True Romance (1993)

Review #1,050

Director:  Tony Scott
Cast:  Christian SlaterPatricia ArquetteDennis Hopper, Christopher Walken, Gary Oldman
Plot:  Clarence marries hooker Alabama, steals cocaine from her pimp, and tries to sell it in Hollywood, while the owners of the coke try to reclaim it.

Genre:  Crime / Drama / Romance
Awards:  -
Runtime:  120min
Rating:  M18 for strong violence and language, and for sexuality and drug use.

“If there's one thing this last week has taught me, it's better to have a gun and not need it than to need a gun and not have it.”

I think most would agree that this is a top-tier work from the late Tony Scott, a quintessential crime film of the early 1990s with a distinctively American look, feel and sound of movies produced at that time.  It is a muscular picture with an absorbing dose of dark humour and strong violence, all to the tune of Quentin Tarantino's razor-sharp screenplay.  

True Romance was released between Reservoir Dogs (1992) and Pulp Fiction (1994), and is a fine example of an auteur screenplay.  Director Scott interprets this knockout script as a fairytale romance between Clarence (Christian Slater) and Alabama (Patricia Arquette) in this semi-getaway road movie, and semi-gangster picture. 

A briefcase of stolen cocaine sets up the context as the couple attempts to sell it to a Hollywood mogul at a tantalizingly low price, not knowing of what is to come.  And what is to come is a bunch of angry Sicilian mobsters with machine guns.

There are numerous supporting players like Gary Oldman, Dennis Hopper and Christopher Walken who shine during their limited screen time.  And then there's a young Brad Pitt who lazes on a couch and gulps beer.  The star performance here is Arquette's, who gives a vulnerable yet vengeful performance that draws comparisons to some of QT's memorable women roles. 

Yet the true star is Tarantino himself, whose raucous and vulgar screenplay makes the film ever so rewatchable.  Scott's masterful handling of drama and comedy, and of course action, is great to watch, though I suspect the film wouldn't have been so memorable without QT's involvement. 

I don't mean to discredit Scott (he is an underrated filmmaker whose more mainstream works are often less appreciated for their craft than its action spectacle), but True Romance is one of those collaborations that first started out as a ballsy Tony Scott picture, but over the years, became a Tarantino movie directed by Scott.

Hollywood doesn’t make these kinds of pictures anymore.  There's gorgeous cinematography, lots of entertaining dialogue, outstanding use of music (both songs, and a unconventionally cheerful score by Hans Zimmer), and the nineties allure reminding us that while movies get older, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they age.

Verdict:  A raucous and sharp crime film with plenty of dark humour to keep you entertained.


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