1993, R, 118 min. Directed by Tony Scott. Starring Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer, Gary Oldman, Brad Pitt, Christopher Walken, Bronson Pinchot, Michael Rapaport, Chris Penn.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Sept. 17, 1993
Written by wunderkind Quentin Tarantino (Reservoir Dogs) and directed by Tony Scott (Top Gun), True Romance is nothing if not consistently entertaining. It's the prototypical chase film, complete with a misappropriated suitcase full of cocaine and several groups of killers on the trail of our heroes. Slater is Clarence Worley, a Detroit comic-shop employee who suddenly finds himself caught up in a whirlwind romance with the blonde Alabama (Arquette), a gorgeous hooker (“I've only been on the job four days,” she tells him) and the object of his sudden, unprecedented True Romance. Instant marriage ensues, and the next thing you know, chivalrous Clarence is off to see his sweetheart's former pimp (Oldman, in a searing, disturbing performance), intent on picking up her suitcase and telling the dreadlocked sociopath to get stuffed. Nothing, however, goes according to plan, and the next thing you know there's too much blood, and Clarence, in his haste, has mistakenly grabbed a suitcase packed with $1 million in uncut coke. Not knowing what else to do, but fully realizing the opportunity that has fallen in their laps, they head out to Cali in hopes of unloading the goods and using the profits to set up a family in Cancun. Kids, eh? Things go from bad to worse along the way (this is a Tarantino script, after all) until all hell breaks loose in a swanky Hollywood hotel. Like the garish pulp novels of the Thirties and Forties (as well as any number of Fifties films noirs, to which it owes much of its flavor), Tarantino's script is a flimsy thing, a skeleton soaked in blood and romance, but missing the guts and muscle of the genuine article. Gore and gunsmoke (and assorted film clips ranging from Sonny Chiba's Streetfighter to John Woo's A Better Tomorrow II) are fine things, certainly, but after a while you begin to wish there were a little more here than just the odd collection of brilliant set pieces. Much of the blame for this, I think, must fall squarely on the shoulders of director Scott, who can't seem to make a movie with even the most beneficial of rough edges intact: everything is gloss and shine here, and even the grime looks like it was touched up by some overzealous Hollywood art director. It's the cameos and character parts that really propel True Romance. Hopper, as Clarence's ex-cop father, and Pitt, as a stoner roommate, are brilliant in their less-than-sizable roles. Likewise, Walken as a Mob representative and Pinchot as a coke-addled gofer to a Joel Silver-esque mega-producer. Whew! There are so many perfect bits of acting here that it's almost easy to forget what a slip of a film this is. It's as much fun as shooting the piss out of pop bottles with your Glock, and nearly as enlightening.