Monday, July 8, 2013

#1,057. True Romance (1993)

Directed By: Tony Scott

Starring: Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, Dennis Hopper

Tag line: "Not since Bonnie and Clyde have two people been so good at being bad"

Trivia: In the DVD commentary, Quentin Tarantino says that this is the most autobiographical movie he ever wrote

Along with being an extraordinary director, Quentin Tarantino is one of the best screenwriters of his generation. Thus far, both of his Oscar wins have been for Best Original Screenplay (Pulp Fiction in ’94 and Django Unchained in 2012), and he wrote the script for Robert Rodriguez’s From Dusk Till Dawn as well as the story for Natural Born Killers (Oliver Stone's movie differed from Tarantino's original version). But of all the screenplays he wrote yet did not direct, 1994’s True Romance, helmed by Tony Scott, is my favorite.

Clarence Worley (Christian Slater) works at a Detroit comic book store, and on his birthday, he spends the evening (as he does every year) taking in a Kung-Fu triple feature at the local movie house. There, he meets Alabama Whitman (Patricia Arquette), and falls instantly in love with her. Clarence doesn't even mind when he finds out Alabama is a prostitute hired to spend the night with him. Truth is, she’s fallen for Clarence just as hard as he's fallen for her, and in less than 24 hours the two are married.

Of course, this means Clarence now has to deal with the problem of Alabama’s pimp, Drexl Spivey (Gary Oldman). After talking things over with his ‘mentor’ (the spirit of Elvis Presley, played by Val Kilmer), Clarence decides that Drexl has to die. 

During a confrontation at Drexl’s pad, Clarence shoots the low-life pimp dead. But instead of walking out with a suitcase full of Alabama’s belongings, he's mistakenly handed a bag that contains a million dollars in uncut cocaine! 

It seems Drexl also worked as a delivery boy for a very powerful mob figure, but far from worrying about where the drugs came from, Clarence picks up Alabama and, after a brief layover at his father’s (Dennis Hopper), heads to Los Angeles, where he hopes his best friend, struggling actor Dick Ritchie (Michael Rapaport), might know someone who would be willing to pay top-dollar for the drugs.

Unfortunately, things don’t go smoothly for our heroes. For one, Clarence accidentally left his driver’s license back at Drexl’s, making it easy for the mob to figure out who has their drugs. Before long, a mafioso named Vincenzo Coccotti (Christopher Walken) pays a visit to Clarence's dad, to find out where Clarence was headed. 

Meanwhile, in L.A., Dick arranges a meeting between Clarence and Elliott Blitzer (Bronson Pinchot), an actor who is tight with Lee Donowitz (Saul Rubinek), a Hollywood producer who fancies himself a drug dealer. With the mob on one side and a sleazy producer on the other, it isn’t long before Clarence and Alabama find themselves in a whole mess of trouble!

As you can see in the above synopsis, True Romance features one hell of a cast. Aside from the impressive list of actors already mentioned, there's James Gandolfini as a mob hit man; Tom Sizemore and Chris Penn as a pair of cops; Samuel L. Jackson as unlucky drug dealer Big Don; and Brad Pitt as Dick’s stoned-out roommate, Floyd. 

Yet, despite the fact he doesn’t direct or even appear in the movie, Quentin Tarantino still manages to steal the show by way of his excellent screenplay. Along with the usual doses of pop-culture (The three kung-fu flicks that Clarence watches every year on his birthday feature Sonny Chiba, a personal favorite of Tarantino’s), True Romance also has plenty of crisp, memorable dialogue. One of the film's many outstanding scenes is an exchange between Walken and Hopper, which, along with making us laugh, offers a brief history lesson on why Sicilians have a darker complexion. And as you might expect from Tarantino, all roads in the movie eventually lead to Hollywood, where an action-packed finale takes place.

Though it differs from some of the films he directed (unlike Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, this film has a linear structure, with events playing out in chronological order), Tarantino’s mark is still evident in just about every scene of True Romance. As clever as it is thrilling, True Romance deserves a a place of honor in Tarantino’s filmography.


Tommy Ross said...

looks great, never even heard of it, many thanks for the reco, just ordered on Amz....thanks!

J. Horton said...

His original screenplay was structured non-linear. It was Tony Scott's idea to make it linear.

Anthony Lee Collins said...

I enjoyed this, but I wasn't bowled over. Not even close to the best of the ones QT has directed himself (IMHO), but that scene with Hopper and Walken is worth the price of admission all by itself.

James Robert Smith said...

This was kind of a fun movie. Decent to watch in spite of its many, many flaws. It was, however, part of Gary Oldman's descent into portraying cartoon characters and hamming it up without benefit of direction. Some people need a guiding hand, and most directors seem to be too afraid of Oldman to demand some moderation from his worst instincts to overdo it.

Unknown said...

A terrific film, and I for one like having someone else directing it - Quentin would have given it his unique POV, but sometimes it's good to see other interpret the material - I posted a story about the motel where they filmed the fight scene - the great Safari Inn in Burbank!