Directed by Tony Scott. US. 1993. R. 120 minutes. Warner Bros. 35mm.
Fri., February 15, 2013
“On one level, “True Romance” is as witty and gut-wrenching as any Tarantino-directed feature. Christian Slater plays a comic-store clerk who falls in love with novice prostitute Patricia Arquette, then flees to Hollywood after killing her pimp (played by a scintillating, sinister Gary Oldman) and stealing a suitcase full of cocaine. The pulpy plot provides an excuse for digressive character moments, as Christopher Walken, Dennis Hopper, Brad Pitt, Michael Rapaport, James Gandolfini, Tom Sizemore, Chris Penn, Bronson Pinchot, and Saul Rubinek all pop up as cops, crooks, and movie-industry players. But style-wise, “True Romance” fails everywhere that “Reservoir Dogs” and its successors succeed. Tony Scott uses generic hard rock on the soundtrack instead of charming old pop and soul, he uses filtered light rather than Tarantino’s flat naturalism, and he cuts with an almost random quickness, rather than letting the long dialogue scenes play out in the extended takes and precise tracking shots that are Tarantino’s underappreciated signature. The Tony Scott version of Tarantino comes out vulgar; the graphic violence and profanity-laced posturing represent everything that the wannabes soon used to exhaust audiences. Nevertheless, “True Romance”contains so many unforgettable momentsWalken interrogating Hopper, Pitt cradling his honey-bear bong, Slater and Pinchot making a drug deal on a roller coasterthat the affection shown the film in the DVD cast interviews rings true. The most redemptive scene arrives late, when Slater and Arquette cuddle in a junkyard near an airport, watching the planes and talking about making a little money and seeing the world, a seemingly impossible dream for a couple of “minimum-wage kids.” There’s a meaningful similarity between the heroes’ situation and that of former video-store clerk Tarantino. Even though it’s clumsy, and even though Tarantino didn’t direct it, “True Romance” may be his most personal film” (Noel Murray, The Onion A.V. Club)