True Romance

Year: 1993
Director: Tony Scott
Starring: Patricia Arquette, Christian Slater, Brad Pitt, Christopher Walken, Gary Oldman
Written by Patrick Alexander

There’s one name synonymous with magnificent writing in films: Quentin Tarantino. That’s a fact, jack. Naturally, when I found out he wrote the 1993 dark comedy-thriller, ‘True Romance’, it was a no-brainer putting on my watchlist. Directed by Tony Scott, after Tarantino sold the somewhat autobiographical script, Tarantino’s wild flair for writing the believably impossible shines throughout every scene, in what is a must watch for fans of his work. In fact, fragments of the film’s dialogue were taken from Tarantino’s 1987, partially lost film, ‘My Best Friend’s Birthday’. Now don’t get it twisted, ‘True Romance’ is both entirely, and by no means, about romance. The title is more a play on the cheesy, romantic tropes of overwrought love stories of the 1960s and 70s. It’s the kind of love story that would certainly make Shakespeare blush.

Christian Slater plays Clarence, a nobody comic book store clerk who, whilst at the cinema one night, meets Alabama (Patricia Arquette), a lady of the night hired by Clarence’s boss, unbeknownst to Clarence, to meet him and take him to bed. Being a loser, Clarence immediately catches feelings for her and the two improbably fall in love. The lovers hurriedly get married and Clarence decides to break things off with Alabama’s deranged pimp, Drexl Spivey. Obviously, this does not go too well and after a gruesome shootout, Clarence walks out of there alive, with Drexl’s briefcased drug stash. That’s when the fun begins.

In true Tarantino fashion, the drugs obviously didn’t belong to Drexl; he was the middleman for the notorious Detroit Mafioso Don Vincenzo Coccotti. Clarence and Alabama bolt to Los Angeles to sell the suitcase of cocaine to the famous Hollywood film producer, Lee Donowitz, through an acting friend of theirs, and make off with the proceeds. Coccotti’s gangsters ruthlessly track the duo down, culminating in a Mexican standoff between the FBI, Donowitz’s henchmen and the Bonnie and Clyde-esque couple.

What makes ‘True Romance’ so doggone brilliant is the cast of supporting characters. Christopher Walken’s bit role as the notorious mobster, from whom Clarence stole the suitcase of drugs, is textbook Walken gangster – trite and forbidding. James Gandolfini’s psychopathic mobster character is practically the beta for what would become Tony Soprano – compulsive and angry. Michael Rappaport’s not-so-up-and-coming actor role is a cheeky commentary on the blatant ignorance of actors. Gary Oldman’s portrayal of Alabama’s psychotic, wankster pimp is so overdone and preposterous you won’t believe it’s him, even after seeing the bill. Further, young Brad Pitt’s character, Floyd, literally has no impact on the movie. His only scenes see him sitting on the couch smoking pot, offering a bong hit to Walken’s group of gangsters, and proceeding to grab a beer from the fridge; all of which are off the charts on the unintentional comedy scale.

‘True Romance’ has literally everything you could want in a film – comedy, action, high-stakes, legendary actors (both before and during their primes), a lovely leading lady and guns. It’s remarkably genuine and completely improbable at the same time. It’s also got significant depth and ages surprisingly well. It’s the perfect depiction of Tarantino’s crazed brilliance mixed with Tony Scott’s ability to turn an offbeat story into the spectacular.

Patrick’s rating: 8.8 out of 10
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