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Retrospective: True Romance (1993)

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Steve Kong

Oct 11, 2000, 8:28:34 PM10/11/00
True Romance (1993)
Review by Steve Kong
The Hard Boiled Movie Guide

"True Romance" is one of those films that I love because of style over
substance. The writing is excellent and the direction is excellent. The
story is average and the ending abysmal, but the path in which "True
Romance" takes from start to that ending is astonishing.

"True Romance" follows a couple, Clarence (Christian Slater) and Alabama
(Patricia Arquette). Clarence is a strange fellow who works in a comic book
store and enjoys "classic" kung-fu movies. Alabama is a call girl who has a
large sense of innocence – Clarence is only her fourth client.

Now, since this is a script written by Quentin Tarantino you can expect
lots of violence, sharp lines, and plot-twist that you wouldn't see from a
mile away. So, let me drop some actor names and characters on you and see
if you can put them together, as to not spoil the film for you. There's
Gary Oldman playing a mean pimp, Val Kilmer plays a famous dead rock star,
Samuel L. Jackson makes a quick stop, Dennis Hopper is a father, Bradd Pitt
is a lazy bum roommate, James Gandolfini is one scary mobster, and
Christopher Walken is, well, Christopher Walken. Now, there are some really
interesting elements in the film too. Elvis, a suitcase of cocaine, guns,
lots of guns, a bag of money, and well an eye-patch. Can you make head from
tail of those things? You'll see how they all fit together when you see
"True Romance".

Tarantino's script for the movie is absolutely brilliant in the sense that
it has some of the best dialogue around. And all of it is memorable. The
story though is a bit bland and the ending, well, it's quite reminiscent of
Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs" (not to mention director, Tony Scott's recent
"Enemy of the State".) But this is not to say that the movie is
unwatchable. Watching "True Romance" is more about watching interesting
character speak interesting lines. It is also about watching the style of
direction that Tony Scott puts into the film.

Scott, whose films include "Top Gun", "Days of Thunder", "Crimson Tide",
and "Enemy of the State" shows off his visual flair with "True Romance".
Every scene is meticulously setup and polished and it is very evident with
what is seen. Though Scott is a brilliant filmmaker in these polished
sequences, the one thing he cannot shoot are shootouts. Looking at the
shootouts in "True Romance" and "Enemy of the State" he seems to capture
the chaos of a shootout, but he does not put it in a way that is easy to
follow. The camera wiggles and flies, bodies fly, there are loud sounds,
but it's all a blurry mess.

The two leads in the film do well. Slater, who I don't think is an action
star, does well with his part as a slightly crazed Clarence. He has that
subtle look of innocence that is easily mixed with a dark psyche. Arquette
is great as Alabama, who like Clarence looks innocent and acts that way
too, but has a hidden dark side that escapes in the film. Both create a
superb chemistry onscreen. What was surprising were the large names in the
supporting roles. As mentioned before, you can see that there are many big
names in this film and they play rather smaller supporting roles. This
leads to a film that is rich in good performances. Worth mentioning is
James Gandolfini ("The Sopranos") who is absolutely terrifying as a mobster.

If you watch True Romance for the characters, the great dialogue, and
visual style you'll not be disappointed. If you want a good story, you'll
be a little disappointed. Don't Miss True Romance. This a film with words
to remember.

Steve Kong

not all film critics are the same.
i'm your hard boiled movie guide.

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