Review: [In Memory of Tony Scott 1944-2012] TRUE ROMANCE (1993) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Review: [In Memory of Tony Scott 1944-2012] TRUE ROMANCE (1993)


RATING: 4/5

From his little debut in THE HUNGER (1983) and right up to his slew of big-budget blockbuster hits including TOP GUN (1986), BEVERLY HILLS COP II (1987) and DAYS OF THUNDER (1990), director Tony Scott is primarily known for his slick visuals or should I say, his direction is all about "style over substance". But in the fall of 1993, who could have thought that Tony Scott can be unbelievably awesome in TRUE ROMANCE? Thanks to a snappy script by Quentin Tarantino, Scott has no doubt brings a lot of style and substance in one of his finest movies he's ever made.

Clarence Worley (Christian Slater) is a lowly comic-book store clerk who really likes Elvis a lot, and a huge fan of Sonny Chiba's movies. When he is watching triple features of Sonny Chiba's STREET FIGHTER trilogy in a local theater at Detroit, he meets Alabama Whitman (Patricia Arquette), who accidentally spilled a giant cup of popcorn all over him. Within a short time of period, they quickly get to know each other and even end up making love in his apartment. But there's something about Alabama he doesn't know: She confesses that she's actually a call girl being paid by Clarence's boss to get laid for his birthday. And at the same time, she also admits that she has falling madly in love with him.

The next day, they get married instantly but these two cute couples wouldn't rest easy since Alabama's pimp, Drexl (Gary Oldman) still "owns" her. In order to get rid of this problem once and for all, Clarence takes his chance to meet up with Drexl and settles the score. Naturally, his negotiation with Drexl gets pretty ugly but Clarence manages to overcome the problem by killing him and his gang in an inevitable bloody massacre.

While he thinks he gets everything covered, little he knows that the suitcase supposedly filled with Alabama's personal stuff he brought back from Drexl's house -- contains a large amount of uncut cocaine. Knowing that they might get into big trouble, they decide to skip town immediately.

After a short visit with Clarence's estranged dad, Clifford (Dennis Hopper), the couple head off to L.A. in an attempt to sell off the cocaine by enlisting the help of an old friend named Dick Ritchie (Mark Rapaport), an aspiring actor who tries to make a breakthrough. Dick hooks them up with a fellow actor named Elliot (Bronson Pinchot) to sell the cocaine to his boss, a big-time film producer named Lee Donowitz (Saul Rubinek). Meanwhile, trouble just keeps on coming when a band of mafia hitmen lead by Vincenzo Coccotti (Christopher Walken) and a pair of wisecracking L.A. cops, Nicky (Chris Penn) and Cody (Tom Sizemore) also involved as well.

It's hard to believe that Quentin Tarantino was originally wanted to direct this movie from his own script after his breakthrough debut in 1992's RESERVOIR DOGS. However he subsequently ended up losing interest in directing and sold the script instead.

At the first glance, the name of Tony Scott isn't much of a shortlist to helm such a movie. But Scott is one heck of a surprise. He certainly displays a lot of passion for pop-culture references (ranging from Elvis, Sonny Chiba, comic book and Vietnam war movies) that remains faithful to Tarantino's original script (even though he does change the non-linear fashion into a conventional straightforward approach as well as tweaked the original ending into a "happy" one). Not surprisingly, the dialogues are infectiously catchy and entertaining. And of course, the stylized violence that Scott delivers with such energetic fashion here -- particularly in the scene involving the bloody motel-room fight between Alabama and one of the mafia hitmen, Virgil (James Gandolfini) (which is trimmed for theatrical release but restored for video) and the violent Mexican standoff finale in the hotel suite which instantly recalled the same ending in RESERVOIR DOGS. But my personal favorite would be the memorable interrogation scene between Vincenzo Coccotti and Clifford where they end up debating about the origin of Sicilians.

Cast-wise, all of them delivers enthusiastic performances. Both Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette made a great reckless couple-on-the-run, while the supporting actors as well as small roles from Gary Oldman, Christopher Walken, Dennis Hopper, Brad Pitt (who plays Dick's useless roommate, Floyd), Samuel L. Jackson (who plays Big Don, one of the dealers get shot earlier by Drexl), Chris Penn and Tom Sizemore -- are equally fantastic.

TRUE ROMANCE may have been one of those rare studio picture that dares to go further from being too formulaic, the whole "BONNIE AND CLYDE for MTV generation"-like eternal love angle between Clarence and Alabama is somehow flimsy while the movie does tends to get bumpy on and off.

Despite the critical success, it's a shame that viewers doesn't feel the same thing. It tanked at the box office, even though it subsequently becomes a cult favorite when it released on video.

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