang. He definitely has some attitude and he tries to impart it to Freddie through the commode story. He lets Freddie know that he's got to be a good actor to pull this off, like Marlon Brando.
Whether or not Holdaway wrote the bathroom story himself, he certainly seems to know what he's talking about when it comes to impersonating a marijuana-dealing thug. With his guidance and a little help from everyone's favorite snitch Longbeach Mike (we're still waiting for the spinoff TV show), Freddie's able to get the job that he'll really regret in a few days.
Sometimes people need to die. If everything goes haywire at the heist with "seventeen blue boys" just outside and Mr. Blonde going crazy on the civilians, it wouldn't really make sense for everyone to make it out alive. The job of dying for the sake of plot credibility falls to Mr. Blue and Mr. Brown, who eat it before they really get to say a whole lot.
In fact, rumor has it that Tarantino wanted to play Mr. Pink but then relegated himself to a smaller role when Buscemi applied for the part. It was only later that he wrote the diner scene so that Mr. Blue and Mr. Brown (mostly Mr. Brown) would actually get a few lines (and most importantly get to say "dick" a lot).