Saw this movie in the theater years ago, and it was my introduction to Tarantino's work. One of Christian Slater's better films, the action aspect of the story is neverending. Walken's 15-minute spot as a gangster, interrogating Dennis Hopper, is superb and makes you want to kiss your hands. Brad Pitt, that lovable pot-head who lives on Michael Rapaport's couch, amuses me every time I see him holding the honey bear. Gary Oldman, as the cuddly pimp named Drexel, offers up his lines hilariously. ("You musta thought it was white boy day! It ain't white boy day, is it?") Val Kilmer is also in the movie, although you never really see his face, since he stars as a slightly hidden Elvis giving Slater's character pep-talks.

The soundtrack is a great one as well, with music by Hans Zimmer, Nymphomania, Soundgarden, Chris Isaak and more.

True Romance
Stealing. Cheating. Killing. Who says romance is dead?

Your quintessential ultra-violent, poor white trash, urban slacker chase film love story involving a hallucinating semi-psychotic comic store clerk from Detroit, his wily beautiful new Southern bride and their accidentally ill-gotten gains- which serves up a quite literally Quixotic1 study in honour (romantic, familial, professional) while relating at perfect pitch the potential for danger arising from sudden marriages, tough talk, reading too much into the Marvel Universe, watching too many kung fu movies and actually listening to apparitions.2

Directed by Tony Scott (The Hunger, Top Gun, The Last Boy Scout...), brother of Ridley Scott
Written by Quentin Tarantino & Roger Avery (a Canadian ex-video clerk from Flin Flon who contributed the radio dialogue for Reservoir Dogs, then got to *ahem* 'make' Killing Zoe)
Produced by Bob & Harvey Weinstein at Miramax
Running time 121 m

If I absolutely had to pick a cast :
  1. Christian Slater .... Clarence Worley
  2. Patricia Arquette .... Alabama Whitman
  3. Dennis Hopper .... Clifford Worley
  4. Christopher Walken .... Vincenzo Coccotti
  5. Bronson Pinchot .... Elliot Blitzer
  6. Michael Rapaport .... Dick Ritchie
  7. Saul Rubinek .... Lee Donowitz
  8. Chris Penn .... Nicky Dimes
  9. Tom Sizemore .... Cody Nicholson
Every myth its archetype (cameos) :
  1. Gary Oldman .... Drexl Spivey
  2. Brad Pitt .... Floyd
  3. Samuel L. Jackson .... Big Don
  4. James Gandolfini .... Virgil
  5. Val Kilmer .... Mentor (Elvis)
The Setup

You know that annoying thing that happens to comic store guys who never get out and have no friends, how on their birthdays they always run into beautiful girls while they're alone in movie theatres, girls who want to sit with 'em, then hang out and talk about comic books, then, y'know, get it on...

Well, that's how it starts, anyway. Unfortunately, as Clarence & Alabama discover their undying love, swear eternal loyalty while smoking in lawn chairs, get hitched and tattooed in celebratory, trailer trash bliss...well, things go awry. The new groom feels compelled to pay a visit to his wife’s former 'employer' (pimp) in his 'place of business' (crack house) to discuss her 'severance terms' - all of which leads immediately to the film’s first set piece. And as Clarence stares down Drexel (a gold toothed, horrifically scarred, dread lock bewigged Gary Oldman speaking gangsta), dropping a envelope before him, he delivers the films first quintessentially pitch-perfect soliloquy:
'I'm not eatin' 'cause I'm not hungry. I'm not sittin' 'cause I'm not stayin'. I'm not lookin' at the movie 'cause I saw it seven years ago. It's "The Mack" with Max Julian, Carol Speed, and Richard Pryor, written by Bobby Poole, directed by Michael Campus, and released by Cinerama Releasing Company in 1984. I'm not scared of you. I just don't like you. In that envelope is some payoff money. Alabama's moving on to some greener pastures. We're not negotiatin'. I don't like to barter. What's in that envelope is for my peace of mind. My peace of mind is worth that much. Not one penny less, not one penny more.'
Here, also, is your first clue Clarence is not entirely right in the head, because of what’s in the envelope...or rather what's not.

The Chase

Well things get a little hectic thereafter (just time to scarf down a cheeseburger and get packed), and so the newlyweds are suddenly ascurry to leave town. But before they storm off in their pink Caddie on the 'honeymoon' (they’ve picked Hollywood, for reasons the film soon makes clear), etiquette demands the family be informed, no? Luckily, Clarence only has his security guard, formerly boozing dad, who he hasn’t talked to in seven years though they live in the same city. So they swing by his trailer, parked next to the railway tracks on the shores of Lake Ontario. Everyone gets introduced, Clarence asks a difficult favour, father and son reconcile, and off speed the happy couple. Which brings the viewer to...

The Moment:

The story arc, while still great throughout the movie, is admittedly a wee-bit off centre - only because it drops this scene early on, without any warning or preparation. The tableaux is established as your typical Q & A - one that you’ve seen on film or read in novels a hundred times before. Whirly the Elder lets some goons get the jump on him in his own trailer, he gets plopped in a seat. Then, again, as with the Clarence-Drexel showdown, it suddenly goes over the top, when Hopper asks if the intruder’s leader (Walken) will kindly introduce himself, which he does:
'The Anti-Christ. ( Walken hands his overcoat to a minion, edges toward Hopper, now bound in a chair) You got me in a vendetta kind of mood. You tell the angels in heaven you never seen evil so singularly personified as you did in the face of the man who killed you. My name is Vincent Coccotti...’
The interrogation unfolds quickly, and goes from bad to worse. Abruptly, though, the gliding vocals of the 'Flower Duet' (from Delibes' opera Lakme) begin to warble in the background as the torture eases off for a moment. 3 What happens next seems difficult for some viewers. Maybe it's the violence, for others the language (several university girls left the theatre at this point when I first saw the film in the spring of 1993: politically correct, i suppose, it is not) - but Clarence’s father essentially has to think of a way, since he can’t escape, to not talk. He has to get himself killed, in other words, or he knows he'll be wrung for everything he knows. It's the sheer artistry of his verbal escape routine that makes for an incredible bit of acting between Hopper and Walken. I won't even attempt to duplicate the expressions, I'll just say it's old school tragedian.

Other amazing dialogue:
“You can bring in the state militia, the LA Thunderbirds, the ghost of Steve fucking McQueen, and 10 fucking Roman Gladiators, for all we care, we just want credit for the bust.”

“He must have thought it was white boy day. It ain't white boy day, is it?”

“If there's one thing this last week has taught me, it's better to have a gun and not need it than to need a gun and not have it.”
"While you’re out can you pick up some beer...

...and some cleaning products." I could go on all afternoon, but alas, no more can be given away, because if you've not seen it I'm deflating it for you. But just think: Conchata Ferrell reading from an all new T.J. Hooker script, Jame Gandolphi's 'killing 'em just to see their fuckin' expression change' speech, Chris Penn's 'Come outta froma behinda da couch' line! Why are you still even reading this? Go rent it, buy it, commit it to memory already. Tell me Clarence isn’t completely off his nut in the elevator, tell me Bronson Pinchot isn’t brill in this role, tell me the ending is just a little too John Woo with all those feathers and slo-mo - it matters not a whit. This is still Mr. Tarantino's best script - no question - most likely only saved by not being actually directed by him, or sticking to his usual Chinese puzzle box narrative style. If you want gritty 'realism', meaningful social 'commentary', etc., go read a book. But if we're talking about movies, and what they can do uniquely well, this is the shit. To conclude: escapist trash raised to an angelic, inspirational plane - and easily, hands down, my absolute favourite flick of all time, ever.
Thanks, Imprecation & IMDB...
Notes:
1 Too many medieval Romances, too many Comic Books - same thing. 'True' as in 'verisimilitude' and 'Romance' as in 'idealized narrative' form a pretty oxymoronic little title. Cervantes' would've picked up on Q.T.'s joke for sure.
2 I mean look where it got Hamlet, another murderous, delusional hero of great fame and body count...
3 Another story, incidentally, about star cross'd lovers, a man of honour entranced with the beauty of a princess, whose romance sparks betrayal & vengeance.

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