“…I am completely sure that the pairing of a Tarantino story mixed with Tony Scott’s directing absolutely works…”
Recently I had the pleasure of seeing the 90’s classic True Romance in theatres. For those who don’t know, True Romance is a film that was directed by Tony Scott and was written by Quentin Tarantino. The movie is about two newlyweds, Clarence and Alabama, who become drug dealers when Clarence mistakingly grabs a suitcase full of coke after dealing with Alabama’s pimp, Drexl. For those of you familiar with Tarantino’s work, this plot would seem commonplace, and as far as Tarantino movies go, this is one of my favourites of his even though he didn’t direct it. Now just to be clear, I haven’t read the script that Tarantino wrote, so I’m not completely sure which details were there originally, and which ones were added during production. But I am completely sure that the pairing of a Tarantino story mixed with Tony Scott’s directing absolutely works.
True Romance is a special case when it comes to Tarantino movies. Unlike most of his other films, this one really feels like a product of its time. By that I mean, save for Inglorious Basterds, Django Unchained, and The Hateful 8, which are very much period pieces, Tarantino movies to me feel timeless. Of course there are a few exceptions to this rule like Jackie Brown, but it could be argued that Jackie Brown feels different because it was adapted from an Elmore Leonard novel, but for the most part I feel that Tarantino movies are fluid when it comes to time frames. I’m not sure exactly why that is, maybe it is due to the focus on character traits and conversations that would be very common in any time period, or it could be something else entirely. But going back to my original point, I think it is Tony Scott and his directing that lets this movie act as a window into the 90’s for those who maybe haven’t experienced it themselves. If you look at Tony Scotts resume of films, he was pretty much the director of the late 80’s to the late 90’s. And you will also notice that he made almost exclusively action action movies. Now when I think of Tarantino I do not think of action movies. Again I’m going to reiterate that I have not read the script that Tarantino wrote, so I might be talking out of my ass when I say that it was Tony Scotts’ focus on action as well as Tarantino’s written dialogue that give us the best of both worlds in this film. Alright, now I suppose I should talk more specifically about the movie.
The first thing that struck me about this movie was the score. During the opening montage of establishing shots, the light, upbeat tone of the music instantly brought a smile to my face. The music doesn’t set up all of the bad shit that’s about to go down, but instead highlights the optimism of the two main characters who find themselves dealing with some really awful people. The editing of this movie is great, and really helps it stand out in my mind. Of course during actions scenes, like the one at the beginning with Drexl and a cameo from Samuel L. Jackson, the quick cuts and dutch angles really add to the chaotic and sometimes surprising nature of the action scenes in the movie. Not only during the action scenes, but also during some dialogue scenes. A couple that come to mind are the scene in the comic store with Clarence and Alabama getting to know each other, I really loved the camera angles in this shot as well, and the infamous ‘Eggplant’ scene, where not only does the editing add to the tension but the lighting and use of smoke make the scene feel really personal. And that’s not the only scene where the use of an inanimate object really adds to the tension, during the scene with Clarence and Drexl there is a really low hanging lamp that Drexl uses to intimidate Clarence. This really elevates the feeling of the scene, and a brilliant way to use lighting. (WHAT I’M ABOUT TO SAY CONTAINS SPOILERS, SO SKIP TO THE NEXT PARAGRAPH IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS IN THE MOVIE) Finally what I want to talk about pertaining to editing is the juxtaposition of two characters meeting new people for the first time. The scene where Alabama is being brutally beaten in her motel room has a wonderful piece of editing. Alabama gets punched and then the movie cuts to Clarence who has just ordered his food and then strikes up a conversation with a total stranger about Elvis. You can see that Clarence is very happy to be able to talk about something he is passionate about and have a captive audience. The movie then hard cuts to Alabama lying on her back on the motel room floor surrounded by most of the contents of her room. I really enjoy the juxtaposition of seeing Clarence, as happy as can be because he thinks all of his problems are over, and seeing Alabama, who is broken and beaten and probably assuming she is going to die.
The acting in this movie is just top notch. I think it is leagues better than most of the other action movies that came out in the 90’s and it is one reason that this movie still holds up when you watch it today. I also think that the acting is so great due in part to the the phenomenal casting. Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette do a great job of really embodying their roles as Clarence and Alabama. Gary Oldman fucking hits it out of the park with his portrayal of Drexl, and I’ve already mentioned the amazing ‘Eggplant’ scene but that scene wouldn’t be half of what it is if it wasn’t for the great performances by Dennis Hopper and Christopher Walken. And of course I can’t forget Brad Pitt’s performance of Dick Ritchie’s stoner roommate, Floyd, who adds some great comic relief to scenes that would otherwise be pretty generic. There are many other actors that I am not mentioning, but that’s not because they didn’t do a great job, it’s because I don’t really want to write a three page review just on the acting. Suffice it to say, every actor in this movie held their own and put on great performances. And of course, as I already mentioned, the writing in this movie is great. It really is a classic Tarantino movie with the use of dialogue and comedy being very prominent. Just the climax of the movie alone had enough comedy and gory action that is the centre piece in many Tarantino movies today. The only problem I had with the movie was the terribly out of place silhouette sex scene, that was almost directly ripped from Top Gun (another Tony Scott film), and really helps solidify my point that this is very much 90’s movie.
There is not much more I can say about this movie without repeating myself, but if you haven’t seen it I highly recommend you drop what you are doing and watch it now. It really is an enjoyable experience.
I give True Romance an A (5/5)