Clarence Worley (Christian Slater) is celebrating his birthday by attending a Sonny Chiba triple feature at the local movie theater…..alone. There he happens to meet Alabama Whitman (Patricia Arquette). Turns out their chance encounter is anything but. You see she was a call girl hired by his boss as a present of sorts. Despite her questionable vocation, they fall in love and get married. Feeling chivalrous, Clarence decides to officially inform her former pimp that she no longer intends to continue working for him and that’s where the madness begins. The thriller doesn’t let up until the finale.
What truly sells True Romance is Quentin Tarantino’s script. In the late 80s Tarantino wrote and directed an amateur film called My Best Friend’s Birthday. This was made along with his fellow video store and acting class buddies. Its screenplay would partially form the basis for True Romance. There are definitely signs that dependable action director Tony Scott is behind the camera, but Tarantino’s fingerprints are evident in every scene. From Alabama’s opening monologue and Gary Oldman’s pimp Drexl Spivey to side characters like Brad Pitt’s stoner roommate and Bronson Pinchot’s two-bit actor – the supporting cast gets all the best lines. And these people aren’t afraid to die. Nowhere is that more noticeable than in a memorable exchange between mobster Vincenzo Coccotti (Christopher Walken) and Clifford Worley (Dennis Hopper). Vincenzo grills him on where Clifford’s son, Clarence, can be found. Clifford doesn’t answer the question, but rather gives his take on history. His ideas about the Moors are unprintable here but it’s surely something you wouldn’t want to say to a Sicilian if you expected to live.
True Romance is an entertaining mix of action and dialogue. One’s enjoyment of the tale will depend on your ability to stomach the violence. The script is really the pinnacle of this production. At times the unrestrained mayhem threatens to derail the momentum of a clever story. All the bloodshed straddles the line between the ridiculous cartoon variety and hardcore, turn your face from the horror, category. Apparently Virgil, a mob henchman played James Gandolfini, hasn’t heard the phrase “never hit a girl”. Depending on your outlook, his altercation near the end with Alabama is either one of the most vicious beatings committed to film or the coolest fight scene ever. The display includes such creative weapons as a toilet bowl lid, a corkscrew. and using an aerosol can as a flamethrower. Alabama actually laughs in his face at one point during the brawl. Dang! This girl can take a punch. Patricia Arquette is altogether winning as the female lead. Her blend of quirky and cute, sexy and tough is a brilliant balancing act. Christian Slater’s Elvis Presley-loving, comic book store clerk and movie buff is clearly based on the writer’s own persona. Slater somehow manages to seem adroit with a weapon but still socially awkward. Their “true romance” is recounted in a way only Tarantino could tell.