20 September 2003 | Quinoa1984
Tarantino's most "personal" writing; Scott gives commendable direction to all-stars
True Romance is the work of two men, known for making movies (as TBS would say) for guys who like movies, and have one of the pick of the litter in the genre from the early to mid nineties. Quentin Tarantino sold his script to fund Reservoir Dogs, and Tony Scott (Top Gun) got picked up to direct. Some have complained that Tarantino should've directed this film, that it's so much his (which I agree with considering the story of the film was taken from his 1987 experimental film My Best Friend's Birthday, which refers to Clarence in this film going to the Sonny Chiba movies) that his own style as a director would've complimented it. It's a nice thought, though that's not what we as the audience are left with, and so with the final product there is much to admire about the style that Scott uses in the film. He films Tarantino's script (from a Roger Avary script originally) very much like he's shooting a Hollywood movie (as he knows how to with DP Jeffrey Kimball), with all the cut-aways and editing timing that is expected in a conventional crime-drama-thriller, then by hearing the snapping dialog from the script, and the cast performing them, Scott does become an important piece of making True Romance a success.
The story is a throwback to the old 'lovers on the run' formula, among others- Clarence (Christian Slater in one of his finest) is an employee in a comic book store in Detroit, loves kung-fu movies and big guns and such, who gets set up unwittingly with a call girl named Alabama (Patricia Arquette). The two fall in love, and Clarence feels confident enough by a certain voice in the back of his head (provided by Val Kilmer) to go and free Alabama for good from her vile pimp and drug dealer Drexl (Gary Oldman in one of the better villain roles of the time). He does, and through a couple of accidents Clarence and Alabama wind up with millions worth in cocaine, and high-tail it to LA to sell it, as the original (mob) owners of the coke follow after, with explosive results.
For fans of the actors, in particular the supporting cast, True Romance is one of the treats of treats in modern movies, on par with Pulp Fiction's roster of know-ables: Christopher Walken as a gangster (who would've thought?), Brad Pitt as a stoner roommate, Tom Sizemore and Chris Penn as cops, a few good lines for Samuel L. Jackson, an early plum for James Gandolfini, and my personal favorite of the lot, Dennis Hopper as Clarence's ex-cop father. Another thing that makes True Romance one of the (dare I say) most accessible of Tarantino's works is that a viewer who might not know this is his work on first viewing (this was me a few years ago, sad to say) will stay tuned through the whole thing if it's on TV just because of the star power; indeed, before Oldman's Detrix is introduced into the film, TR seems to flow like it'll be a romantic drama with light overtones. All I can say is by the end of this film, you will see that good taste can prevail no matter how much bloodshed gets on the screen, or how many obstacles get in the way of love (and Elvis!).