The Significance of Color in ‘Reservoir Dogs’

Quentin Tarantino is known for his symbolism and hidden meanings throughout each of his films. Particularly, in Reservoir Dogs he uses color for an abundance of reasons. It is a major motif in the film, first introduced as a device to keep each of the criminal’s real identities anonymous. Not only that but it is then used to drop hints at who the “rat” is but to also highlight each character’s personality traits and reveal more details about them.

Color is first introduced upon the first meeting of all the gang members where they discuss details of the impending heist. The importance of color is that no one can reveal their name, in case one gang member is arrested he can’t then bring the others down with him. It also means that after the heist then men can’t trace each other or seek vengeance on one another or their loved ones. Everyone is happy with their color except Mr Pink. He is offended and asks for a different color. This is due to the color being synonymous with femininity, however his character isn’t portrayed as feminine. Other than hiding during the final shootout, he is the most pragmatic of the group, the one that ends up surviving. So, the significance of his color illustrates his dispassionate nature and lack of care for the group. This is proved when he won’t take Mr Orange to hospital despite the character being near death.

A contrast is created within the color awarded to Vincent – Mr Blonde. Blonde is not classed as an actual color, the significance of this is that Mr Blonde is not like the other characters. He doesn’t want to follow their rules and when the heist takes place, he takes matters into his own hands. Mr Blonde is a psychopath, which is portrayed by Tarantino in the scene in which he severs the policeman’s ear off. Ironically, he is the character that Joe and Eddie trust the most so when Mr Orange lies about him, the truth of his identity becomes clear to other characters.

The color with the most significance in the film is orange. In one of the first scenes, after being given his name, the gang are in a restaurant. When Joe comes back from the bathroom, he discovers someone did not tip and questions this straight away. Before anyone can speak Mr Orange exposes Mr Pink straight away – the significance of this is that Tarantino is illustrating that Mr Orange cannot keep secrets and is happy to “tattle”. Not only that but when Mr Pink and Mr White are arguing about who the rat could be, they are in a room that contains white, pink and orange bottles; The orange bottles are isolated whereas the pink and white are together, this is a major hint from Tarantino that Mr Orange is not with them and is indeed the rat. Similarly, in another scene, behind the getaway car there is an orange balloon floating through the street. However, the biggest clue Tarantino gives us lies within the flashback scenes of Mr Orange’s life prior to the heist. We see the character in a room with all blue walls, he wears a completely blue outfit and when practicing his backstory there is a clear blue sky above him. The significance of this is that orange is opposite of blue on the color wheel thus showing that he is the opposite of his claims. Upon first meeting Joe and Eddie they are in a club and the dance floor lights alternate between orange and blue further foreshadowing his hidden identity.

Mr White, although a criminal is the “nice guy” out of the gang. The significance of his color is that he is honorable and like an ironic “white knight”. The main importance of Mr White’s color is revealed to us in one of the final scenes. Unbeknown to his character, Mr Orange is the rat and when Mr White tries to take care of him when he is wounded and dying he exposes his real name. This shows that Mr White believes he can trust him and believes that he has a friend in Mr Orange. His poor judgement also proves why he is the nice guy in the film as he chooses to see the good in someone who is out to expose the whole operation.

Color is highly significant for several reasons in the film. When the rat is revealed to the audience it makes us look back at all the clues and realize why Tarantino presented objects in certain ways. As the film goes on, we also come to terms we discover that each character was given a color by Tarantino not only to conceal their true identity but to also highlight character traits and contrasts. It is also used as a sign of trust and misjudgment towards the end of the film through Mr White and Mr Orange.