Reservoir Dogs

Comprehensive Storyform

The following analysis reveals a comprehensive look at the Storyform for Reservoir Dogs. Unlike most of the analysis found here—which simply lists the unique individual story appreciations—this in-depth study details the actual encoding for each structural item. This also means it has been incorporated into the Dramatica Story Expert application itself as an easily referenced contextual example.

Story Dynamics

8 of the 12 essential questions

Steadfast
Main Character Resolve

Mr. White refuses to believe that Mr. Orange is the “rat,” even when all evidence points to him.  When Mr. Orange confesses to him, he is anguished over the betrayal but remains true to his criminal nature and shoots him, at the cost of his own life.

Stop
Main Character Growth

Mr. White must stop believing his own (faulty) instincts.

Do-er
Main Character Approach

When the cops close in on Mr. White, he empties both guns into them rather than figuring a way to escape the conflict.  He pulls his gun on Mr. Blond instead of arguing with him.  He forces a shoot-out with Joe and Mr. Nice rather than re-evaluate his beliefs about Mr. Orange.

Linear
Main Character Mental Sex

When Mr. White is confronted with a problem, his solution is to pull out his gun and eliminate the cause.  He comforts the injured Mr. Orange by telling him not to worry, “it takes days to bleed to death” from gunshots to the stomach.

Decision
Story Driver

Joe decides to form a gang to pull the heist; Mr. Orange chooses to go undercover; Mr. Nice allows Mr. Blond to stay in the warehouse with the kidnapped cop.  At film’s end, Mr. Orange decides to confess to Mr. White, who decides to kill him rather than giving himself up to the police.

Optionlock
Story Limit

Although Mr. Pink wants to go to a motel and Mr. Orange wants to be dropped off at a hospital, the robbers must wait at the warehouse for the arrival of their boss, Joe.  In the search for the informant, various members of the group are eliminated as suspects; when Joe arrives, he narrows it down to one—Mr. Orange—and forces a showdown.

Failure
Story Outcome

The robbers fail to escape with the diamonds; the undercover cop has apprehended the gang but is finished off when he identifies himself as the “rat.”  Everyone dies a violent death.

Bad
Story Judgment

Mr. White defends Mr. Orange’s honor and his life in a three-way shoot-out with his colleagues.  He suffers intense anguish when he learns Mr. Orange betrayed him; in killing Mr. Orange, he seals his own fate.

Overall Story Throughline

""Uncovering the Rat""

Physics
Overall Story Throughline

The story in Reservoir Dogs revolves around a jewelry heist.  When the robbery is bungled, the “colored men” endeavor to find out who the “rat” is.

Obtaining
Overall Story Concern

The robbers want their cut of the diamond heist and to escape capture by the police; the undercover cop, Mr. Orange, wants to apprehend the criminals and recover the loot.

Self-Interest
Overall Story Issue

Each of the robbers is out for themselves.  As Mr. Pink says to Mr. White, “I don’t want to know your name.”  Mr. Pink talks about himself incessantly, and feels it’s safer for him to leave the warehouse and go to a motel.  The robbers gun down anybody who impedes their escape, whether they be police officers, an innocent motorist, or employees who ring the alarm.

Morality
Overall Story Counterpoint


Overall Story Thematic Conflict
Self-Interest vs.Morality


Pursuit
Overall Story Problem

The robbers are pursuing the identity of the “rat.”  The cops are pursuing the robbers.

Avoid
Overall Story Solution

Avoiding the cops and their informant will allow the robbers to escape; avoiding discovery by the robbers will keep Mr. Orange’s plan to capture them on target.

Control
Overall Story Symptom

Despite the fact they have bungled the heist, the robbers remain true to Joe’s plan and meet at the warehouse to wait for him.  Under torturous conditions, the uniformed cop exercises self-control and refuses to divulge the identity of Mr. Orange.

Uncontrolled
Overall Story Response

Mr. Blond runs amok at the site of the heist and again at the warehouse; Mr. Pink’s instincts are not to wait for Joe but rather to hightail it to a motel; against explicit orders, Mr. White gives his real name to Mr. Orange.

Morality
Overall Story Catalyst

After Mr. Orange kills Mr. Blond to protect the uniformed cop, he has trouble justifying his action to the other robbers and becomes the main suspect as the “rat.”

Preconception
Overall Story Inhibitor

Because of Joe’s rigorous screening process, it takes awhile for the robbers to accept that one of them is a “rat.”

Understanding
Overall Story Benchmark

The robbers struggle to understand who the “rat” is and how much the cops know.  To infiltrate the gang, Mr. Orange must understand their methods and appreciate their belief in honor amongst thieves.

Additional Overall Story Information →

Main Character Throughline

Mr. White — Criminal

Universe
Main Character Throughline

Mr. White is in a situation, caught between the group he belongs to and the individual with whom he has become attached.  As the song says, “I’m stuck here in the middle with you.”

Future
Main Character Concern

Mr. White is concerned with not going to jail.

Preconception
Main Character Issue

Mr. White holds onto his positive evaluation of Mr. Orange, and refuses to listen to his colleagues’ logical argument that he is the “rat.”

Openness
Main Character Counterpoint


Main Character Thematic Conflict
Preconception vs.Openness


Help
Main Character Problem

Mr. White’s responsibility to help the injured Mr. Orange pits him against his colleagues.  He inadvertently helps Mr. Orange’s endeavor as an undercover cop by killing his colleagues, but is distraught when he learns he has helped the cops effect his own downfall.

Hinder
Main Character Solution

In order to avoid jail, Mr. White should be hindering the “rat,” not helping him.

Control
Main Character Symptom

In the restaurant, Mr. White takes the address book from Joe and tries to impose conditions for its return.  He also tries to take control of the situation in the warehouse and get Mr. Orange to a hospital, but Mr. Pink insists they wait for Joe, the man in charge.

Uncontrolled
Main Character Response

In a confrontation with Mr. Blond, Mr. White loses control and pulls out his gun.  In an effort to go along with the program, Mr. White leaves the warehouse with Mr. Nice and Mr. Pink; this allows the out of control Mr. Blond to torture the cop.

Choice
Main Character Unique Ability

Mr. White’s decision to back up Mr. Orange rather than believe Joe triggers the story’s climax.  If he had made the correct choice by not supporting Mr. Orange, there would have been more opportunity to achieve the story goal.

Attitude
Main Character Critical Flaw

Mr. White’s overbearing attitude alienates him from his colleagues, especially as he’s just another “employee,” not the boss.  He threatens, “If you dream of shooting me, you’d better wake up and apologize.”  Mr. Blond snidely says to him, “I bet you’re a big Lee Marvin fan, aren’t you.  Yeah, me too.  I love that guy.”

Past
Main Character Benchmark

Mr. White judges Mr. Blond to be a liability based upon his uncontrolled behavior at the heist, and Mr. Orange to be righteous based upon his taking of a bullet from, and the shooting of, the female motorist.

Additional Main Character Information →
Main Character Description

A middle-aged professional criminal, who adheres to his own set of moral values—an antihero. (Played by Harvey Keitel)

Influence Character Throughline

Mr. Orange — Undercover Cop

Mind
Influence Character Throughline

There is one thing Mr. Orange can never forget—he is a cop and he must do whatever it takes to nail the bad guys.

Subconscious
Influence Character Concern

Mr. Orange’s basic drive is to bring the robbers to justice.

Denial
Influence Character Issue

Even though he’s undercover, Mr. Orange cannot deny his true nature as a cop; he shoots Mr. Blond in order to save the uniformed cop’s life.

Closure
Influence Character Counterpoint


Influence Character Thematic Conflict
Denial vs.Closure


Pursuit
Influence Character Problem

As a cop, Mr. Orange’s professional motivation is to bring criminals to justice.

Avoid
Influence Character Solution

If Mr. Orange can avoid detection by the robbers until his colleagues arrive, he will have completed his task.

Consider
Influence Character Symptom

Mr. Orange’s actions as a criminal force the members of the gang to consider him as one of their own; Up until when Mr. Blond slashes the uniformed cop’s ear, Mr. Orange considers the situation and decides to stay mum.

Reconsider
Influence Character Response

Realizing they have been set up, the gang reconsider their assumption that all members, especially Mr. Orange, are who they say they are; Once Mr. Blond slashes the uniformed cop’s ear, Mr. Orange reconsiders his undercover position and shoots Mr. Blond.

Dream
Influence Character Unique Ability

Mr. White’s reassurances to Mr. Orange that he will survive a gunshot wound to the stomach serve to increase his feeling of responsibility for the man—Mr. Orange, convinced he is dying, plays as though he has bought into Mr. White’s dream that Mr. Orange will be OK.

Obligation
Influence Character Critical Flaw

Mr. Orange’s feeling of obligation to confess to Mr. White leads to his own execution.

Memory
Influence Character Benchmark

Mr. Orange’s position is dependent upon what the others recall about him.

More Influence Character Information →
Influence Character Description

A dedicated young cop who endangers his life by going undercover as a jewel robber. (Played by Tim Roth)

Relationship Story Throughline

""Stuck in the Middle With You""

Psychology
Relationship Story Throughline

Mr. Orange and Mr. White manipulate each other.

Becoming
Relationship Story Concern

Mr. White’s transformation from hard case criminal to good Samaritan causes conflict with Mr. Orange; Mr. Orange’s revelation of his true nature as a cop causes conflict with Mr. White.

Commitment
Relationship Story Issue

Having bonded with Mr. Orange (who took a bullet, and killed the female motorist), Mr. White feels responsible for helping him survive, even when it pits him against the robbers to whom he’s committed.

Responsibility
Relationship Story Counterpoint


Relationship Story Thematic Conflict
Commitment vs.Responsibility


Pursuit
Relationship Story Problem

The robbers pursuing the identity of the “rat” causes problems between Mr. Orange and Mr. White.

Avoid
Relationship Story Solution

If Mr. White had abandoned the injured Mr. Orange, or if Mr. Orange had escaped the situation, the relationship would not exist.

Faith
Relationship Story Symptom

Mr. White believes Mr. Orange is the criminal he says he is.

Disbelief
Relationship Story Response

Mr. White needs to disbelieve in Mr. Orange.

Responsibility
Relationship Story Catalyst

After Mr. Orange gets shot instead of him, Mr. White feels responsible for his safety.

Denial
Relationship Story Inhibitor

Mr. White is in denial over the possibility of Mr. Orange as the “rat.”  Mr. Orange denies his true identity.

Conceptualizing
Relationship Story Benchmark

Mr. White can’t imagine Mr. Orange as the police informant, especially after he “proves himself” by shooting the female motorist.

Additional Relationship Story Information →

Additional Story Points

Key Structural Appreciations

Obtaining
Overall Story Goal

As well as obtaining the diamonds, the robbers are concerned with the identity of the “rat.”  Mr. Orange and the police are anxious that the robbers not obtain his identity as an undercover informant.

Becoming
Overall Story Consequence

All the characters are transformed from vibrant tough guys into bloody corpses.

Subconscious
Overall Story Cost

Mr. White doesn’t give in to his desire to kill the out-of-control Mr. Blond, and loses face in the process; because Mr. Pink fights his fear of capture and stays in the warehouse, he is killed by the police; Mr. Blond gives in to his sadistic impulses, costing the cop his ear.

Future
Overall Story Dividend

For the robbers, there’s the possibility of spending the money in Hawaii if all goes well; for Mr. Orange, job promotion is a possibility if he’s successful.

Understanding
Overall Story Requirements

The robbers must understand how their gang has been infiltrated by a “rat.”
In order to successfully be one of the robbers, Mr. Orange must understand how they think and act.

Conceptualizing
Overall Story Prerequisites

Joe must mentally visualize what he knows about the members of his gang in order to identify the “rat.”

Memory
Overall Story Preconditions

Joe relies on his previous experiences with the individual robbers in forming his gang.  To be accepted by the robbers, Mr. Orange must learn his backstory and recite as if from memory.

Past
Overall Story Forewarnings

Mr. Orange relates an imagined incident from his past, in which ironically, a roomful of good guys (cops) couldn’t tell he was a bad guy; in the warehouse, he is the only good guy in a roomful of bad guys.

Plot Progression

Dynamic Act Appreciations

Overall Story

Understanding
Overall Story Signpost 1
Doing
Overall Story Signpost 2
Obtaining
Overall Story Signpost 3
Learning
Overall Story Signpost 4

Main Character

Progress
Main Character Signpost 1
Future
Main Character Signpost 2
Present
Main Character Signpost 3
Past
Main Character Signpost 4

Influence Character

Memory
Influence Character Signpost 1
Subconscious
Influence Character Signpost 2
Conscious
Influence Character Signpost 3
Preconscious
Influence Character Signpost 4

Relationship Story

Conceptualizing
Relationship Story Signpost 1
Being
Relationship Story Signpost 2
Conceiving
Relationship Story Signpost 3
Becoming
Relationship Story Signpost 4

Plot Progression Visualizations

Dynamic Act Schematics

OS: MC: IC: RS:

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