The film ends without a satisfying resolution, since these characters are so ugly only an agonizing affliction would qualify as just deserts. Crime doesn't exactly pay in this case, but it doesn't cost enough either.
Exuberance over violence is mostly reined in. Coiled male panic and ricocheting accusations carry the action. At its best, at a time before Tarantino became all show, Reservoir Dogs reveals masculinity as a bloody, savage, two-faced performance.
It's unclear whether this macho thriller does anything to improve the state of the world or our understanding of it, but it certainly sets off enough rockets to hold and shake us for every one of its 99 minutes.