Reservoir Dogs stands as one of the more intriguing crime films ever made. The interesting narrative structure, a structure that established director Quentin Tarantino‘s preference for nonlinear storytelling, isn’t the only thing that draws audiences in. The compelling characters factor into the perennial growing cult following of the film.
The characters are brutal robbers, thugs, and murderers. Several characters completely lack sympathy. Producer Lawrence Bender probably worried about how audiences would react to such dark characters. The presence of a few humorous criminals did lighten up the proceedings. Although a relatively new producer at the time, Lawrence Bender probably understood the niche audience interested in this low-budget feature would be forgiving of certain unredeemable characters.
One of the more compelling and complex characters is Mr. Orange played by Tim Roth. What makes Mr. Orange captivating is his dual role. Mr. Orange isn’t a normal robber. He’s an undercover cop looking to score a big arrest. While he maintains his loyalty to the police force, he seems to be somewhat drawn into the world of crime. In a way, he sees the grizzled and experienced crook Mr. White as a friend and mentor. This creates an interesting dynamic between the two characters.
Mr. White doesn’t realize that Mr. Orange is a cop. This leads to Mr. White maintaining a loyalty to the officer until the brutal climax of the film. Long before the film ends, Mr. Orange’s accidental shooting of an innocent bystander takes him to the precipice of becoming a full-blown criminal.
Mr. Orange frequently comes off as a conflicted character. The audience doesn’t know how he will get himself out of the situation. Nor does the audience know if Mr. Orange will remain true to the letter of the law. All this keeps the viewer’s attention as the strange events of Reservoir Dogs play out.
Both Lawrence Bender and Quentin Tarantino can point to the box office receipts as proof audiences embraced the quirky characters. The $1.5 million feature earned $2.8 million in the United States and about $6 million in the United Kingdom during its initial release.
Lawrence Bender and Quentin Tarantino would go on and experience even greater success with Pulp Fiction.