True Romance

PhotobucketClarence 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.

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29 Responses to “True Romance”

  1. Quentin Tarantino is a great director. I don’t think he will ever top “Pulp Fiction” though. I have never seen nor heard of this until I saw this review. It seems interesting and I’m always open to Tarantino. I will keep an eye out for it wherever. Great review, btw, what’s your favorite Tarantino movie?

  2. martin250 Says:

    nice review mark. i would probably give this film a similar rating. i have not revisited it in a very long time because of that scene where alabama gets hit around. but what performances by the supporting cast. gary oldman plays a jamaican i think. and Hopper and Walken give memorable performances in their brief moment. even kilmer was good somehow, even if just a reflection on the mirror.

    • You pinpointed the issue I had with the film. The writing/story was first rate. But the violent sequences were exploitative and hard to watch.

      On Gary Oldman: He plays a white man from the U.S. who thinks he’s African-American. He’s got dreadlocks and gold teeth.

      Dialogue from the movie:

      CLARENCE
      Is he black?

      ALABAMA
      He thinks he is. He says his mother was Apache, but I suspect he’s lying.

      • Here’s a little bit of movie geek trivia, you might already know, but if not…
        I had heard that Gary Oldman based the character, Drexl Spivey, on a co-star of his from a previous film. I had supposed it must have been Willie One Blood from LEON: The Professional, because they’re very similar, but it wasn’t(Leon came out a year later). He actually said that it was based on one of his friends/co-stars from Romeo Is Bleeding. He even said he started working on the character towards the end of filming R.I.B. & if you watch the end of the film closely, you can find traces of Drexl already.

        p.s. I love, love, love Gary Oldman!!! <3<3<3

      • I couldn’t even tell that was Gary Oldman! LOL

    • Thanks for the trivia, Rochelle!! I know you are a big big fan of the actor…him and Ewan McGregor.

  3. This is definitely not Tarantino’s most edgiest or original piece of work, but it’s still a fun piece of entertainment that has plenty of cameos and side performances that keep this film moving at a great pace. Also one of the better films that Tony Scott has ever done, even if that isn’t saying much. Good review Mark.

  4. This is a real guilty pleasure for me Mark. I ave this film top marks. Generous I know but I I adore it. Can’t stand Tony Scott but this has some of Tarantino’s best scenes.

    • Your top marks aren’t surprising at all. Despite only earning $12 million when it first came out, this has gained solid cult status in the wake of Tarantino’s subsequent success. It’s now viewed that way by many.

  5. Great post, need to watch this again ASAP

  6. Great review, Mark! I watched this one a few years ago when I was going through my Tarantino craze but I don’t really remember it, except for Oldman and Pitt.

  7. Agh, it’s storming in my area, and somehow the power isn’t out. Eleven o’ clock at night, can’t sleep after my dog woke me up, so I guess I’ll just leave comments.

    Great review, Mark. I haven’t seen this one yet, and I know anything with a name like Quentin Tarantino credited beyond a cameo role is far too violent for me. I’ll be watching The Silence of the Lambs tomorrow (started tonight and got thirty minutes through, but the disc muffed up; thank God the Syfy channel was playing it at 9 tonight!), so expect a review around tomorrow evening. :)

    • Tarantino is pretty violent, yes, but I had to laugh at your choice to watch Silence of the Lambs instead. It’s not a walk in the park either.

      • Funny. I must have been very tired to mention Silence of the Lambs right after speaking about Tarantino’s violent taste. Lol. It made me uneasy just seeing Hannibal Lecter behind bars in the first half hour. Hopkins is a great actor (well, he was back in ’91).

        And I guess I’m still in the trend of calling Syfy “The Sci-Fi Channel”, which is why I wrote something weird like “The Syfy Channel”. Seems like yesterday they changed their name.

  8. This film is classic Tarantino and oddly sweet – my favorite however is JACKIE BROWN (1997) because it’s deeper than anything else he’s done in certain ways…

  9. Nice write up Mark, one cool film, that Walker, Hopper scene is worth the price of admission. I often wonder what this would have looked like if Tarantino had directed this as well as penned the Screenplay.

    Also, WTH has happend to Christian Slater?

  10. I have seen this movie many times, and I like it a lot! The overall acting, and some of the intimate scenes, Patricia and James and Christopher and Dennis, were brilliant. A little violent, but it made sense with the story.

  11. Really enjoyed this. Didn’t feel like Tarantino, but it got better and better, like any Tarantino movie. I find it amusing that Tarantino’s writing made it to the screen with a more bittersweet ending than someone like Nicholas Sparks will ever make.

    • I could see Tarantino’s influence. Tony Scott directed though so he definitely put his stamp on things as well.

      • Yeah I’m anything but a fan of Tony Scott, so when I discovered that he had a Tarantino screenplay in his hands (let alone the monumental one QT calls “film school”), I was scared. And it felt like it started off awful, but just kept getting better and better. As in, Patricia Arquette and Christian Slater had even worse chemistry than Kelly McGillis and Tom Cruise did in Top Gun. The “sex in the shadows” (also in Top Gun) was a big eyeroller for me. But by the end, I was laughing just as much as in any QT film.

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