Despite being a big fan of Quentin Tarantino, True Romance (which was written by Tarantino but directed by Tony Scott) has long remained an obvious gap in my viewing but, thanks to a new special edition from Arrow Video, that’s now remedied.
From the very first scene the Tarantino touch points are loud and proud with fast paced dialogue about obscure Kung-fu movies being the topic of conversation.
From there we are presented with what, for the first twenty minutes or so, seems like it might be a somewhat quirky rom com but, while that does remain a part of the plot, it soon heads into more familiar territory as prostitutes, pimps, drugs and an almost Grand Guignol level of murderous gore enter the fray.
Added to this is a kind of noir-ish, almost shaggy dog story, road trip plot that, if it weren’t so brutal and bloody in parts, could almost be heading towards being a farce or screwball comedy, all of which means the tone is a little all over the place.
Scott does a great job of finding the balance between all of this giving it a great sense of 80s excess, with which he made his name, with the edge that came into cinema in the early 90s still strong and present so, even though this came out after Tarantino’s debut, it feels somewhat like a bridge between the two styles of 80s and 90s cinema.
Another thing that certainly helps it all hang together so well are the performances, and the phrase ‘all star cast’ might never have been so appropriate.
Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette as the leads Clarence and Alabama carry the bulk of it, and have a great chemistry and energy that really drives the film along.
With them come an almost bewildering array of cameos including one scene shots from Samuel L. Jackson and Christopher Walken, both on fine form and clearly revelling in the heightened aspect of it all, to slightly larger ones.
These includes outings from Dennis Hopper, in remarkably restrained but hugely effective form when he does get his moment to shine, and Gary Oldman as dreadlocked pimp Drexl who spends his few scenes stealing them in almost surreal style (is that actually Oldman’s voice!?) that makes it hard to believe it’s the same actors who was Dracula only a year before.
One aspect that I particularly liked, but seemed almost under explored but that maybe what made it so enjoyable, is the appearance of (seemingly) Val Kilmer as a Mentor for Clarence who may or may not be a hallucinatory apparition of Elvis Presley. While he only appears a couple of times and we never really find out why or how, it’s a nice twist of either the fantastic or the psychological that I’ve not seen for Tarantino elsewhere.
True Romance then certainly lived up to my expectations and, while it may not be a classic on the level of Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction for me, is still a great way to spend a couple of hours and I’m very glad I finally got round to watching it and wish I had sooner.