Study Guide

Reservoir Dogs Violence

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MR. BROWN: Okay. Let me tell you what Like a Virgin's about. It's all about this cooz who's a regular f*** machine. I'm talking morning, day, night, afternoon—dick, dick, dick, dick, dick, dick, dick, dick, dick.

MR. BLUE: How many dicks is that?

MR. WHITE: A lot.

MR. BROWN: Then one day she meets this John Holmes motherf***er, and it's like, whoa, baby. This cat is like Charles Bronson in the great escape. He's digging tunnels. She's getting this serious dick action and feeling something she ain't felt since forever—pain. Pain. It hurts. It hurts her. It shouldn't hurt her. Her pussy should be bubblegum by now, but when this cat f***s her, it hurts. It hurts just like it did the first time. You see, the pain is reminding a f*** machine what it was like to be a virgin. Hence: Like a Virgin.

Well, this is certainly one interpretation, and a kind of violent one at that. Brown takes a nice song about a down and out girl who meets a sensitive guy (or however Blonde puts it) and turns it into a song about pain. Tarantino took the role of Mr. Brown for himself; it's interesting that he's got some of the most violently misogynistic lines in the film. The diner scene shows how violent imagery and words are the common language of this criminal crowd.

MR. WHITE: You almost killed me! Asshole! If I'd known what kind of guy you were, I never would've agreed to work with you.

MR. BLONDE: Are you going to bark all day, little doggie, or are you going to bite?

MR. WHITE: What was that? I'm sorry. I didn't catch it. Would you repeat it?

MR. BLONDE: Are you going to bark all day, little doggie, or are you going to bite?

MR. PINK: Oh, Christ. Look, you two assholes, calm the f*** down. Hey, come on, back off! What, we in a playground here? Am I the only professional? F***ing guys are acting like a bunch of f***ing n*****s, man—you work with n*****s huh?—just like you two, always saying they're gonna kill each other.

White implies that Blonde is violent by nature and therefore can never be trusted. Pink, however, is a "professional." He can kill when the situation requires it, but he's in control... albeit disgustingly racist. White challenges us most, because we see him be compassionate and attentive to the dying Orange while killing cops and beating up on the helpless hostage. Pink and White seem to know the meaning of "gratuitous" violence. Tarantino got slammed for the use of racist language in this scene.

PINK: You kill anybody?

WHITE: A few cops.

PINK: No real people?

WHITE: Just cops.

Killing a cop will probably get you more prison time than killing an innocent bystander—it's considered a particularly heinous thing to do. However, these guys have some kind of twisted honor code that seems to make cops fair game if they're trying to bust you or kill you, while killing "real people" is something to avoid if possible. This is why they consider Blonde to be a real sicko; he doesn't make that distinction.

PINK: Man, could you believe Mr. Blonde?

WHITE: That was the most insane f***ing thing I have ever seen. Why the f*** would Joe hire a guy like that?

PINK: I don't wanna kill anybody. But if I gotta get out that door, and you're standing in my way, one way or another, you're getting out of my way.

WHITE: That's the way I look at it. The choice between doing ten years and taking out some stupid motherf***er ain't no choice at all. But I ain't no madman either.

Pink and White are really clear that sometimes you just have to kill somebody to avoid getting caught or going to prison. They think that's justified, unlike Blonde's "insane" shooting spree. That's some psychopathic thinking, but even they can see the difference between themselves and someone like Blonde. Notice that White calls a potential victim a "stupid motherf***er." That's one way to make it easier to kill someone—dehumanize them.

MR. BLONDE: Look, kid, I'm not going to bulls*** you, okay? I don't really give a good f*** what you know or don't know. But I'm going to torture you anyway... regardless. Not to get information. It's amusing to me to torture a cop. You can say anything you want 'cause I've heard it all before. All you can do is pray for a quick death... which... you ain't going to get.

When you think Reservoir Dogs and violence, you think about this torture scene. Tarantino said that a lot of people walked out of the theater at this point. Even some of the actors found it hard to watch, even though the camera pans away from the actual mutilation. As Tarantino (and many directors) know, what happens off-screen can be scarier than what happens on-screen. The scene suggests that Blonde's violence is inherent in his personality. It's too over-the-top to be seen purely as a result of a particular situation. If he wants to kill Marvin, he can just shoot him and be done with it, but he enjoys seeing him suffer and beg. Sick.

MR. BROWN: Jesus. I got blood everywhere - I'm f***ing blind.

MR. ORANGE: You're not blind, you just got blood in your eyes, all right?

MR. WHITE: Is he dead? Did he die or not? Let's go. [They quickly walk away. Mr. White stops a car] Hold it! Hold it! Right there! Get out of the f***ing car! [the woman in the car shoots Orange in the stomach. Orange shoots her back in the chest, presumably killing her.]

No one was supposed to get hurt; of course the whole job wasn't supposed to be a set-up either. The shock here is that the cop kills a woman just to keep up his cover. He's been drawn into the bloodbath; it's a situation-evoked violence. Despite all the shocking violent scenes, the sight of Orange bleeding, begging, and moaning throughout the film is as disturbing as anything else. Lots of people die in violent movies, but most of them die pretty quickly. This is as slow and realistically agonizing as it gets.

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