November 18, 2003
Starring: Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer, Gary Oldman, Brad Pitt, Christopher Walken, Bronson Pinchot, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Rapaport, Saul Rubinek, Conchata Ferrell, James Gandolfini,
In the early nineties director Tony Scott was given two scripts to read by a young new screenwriter, one of them was True Romance and according to Scott it was “one of the fullest and most accomplished scripts that I’d ever read”. Jump forward to today and Quentin Tarantino (QT) is one of the most well known filmmakers around whose small number of movies are instantly recognisable for their cool dialogue, pop culture references and stylistic violence. True Romance was the first full screenplay he had completed and now 10 years after its release it gets the well deserved special edition treatment on this new 2 disc DVD set.
This great movie is a modern fairytale, all be it a fairytale involving call girls, cocaine, the mob and of course plenty of bloodshed. Clarence, an Elvis fan and Kung-Fu movie aficionado is a comic book store employee going nowhere until the gorgeous Alabama ‘accidentally’ stumbles into his life. This meeting sets the two off on a romantic but violent journey involving dreadlocked pimps, cocaine and the mob as the two lovers attempt to live happily ever after with the profits from a potential drug deal in LA. A journey where a violent and bloody conclusion seems inevitable.
True Romance is an exciting, passionate rollercoaster ride of a movie with a cast to match. The opening credits read like a who’s who of movie cool including Christopher Walken, Dennis Hopper, Samuel Jackson and many others who have gone on to become synonymous with QT. The movie has one of the best ensemble casts of recent years and every actor gives it their all in roles of varying screen time. Gary Oldman is deliciously over the top as the pimp Drexl and Brad Pitt gives a scene stealing cameo performance as the permanently stoned room-mate from hell, Floyd. Christian Slater, who normally resorts to doing a Jack Nicholson impression regardless of the role he’s in is perfect as Clarence (a thinly veiled version of QT himself). This is probably his finest role and it seems almost tailor-made to his persona. Patricia Arquette complements him perfectly as Alabama, a faultless performance of both strength and vulnerability. She’s also very easy on the eye which helps! These two leads have an instant spark, a totally convincing romance and it is their relationship which is at the core of the movie.
Tony Scott’s expert direction in his finest film to date maintains all the scripts slick dialogue and pop culture references which would become QT’s trademark. What Scott is arguably better at doing is in bringing the characters to the fore, making the audience care about the protagonists in a way QT seems not to have achieved until his most undervalued film, Jackie Brown. Scott cares about the two leads and this shines through aided by the superb performances of Slater and Arquette as Clarence and Alabama who are not simply mouthpieces for QT’s undeniably excellent dialogue but are fully rounded characters the audience can feel for.
Another regular feature of QT movies is violence. True Romance is no different but here it’s more hard hitting because it is far less stylistically handled. Scott gets us emotionally involved in the leads and then puts them on the receiving end of some unflinchingly realistic brutality, particularly in the case of Alabama. That’s not to say that the film is not cool, it is. There are many standout scenes which rival QT’s self directed films. The confrontation between Walken and Hopper is superb as would be expected when two top cinematic psychos are given the chance to go head to head, in an unforgettable scene. Also Val Kilmer makes one of the smallest cameos as the King himself, Elvis Aron Presley!
To complement the film Warner Brothers have added a wealth of extra features. On the first disc is a triple whammy of commentaries. The first has Tony Scott talking us through the film with lots of information and anecdotes. Slater and Arquette are together for their fun commentary which has them chatting like old friends. But the icing on the cake has to be the chance to hear QT himself discussing True Romance. This is everything you expect with the man talking in high speed, revealing the differences between script and finished film plus the autobiographical elements. It really makes you wonder why he has not recorded any commentary tracks for his own directorial output, all currently available on special edition DVDs.
The second disc is also fully loaded with extras. The movie is full of small cameos by such stars as Michael Rappaport and Brad Pitt and some of these contribute to the selective commentaries found here – discussing their own small scenes and working with Tony Scott. This includes Hopper commenting on his classic scene with Christopher Walken in which he gives the now famous monologue about Sicilian genealogy. An alternate ending is also on offer with separate commentaries by Scott and QT who discuss the little difference of opinion with QT conceding (as on his full length commentary) that Scott was correct to change the ending. There is also a collection of deleted scenes which are interesting if not essential, plus the usual trailers and featurettes along with a photo gallery that has a little more effort put into it than most with Hans Zimmer’s memorable theme playing in the background.
True Romance is nothing less than a modern classic. A movie where everyone involved is on the top of their game from Tony Scott’s direction to the cast’s performances and QT’s script. It is one of his finest screenplays and as a result one of his best films. It has a depth of character which is not always present in QT’s own movies and the two leads make a believable duo that you really care for with an undeniable onscreen chemistry. This coupled with classic dialogue gritty violence and black humour make True Romance one of the best films, and one of the best DVD releases currently available.