Genre: Thriller Running Time: 2 hrs.
Release Date: September 10th, 1993 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Tony Scott Actors: Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer, Gary Oldman, Brad Pitt, Christopher Walken, Bronson Pinchot, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Rapaport, Saul Rubinek, James Gandolfini
ritty, shocking, sexy, and violent, Tony Scott’s “True Romance” feels like the perfect union between frenetic action, darkly humorous mayhem, and biting dialogue – as only screenwriter Quentin Tarantino could provide. “Stealing. Cheating. Killing. Who said romance is dead?” That’s how the tagline reads, and the title (also serving as a companion to the “Pulp Fiction” inspiration) is not intended to be sarcastic, insinuating that in the world of Tarantino’s maltreated, unlucky, and unlikely antiheroes, hardships and suffering (and physical abuse) must be endured to reflect genuine emotions. Packed with intensity and aberrance akin to David Lynch’s “Wild at Heart,” this brutal mixture of genres is certainly not for the faint of heart.
Clarence (Christian Slater) is an ill-starred comic book store employee who spends his birthdays watching kung fu triple features. He chances upon Alabama (Patricia Arquette), a beautiful young woman who not only takes an immediate liking to him but also mysteriously possesses an interest in all the same things. After the two spend a night together, Clarence discovers his unbelievably compatible companion is a call girl set up by his boss – but he doesn’t seem to mind. Clarence was Alabama’s first “job,” and being inexperienced and dreamy, she falls madly in love with him, declaring that she’ll marry him and give up her “career.”
After making hasty plans for an elopement, Clarence learns of Alabama’s pimp, Drexl Spivey (Gary Oldman), and offers to confront him to retrieve her belongings. Not quite prepared for the perilous nature of the face-off, Clarence brashly escapes with a suitcase full of cocaine, which he mistook for clothes. But Drexl was merely a dealer; the real drug kingpin, Lou “Blue” Boyle, sends his henchman Don Vincenzo (Christopher Walken) after the fleeing duo as they head to Los Angeles to sell the narcotics. Volatile cops, angry mobsters, a potential buyer (Saul Rubinek in a hilarious role as a bad movie producer), and Clarence’s imaginary muse – in the form of Elvis (Val Kilmer) – enter the picture, leading to an explosive conclusion riddled with bullets and blood.
The screenplay screams of Tarantino, but Tony Scott’s visual style masterfully masks the usually overlong conversations that haunt (or bless) Tarantino’s scripts. This is a collaboration that smartly keeps each filmmaker, known for specific elements of flair, constantly in check. Scott’s precision with action sequences and fast-paced editing allows Tarantino’s wildly original take on romance and discourse to really stand out. The situations are profound and severe, with just the right amount of comedy blended in, while the bizarre characters pack a rugged punch that emphasizes cinematic eccentricities beyond any standard plot of stolen loot and tailing gangsters.
In this rugged underworld, even the good guys aren’t afraid to be bad. So, of course, the villains must be nastier. Like “Bonnie and Clyde” on crack, the blood-soaked misadventure Scott paints is raw and visceral yet tightly constructed. Gratuitous at times and jarring at others, the violent energy fuels the theme of love overpowering consequences (which are themselves overwhelming and hysterical simultaneously) to carve a stimulating new vision of atypical passion set against the rough and tough appeal of actioners, road movies, and crime sagas.
– Mike Massie