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 brutal and bloody conclusion seems inevitable.
The script for True Romance was read by director Tony Scott in the early nineties and according to him was "one of the fullest and most accomplished scripts that I'd ever read". Written by a then unknown Quentin Tarantino it is part road movie part modern-day fairytale, all be it a fairytale involving call girls, drugs, organised crime and of course plenty of bloodshed. An exciting, passionate rollercoaster ride of a movie it 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 roommate from hell, Floyd. In the biggest supporting role is Michael Rapaport as Clarence's aspiring actor chum Dick Richie, whose biggest claim to fame is connected to T.J. Hooker. 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 Tarantino himself) in a role that 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. They are a couple who are similar to romantic duos in such films as Bonnie and Clyde and Badlands and the two leads have an instant spark. Their romance is totally convincing and it is their relationship which is at the core of the movie.
Tony Scott's expert direction maintains all the scripts slick dialogue and pop culture references which, for better and for worse, have become Tarantino's trademark. What Scott is more skilled at doing is in bringing the characters to the fore, making the audience care about the protagonists in a way Tarantino has only achieved once, in 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 who are not merely mouthpieces for Tarantino's undeniably excellent dialogue, but fully rounded characters the audience can feel for.
Another regular feature of Tarantino's movies is violence. True Romance is no exception but here it's more hard-hitting because it is far less stylistically handled, apart from the excellent climatic shoot-out. 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 doesn’t contain some great dialogue, it does, as there are many standout scenes which rival Tarantino’s self directed films. The confrontation between Christopher Walken and Dennis 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 about Sicilian genealogy.
True Romance is 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 Tarantino'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 present in his own movies and the two leads make a believable duo that you really care for with an undeniable onscreen chemistry. Added to this is a recurring theme by Hans Zimmer that lingers long in the memory which, coupled with classic dialogue, gritty violence and black humour, makes True Romance one of the best films of the nineties.
British-born director Tony Scott was the brother of director Ridley Scott and worked closely with him in their production company for film and television, both having made their names in the advertising business before moving onto glossy features for cinema. He shocked Hollywood by committing suicide by jumping from a bridge in Los Angeles for reasons that were never disclosed.