Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Tony Scott|
|Produced by||Gary Barber
James G. Robinson
|Written by||Quentin Tarantino|
|Music by||Hans Zimmer|
|Cinematography||Jeffrey L. Kimball|
|Edited by||Michael Tronick
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Box office||$12.3 million (North America)|
True Romance is a 1993 American crime film with elements of black comedy and romance, directed by Tony Scott and written by Quentin Tarantino. The film stars Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette with a supporting cast featuring Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer, Gary Oldman, Brad Pitt, and Christopher Walken.
At a Detroit theater showing kung fu films, Alabama Whitman strikes up a conversation with Elvis Presley fanatic Clarence Worley. The two later have sex at Clarence's apartment in downtown Detroit. Alabama tearfully confesses that she is a call girl hired by Clarence's boss as a birthday present, but has fallen in love with Clarence. They later marry.
An apparition of Elvis appears to Clarence and convinces him to kill Alabama's pimp Drexl. Clarence goes to the brothel where Alabama had worked, shoots and kills Drexl, and takes a bag he assumes contains Alabama's belongings. Back at the apartment, he and Alabama discover the bag contains a large amount of cocaine.
The couple visit Clarence's estranged father, Clifford, a former cop and now a security guard, for help. Clifford tells Clarence that the police assume Drexl's murder to be a gang killing. After the couple leave for Los Angeles, Clifford is interrogated by Don Vincenzo Coccotti, consigliere to a mobster named "Blue Lou Boyle", who wants the drugs. Clifford, realizing he will die anyway, mockingly defies Coccotti, whereupon Coccotti angrily shoots Clifford dead. A note on the refrigerator leads the mobsters to Clarence's L.A. address.
In L.A., Clarence and Alabama meet Clarence's old friend Dick, an aspiring actor. Dick introduces Clarence to a friend of his, actor Elliot Blitzer, who reluctantly agrees to broker the sale of the drugs to film producer Lee Donowitz.
While Clarence is out buying lunch, Coccotti's underboss, Virgil, finds Alabama in her motel room and beats her for information. She fights back and kills him with his shotgun. Elliot is pulled over for speeding and arrested for drug possession. In order to stay out of jail, he agrees to record the drug deal between Clarence and Donowitz for the police. Coccotti's crew learn where the deal will take place from Dick's roommate Floyd.
Clarence, Alabama, Dick, and Elliot go to Donowitz's suite at the Ambassador Hotel with the drugs. In the elevator, a suspicious Clarence threatens Elliot at gunpoint, but is persuaded by Elliott's helpless pleading.
Clarence fabricates a story for Donowitz that the drugs were given to him by a corrupt cop, and Donowitz agrees to the sale. Clarence excuses himself to the bathroom, where a vision of Elvis again appears and reassures him that things are going well.
Meanwhile, Donowitz and his bodyguards are ambushed by the cops and mobsters and a shootout begins after Elliott accidentally reveals himself as an informant. Dick abandons the drugs and flees. Almost everyone is killed in the gun battle, and Clarence is wounded as he exits the bathroom. He and Alabama escape with Donowitz's money as more police arrive. They flee to Mexico where Alabama gives birth to a son, whom she names Elvis.
- Christian Slater as Clarence Worley
- Patricia Arquette as Alabama Whitman
- Michael Rapaport as Dick Ritchie
- Bronson Pinchot as Elliot Blitzer
- Saul Rubinek as Lee Donowitz
- Dennis Hopper as Clifford Worley
- James Gandolfini as Virgil
- Gary Oldman as Drexl Spivey
- Christopher Walken as Don Vincenzo Coccotti
- Chris Penn as Detective Nicky Dimes
- Tom Sizemore as Detective Cody Nicholson
- Michael Beach as Officer Wurlitzer
- Brad Pitt as Floyd
- Val Kilmer as "Mentor" (Elvis Presley)
- Samuel L. Jackson as Big Don
- Conchata Ferrell as Mary Louise Ravencroft
- Anna Thomson as Lucy
- Paul Bates as Marty
- Victor Argo as Lenny
- Frank Adonis as Frankie (Franco)
- Kevin Corrigan as Marvin
- Paul Ben-Victor as Luca
- Eric Allan Kramer as Boris
- Ed Lauter as Captain Quiggle
The title and plot are a play on the titles of romance comic books such as "True Life Secrets", "True Stories of Romance", "Romance Tales", "Untamed Love" and "Strange Love".
True Romance was a breakthrough for Tarantino. Released after Reservoir Dogs, it was his first screenplay for a major motion picture, and Tarantino contends that it is his most autobiographical film to date. He had hoped to also direct the film, but lost interest in directing and sold the script. According to Tarantino's audio commentary on the DVD release, he was happy with the way it turned out. Apart from changing the nonlinear narrative he wrote to a more conventional linear structure, it was largely faithful to his original screenplay. He initially opposed director Tony Scott's decision to change the ending (which Scott maintained was of his own volition, not the studio's, saying "I just fell in love with these two characters and didn’t want to see them die"). When seeing the completed film, he realized Scott's happy ending was more appropriate to the film as Scott directed it. The film's first act, as well as some fragments of dialogue, were repurposed from Tarantino's 1987 amateur film My Best Friend's Birthday.
The film's score by Hans Zimmer is a theme based on Gassenhauer from Carl Orff's Schulwerk. This theme combined with a voiceover spoken by Arquette is an homage to Terrence Malick's 1973 crime film Badlands, in which Sissy Spacek speaks the voiceover, and that also shares similar dramatic motifs.
Reviews for the film were largely positive. It holds a "fresh" score of 92% on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, with an average rating of 7.5 out of 10, based on 51 reviews. The site's consensus states: "Fueled by Quentin Tarantino's savvy screenplay and a gallery of oddball performances, Tony Scott's True Romance is a funny and violent action jaunt in the best sense".
Phil Villarreal of the Arizona Daily Star called it "one of the most dynamic action films of the 1990s". Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave it three stars, saying "it's Tarantino's gutter poetry that detonates True Romance. This movie is dynamite."
Roger Ebert gave the film a positive review remarking that "the energy and style of the movie are exhilarating", and that "the supporting cast is superb, a roll call of actors at home in these violent waters: Christopher Walken, Dennis Hopper, and Brad Pitt, for example". A negative review by The Washington Post's Richard Harrington claimed the film was "stylistically visceral" yet "aesthetically corrupt".
Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote, "True Romance, a vibrant, grisly, gleefully amoral road movie directed by Tony Scott and dominated by the machismo of Quentin Tarantino (who wrote this screenplay before he directed Reservoir Dogs), is sure to offend a good-sized segment of the moviegoing population".
Box office performance
Although a critical success, True Romance was a box office failure. It was given a domestic release and earned $12,281,551 on an estimated $13 million budget. Despite this, the film developed a cult following over the years.
The Hopper/Walken scene, colloquially named "The Sicilian scene", has been praised. Tarantino himself has named it as one of his proudest moments. "I had heard that whole speech about the Sicilians a long time ago, from a black guy living in my house. One day I was talking with a friend who was Sicilian and I just started telling that speech. And I thought: 'Wow, that is a great scene, I gotta remember that'."
Oldman's villain also garnered acclaim. MSN Movies wrote, "With just a few minutes of screen time, Gary Oldman crafts one of cinema's most memorable villains: the brutal, dreadlocked pimp Drexl Spivey. Even in a movie jammed with memorable cameos from screen luminaries [...] Oldman's scar-faced, dead-eyed, lethal gangster stood out." Jason Serafino of Complex named Spivey as one of the top five coolest drug dealers in movie history, writing, "He's not in the film for a long time, but the few scant moments that Gary Oldman plays the psychotic dealer Drexl Spivey make True Romance a classic ... Oldman gave us a glimpse at one of cinema's most unfiltered sociopaths."
"Robbers", a song by the English indie rock band The 1975 from their 2013 debut album, was inspired by the film. Vocalist Matthew Healy explained: "I got really obsessed with the idea behind Patricia Arquette's character in True Romance when I was about eighteen. That craving for the bad boy in that film [is] so sexualized."
Brad Pitt's stoner character in True Romance, Floyd, was the inspiration for making the film Pineapple Express, according to producer Judd Apatow. Apatow "thought it would be funny to make a movie in which you follow that character out of his apartment and watch him get chased by bad guys".
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- Empire's 500 Greatest Movies Of All Time
- Spitz, Marc (25 April 2008). "True Romance: 15 Years Later". maxim.com. Maxim. Retrieved 16 January 2012.
- "True Romance". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 2016-01-21.
- Villarreal, Phil. "Review: True Romance". Arizona Daily Star. Archived from the original on December 22, 2008.
- Travers, Peter (10 September 1993). "True Romance: Movie Review". rollingstone.com. Rolling Stone. Retrieved 16 January 2012.
- "True Romance". rogerebert.com. 10 September 1993. Retrieved 2011-01-17.
- Harrington, Richard (10 September 1993). "True Romance". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2011-01-17.
- Maslin, Janet (10 September 1993). "True Romance: Desperadoes, Young at Heart With Gun in Hand". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-01-17.
- Spitz, Marc. "True Romance: 15 Years Later". Maxim. Retrieved 23 April 2013.
- Empire's 500 Greatest Movies Of All Time
- Lyttelton, Oliver. The 10 Best Dennis Hopper Performances, On What Would Have Been His 76th Birthday. IndieWire. May 17, 2012. Retrieved December 5, 2012.
- True Romance Unrated Director's Cut DVD commentary
- True Romance (1993) - Drexl Spivey. MSN Movies. 2011. Retrieved December 17, 2012.
- Serafino, Jason. The 25 Coolest Drug Dealers In Movies. Complex. October 24, 2012. Retrieved December 21, 2012.
- Murray, Robin (April 28, 2014). "The 1975 – Robbers (Explicit)". Clash. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
- Svetkey, Benjamin (April 18, 2008). "'Pineapple Express': High hopes for James Franco". Entertainment Weekly. Time Inc. Retrieved July 15, 2008.
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