Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Tony Scott|
|Produced by||Gary Barber
James G. Robinson
|Screenplay by||Quentin Tarantino|
|Music by||Hans Zimmer|
|Cinematography||Jeffrey L. Kimball|
|Edited by||Michael Tronick
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
True Romance is a 1993 American romantic dark comedy crime film 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.
In Detroit, Clarence Worley and Alabama Whiteman bond over a shared love of kung fu films and have sex at Clarence's apartment. She confesses that she is a call girl hired by Clarence's boss, but has fallen in love with him, and they marry.
An apparition of singer Elvis Presley convinces Clarence to kill Alabama's pimp Drexl. Clarence goes to the brothel, shoots Drexl dead, and takes a bag he assumes contains Alabama's belongings. Back at the apartment, he and Alabama discover the bag actually contains a large amount of cocaine.
The couple visit Clarence's estranged father, Clifford, a former cop. He tells Clarence that the police assume Drexl's murder is a gang killing. After the couple leave for Los Angeles, Clifford is interrogated by Don Vincenzo Coccotti, Boyle's consul in the Detroit Mafia, who wants the drugs. Clifford refuses to reveal where his son has gone and insults Coccotti by claiming that Sicilians are "niggers" descended from the Moors. Coccotti shoots Clifford dead and finds a note with Clarence's LA address.
In LA, Clarence and Alabama meet Clarence's old friend Dick, an aspiring actor. They meet Dick's contact, actor Elliot Blitzer, and arrange to sell the drugs to film producer Lee Donowitz. Clarence convinces him that he bought the drugs from a corrupt police officer. While Clarence buys 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. He tells them that Donowitz plans to buy the cocaine and agrees to wear a wire to the drug deal. Coccotti's crew learn where the deal will take place from Richie's roommate Floyd.
Clarence, Alabama, Dick, and Elliot go to Donowitz's suite at the Ambassador Hotel with the drugs. In the elevator, Clarence confronts Elliot at gunpoint, but Elliot reassures him that there is no setup. Clarence makes a good impression on Donowitz, then excuses himself to the bathroom, where Elvis reassures him that things are going well. Meanwhile, Donowitz and his bodyguards are ambushed by the cops and mobsters and a shootout begins. Dick abandons the drugs and flees. Almost everyone is killed in the crossfire, and Clarence is wounded as he exits the bathroom. He and Alabama escape with Donowitz's money the police surround the hotel. while more police set a perimeter around the hotel. Clarence and Alabama flee to Mexico and have a son, 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 with their overwrought love stories—very popular in earlier decades—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, are taken 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" rating of 92% based on 47 reviews collected from notable publications by review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, with the consensus, "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 pop 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 sexualised."
- "TRUE ROMANCE (18)". British Board of Film Classification. 1993-10-08. Retrieved 2012-11-16.
- "True Romance (1993)". boxofficemojo.com. Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2011-08-18.
- Spitz, Marc (25 April 2008). "True Romance: 15 Years Later". maxim.com. Maxim. Retrieved 16 January 2012.
- "True Romance". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 2011-08-18.
- Villarreal, Phil. "Review: True Romance". Arizona Daily Star.
- 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.
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