Sunday, July 21, 2013

True Romance (1993)

Seen: On dvd on my tv, rented from netflix.

I've heard the phrase "YOU'VE never seen True Romance?!" enough times that I finally got fed up and watched the damn thing. ARE YOU HAPPY NOW. Anyway this movie is about Clarence (Christian Slater), a chatty super geek, and Alabama (Patricia Arquette), a good-natured prostitute, who fall in love after one night together, get married, and run into trouble. Though she wants to leave her old life behind her, Clarence wants vengeance against her abusive pimp Drexl (Gary Oldman), and crashes into his lair guns blazing, ending up with a pile of bodies and a briefcase of cocaine. The couple scurries across the country hoping to sell off the drugs in LA and start a life together with all this free money, but things turn out to be more complicate than they thought.

Ok so I think I have Tarantino fatigue, pretty sure I've had it for a while actually, and that definitely played a factor in my reading of this movie. He clearly wrote Christian Slater's character as a stand-in for himself (only much MUCH better looking), and used him to act out all his cool action movie fantasies, and it's so obvious it's annoying. While I probably would have loved Clarence and Alabama's blood-soaked road trip in high school, I can't help but see through some of Tarantino's fanboy bullshit now. Like the gratuitous, exploitative scene of James Gandolfini beating the shit out of Alabama, for like, 10 minutes. I don't care if she gets her vengeance eventually, there's no drawn-out sequence of a dude getting bloodied and mauled, just the film's only female character. Hmm. Also Gary Oldman's black rapper imitation thing was just weird and made me uncomfortable because it's kinda just blackface without the make-up? Right? That and unnecessary use of the n-word just confirm Tarantino's lack of nuance when he's dealing with race, though he features actors of color in many of his films.

Anyway it's not that I hated True Romance, I actually liked it for the most part. It's funny and exciting, with a crime thriller plot that merges nicely with a surprisingly sweet romance (even though usually I hate when people in movies fall in love after one night). I dug the cast a lot, which was well-peppered with actors I recognized but had no idea were in this movie, from Brad Pitt and Christopher Walken to Dennis Hopper and Michael Rappaport. I did NOT recognize Val Kilmer as the Elvis Presley manifestation/vision, which is pretty awesome actually. I kinda wish there'd been more of Clarence's Elvis hallucinations, since it didn't really fit with the rest of the film but informed the audience as to the character's state of mind, and offered some funny, surreal moments. The dialogue is typical Tarantino, fast-paced pop culture references and lots of cusses, while Tony Scott's direction keeps the story moving in a straightforward, sleek manner. With a totally out of place musical score, which I'm told is a thing of Scott's movies, but I guess I haven't noticed before.

The film is at its strongest when it turns into this Hollywood satire as Clarence tries to unload the drugs on a well-known movie producer played with effervescent glee by Saul Rubinek, accompanied by Bronson Pinchot as his sniveling assistant. They feature in the most entertaining scenes and I loved how Clarence and Alabama played into this weird world of under-the-table drug deals, haphazard police stings, and movie mogul self-importance. The entertainment industry is always ripe for parody and Tarantino and Scott definitely know how to manipulate it.


Pair This Movie With: Well I read somewhere that this was kind of the first half of one huge screenplay, the second half of which became Natural Born Killers, which I think would be a good follow-up as it has a lot of the same themes but is much more stylized. Alternatively, I was a little reminded of Gun Crazy as these two lovers get caught up in a criminal world they're not prepared for but find themselves gradually fitting in.


  1. The thing I most remember this movie is the fight scene between Patricia and Gandolfini. That was epic.

  2. Just rewatched this film last night for the first time in forever. For me, I see it holds two conflicting titles: "Lesser Tarantino" but "Top Tier Tony Scott". Go figure.

    Riddle me this - does QT's script play worse in hindsight because of how far we've seen him come as a writer? After all, this was one of his very first scripts to be produced - only RESERVOIR DOGS came out before it.

  3. MsMariah: It really does drag on for a long time, like I kept thinking she was gonna die but then she'd get up and James Gandolfini would beat her up more.

    Ryan: The QT/TS rating is a fair assessment I think. And I would agree that QT has matured a bit since this movie, but there are still some Tarantino tropes that eat at me in his later films.

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