Newest Review: ... characters spoil your fun, simply hang on for the ride. The only shame for me was that the movie being now nearly 20 years old does ... more
Who knew modern romance included guns, cocaine and mobster violence?
True Romance: Director's Cut (DVD)
Member Name: Mildew82
True Romance: Director's Cut (DVD)
Advantages: Witty, fresh and clever script, an array of amazing actors, great drama and action
Disadvantages: Lacking Tarantino's own direction, slight fantasy elements making it a bit unrealistic
Clarence Worley (Christian Slater) is a young man working in a comic store but is clearly destined for greater things. Alone on his birthday watching back to back Sonny Chiba martial arts films in his local theatre he is waylaid by klutzy Alabama Whitman (Patricia Arquette) who completely by accident (uh huh) dumps all her popcorn over him. One thing leads to another and the two fall instantly in love and are immediately married. The only glitch is that Alabama was up until that moment a call girl and Clarence wants to sever all ties from her pimp Drexl (Gary Oldman). Some violence ensues and Clarence accidentally escapes with a suitcase of uncut cocaine instead of her possessions. What a fortunate turn of events. The happy couple set off to Hollywood to make a quick sale and start their new life together unaware they are being tailed by the original, rather unforgiving owners - can Clarence and Alabama outsmart everyone and escape unscathed or will the gangsters on their tail catch up to them with devastating consequences?
Alabama's thoughts on Clarence - "You are so cool, you are so cool, you are so cool" also happen to mirror my own sentiments for this film. Practically everything about this film makes me smile with the ridiculously whirlwind but completely sweet relationship between Clarence and Alabama which is without a doubt true romance at its rawest, the array of weird and wonderful characters and ultimately the high amount of gratuitous bloody violence and somewhat coarse language (which admittedly glorifies crime to a certain extent, hence the 18 rating) that although sometimes having a truly shocking element to it (actually those bits don't make me smile so much as be morbidly fascinated) more often is a slightly tongue-in-cheek, utterly over the top spectacle, positively oozing with outrageous style. But, it is really the way every scene is treated with the utmost care to slowly build up either the humour or the tension and drama with some truly witty dialogue à la Tarantino (so basically offensive and as socially unacceptable as you can get but with an overriding sense of inexplicable coolness) and the occasional scene stealing soliloquy which have such amazing undertones that you cannot deny the intelligence of the script.
There is such a melee of standout characters and iconic scenes that it is hard to know where to begin in describing the class of this film. There were so many brilliantly conceived scenes but easily one of the most memorable is between Dennis Hopper and Christopher Walken with Clarence's father Clifford Worley (Hopper) being interrogated by hit man Vincenzo Coccotti (Walken), one of the most unsettling characters in the whole film despite only being in this one scene. "I'm the Anti-Christ. You got me in a vendetta kind of mood. You tell the angels in heaven you never seen evil so singularly personified as you did in the face of the man who killed you. My name is Vincent Coccotti" - clearly vying for best movie villain with his creepy Sicilian drawl and icy calm-before-the-storm demeanour Coccotti is played chillingly well by Walken. The rather harsh intensity to this scene with a horrible ironic twist at the end is oddly juxtaposed with the beautiful background melody of "Sous le dôme épais où le blanc jasmin" from the opera Lakmé totally belying the brutality of events unfurling. With sublime acting with Walken and Hopper playing off each other this scene is in its own twisted way a thing of beauty.
The list of awesome characters reads like a bottomless pit. There is no good guy, but Clarence is amazing as the next closest thing. Christian Slater slides right into the role as the clever, wily, resourceful and unflappable Clarence with a penchant for Hawaiian shirts and the dazzling chemistry between him and Patricia Arquette, who plays the soft spoken Southern belle whose deceptive sweetness hides a rather kick-ass chick, really makes the film work as without true romance the film would have fallen flat on its face. Obviously creating a man after his own heart, Tarantino gives Clarence an almost unhealthy interest in Elvis Presley, and again, for such a tiny amount of screen time the character of the Mentor (Val Kilmer), that uncannily resembles the King himself, plays a surprisingly important role in focusing Clarence's mind. Brad Pitt is simply hilarious as a drug addled slouch, as is Gary Oldman, barely recognisable as the dreadlocked, scar-faced wannabe pimp although I would have to question the use of Samuel L. Jackson that almost felt he was there as a favour more than to contribute anything substantial to the film and his talents could have been put to much better use. But really with all these amazingly conceived but very different characters they are the support acts for our main focus on the young lovebirds and their quest for happiness.
The soundtrack is a bit of an odd one with a mix of classic rock and pop from Billy Idol, Elvis Presley, Robert Palmer and Aerosmith to some rather sickly romantic songs (though many would probably disagree with me) with Charles & Eddie, John Waite and Chris Isaak warbling away as well as a spontaneous use of an operatic excerpt all handpicked to suit the mood of each scene but the standout piece of music "You're So Cool" composed by Hans Zimmer used throughout the film at opportune moments actually transforms the mood of the film whenever it filters in, whether it be for a calmer, more romantic scene or something entirely different, by slowing the tempo dramatically but in a strangely uplifting way which is an extremely interesting effect. To get even weirder this song is a cover of German composer Carl Orff's "Gassenhauer" which is actually a reworking from the lutenist Hans Neusiedler's composition from 1536 - say what! To me this tune feels in stark contrast to the rather brutal nature of the film with its percussive sound which is probably, and I'm no musical expert, produced by a xylophone or glockenspiel that gives a weird dreamlike experience as if you're luxuriating on a tropical beach which I guess is the final goal for our antiheroes Clarence and Alabama.
So, with guns, violence, bad language, violence, crime, romance, violence and enough dry wit to fill up a football stadium True Romance is almost a Tarantino classic with the exception that it has had a Tony Scott makeover that whilst makes for truly exhilarating entertainment loses certain Tarantino charms. A simply superb and intelligent script from Tarantino at the start of his career when his style was new and refreshing in the crime genre this film, through Scott's direction, was executed brilliantly with some outstanding acting, some scenes filled with excruciating tension, scenes of extreme violence actually done with a tongue-in-cheek style to dilute the raw horror and fantastically fast paced action and plot development that all still stand up to the tests of time. It may have been more a symbolic exploration into the American dream through an unorthodox method rather than an exercise in realism but do not let the rather speedy plot development and exuberant characters spoil your fun, simply hang on for the ride.
The only shame for me was that the movie being now nearly 20 years old does not have any extras on the DVD at all, but on the bright side as soon as you pop the DVD in the film starts without having to sit through piracy warnings (where did I put my peg leg) and dozens of trailers for movies you really don't want to see. This is also the director's cut version so the film contains several extended scenes that weren't seen in the theatrical release. Fans of Tarantino will undoubtedly have already seen this film I'm sure, but for those looking to get into his work this is a great way to ease yourself in to his mind-set with a less flashy direction from Scott than Tarantino would have unleashed on the world, and also simply anyone that loves a good crime caper full of antiheroes and villains this is the film for you. Highly recommended.
Summary: One of Tarantino's earliest scripts with a Tony Scott direction full of his usual wit and style