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Violence as a Major Theme in Reservoir Dogs

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Violence in the media does not always make people violent. Violent films alone do not make people violent, but the combined effects of violent media exposure along with other serious risk factors that could potentially create a violent or aggressive person. Films like Reservoir Dogs and Total Recall are films that depict killing and a lot of blood.

Violence is a major theme in Reservoir Dogs, as it is in most of Quentin Tarantino films. The movie revolves around a group of gangsters who go by colorful names that try to regroup and figure out who the rat is in the group after they fail at an armed robbery. People are killed, shot, and tortured in some shocking scenes. These characters only know violence.

In 1990, Total Recall gave audiences so much graphic sci-fi violence, gore, and action. The many fight scenes in includes shooting, punching, slicing, kicking, breaking bones, and squirting blood; even the women in the film fight, shoot, and kill each other. Total Recall revolves around Douglas Quaid’s, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, experience the thrill of Mar’s without traveling to the planet. However, the procedure goes wrong, and Quaid comes to find that his life is not what it seems; it is merely a fictional reality and the people responsible for implanting the fake reality are after him.

Nearly all aspects of the entertainment media revolve around violence, making it widespread and very often praised. Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs was his first film that launched his successful, well-known career as the independent filmmaker who makes violent, blood-filled films. Critics received his debut feature film with confusion and some disgust, but audiences were quick to love the film. Tarantino’s film created a different cinematic experience and raised the bar. Audiences would agree that considering all the blood and shots fired, the most difficult scene to sit through is when the sadistic Mr. Blonde kidnaps an officer and begins to play a sick game with him. Although the action itself is not shown on screen, the shot of the razor he whips out makes it very clear that he slices the officer’s ear off. All while he dances along to Does this film glorify murderous and violent behavior? Tarantino’s films may be the bloodiest of films, but “that doesn’t entirely mean he makes his films as a call to violence or a glorification of it”.

Unlike other gangster movies, the characters in this film are not suave, smooth criminals. They’re messy ‘losers’ that can’t get their crime right. In the opening scene of the film, the characters discuss the true meaning on Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” as supposed to talking about a fancy outlaw life. This is not an accident. The dialogue in Reservoir Dogs was chosen so the audience knows that the “Dogs” have teenage boy values; they value sex and violence. The way the film unravels gives the viewers the idea that the story is being retold by someone on the inside who maybe has ADHD and constantly goes back to recount parts of the story he forgot. The story unfolds “in a 1, 3, 7, 2, 4 – sequence”, again giving off the feeling that an ordinary person, a friend even, is telling the story. Like mentioned earlier, this may be a bloody movie, but Tarantino is merely “making a mockery of acts that happen in the real world encouraged by insecure minds”. In other words, if Tarantino was trying to glorify the gangster lifestyle, he would not have made the film about a group of men who can’t steal a few diamonds without everything going south.

Before getting into what happens to our brains when we watch violent films, let’s talk a little bit about the brain. First, the part of the brain responsible for “concentration, decision making, self-control and inhibition” is the prefrontal cortex. The amygdala is the part of the brain that serves many “emotional functions, but can be the trigger for depression, aggression, and impulsive behavior”. Dr. Dale Archer wrote an article for Psychology Today explaining how the media violence could adversely affect the human brain. “A study by the Indiana University of Medicine examined young men and violent media exposure”. They were assigned to play a violent video game for a week. In that week, visible alteration was found in their MRI brain scans. “In particular, there was a significant decrease in the activation of prefrontal portions of the brain and a greater activation of the amygdala,” Dr. Archer said.

According to Dr. Archer, this is perhaps the first study that actually showed differences in the people that play violent video games as opposed to people who don’t. Other studies show that people who watched non-violent films and then watched very violent films could have an increase in hostile behavior. “Children who watch violent films are more likely to perceive the world as a scary place” to live in that is filled with harsh cruelty and malice. However, these studies do not necessarily mean that there is a direct connection with violent media making people aggressive. If this were true, there would be thousands of aggressive, violent young people. Although, the University of Alabama’s study, which obtained related results, concluded “with a caution for parents that children who are immature and/or aggressive already should not have access to violent films”.

Like the critics who were not fans of Reservoir Dogs, to some the film may seem like just a fantasy for people who have an interest for all things bloody and gory. However, these films are not made to glorify the violence that occurs in the film. People should not be quick to write off films like Reservoir Dogs in fear that they, or the people they watch movies with will become violent. It is important to remember that if a person is not usually violent, they won’t become aggressive after watching violent movies; films alone are not to blame for violence in our society. 

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Violence As A Major Theme In Reservoir Dogs. (2021, August 06). GradesFixer. Retrieved October 20, 2021, from
“Violence As A Major Theme In Reservoir Dogs.” GradesFixer, 06 Aug. 2021,
Violence As A Major Theme In Reservoir Dogs. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 20 Oct. 2021].
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