Letter: `Reservoir Dogs' may be violent but it has a moral code

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The Independent Online
THE judgement Tim de Lisle passes on Reservoir Dogs ("An unhealthy intimacy with violence", 11 June) is hardly surprising: the film is about LA gangsters trapped in a fatal situation, and "dislikeable characters, dispassionate violence, no fun" and strong language are not out of place in such a set-up. But given that Mr de Lisle has seen less than a third of the film, it is surprising that he feels qualified to claim that this "is not just another violent thriller" and should be restricted solely to cinemas.

He is right that it is different: the morality of loyalty and betrayal is dealt with far less superficially than in lesser action pictures (which have no trouble going straight to video).

Perhaps more importantly, the effects of violence are shown. Before he walked out, Mr de Lisle will have seen Mr Orange after he has been shot. Rather than the usual "bang-bang-you're-dead", he is shown to be in intense pain throughout the film - hardly an advertisement for violence or a life of crime.

The case of the two youths imprisoned for armed robbery after seeing the film is disturbing, but there is no reason to believe such cases would not take place without the influence of films; the chilling line that one of the boys is reported to have said ("Mum, you are dead, you bitch") has absolutely no parallel in Reservoir Dogs.

The on-screen violence may sometimes be "casual and callous"; its effects are anything but: the other characters are shocked by Mr Blonde's torturing of a policeman (although they are happy to knock him around a bit), and several of them entirely disown his actions even before the famous ear- slicing incident. Had Mr de Lisle stayed to see the film in its entirety, he would have seen the moral code which emerges by the end.

One paradox of the censorship debate is that films such as Reservoir Dogs become "cool" because of, not despite, the restrictions imposed upon them. If the film had been released to video straight away it would have no more playground credibility than any Scorcese film.

Ben Walters

London SW15