Tuesday, April 28, 2009

True Romance (1993)

Directed by Tony Scott. I hadn't seen this in about ten years and re-watched it because in June Tony Scott's remake of "The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3" is scheduled for release and I couldn't be more skeptical. That is bound to be a serious stinker.

If you read this blog, you are bound to be aware that "True Romance" was written by a young Quentin Tarantino with him hoping to direct it as his first feature film. I don't want to insult Scott; I liked "Enemy of the State" and "Domino." All I'm saying is that I'm certain "True Romance" would have been much better if Tarantino had done it himself, and the extent of that can not be underestimated. It's such a good script it's hard to think that anyone could have screwed it up. Giving a script like "True Romance" to Tony Scott is like strapping a jet-pack to a turtle.

The movie tells the story of newlyweds Clarence Worley (Christian Slater) and Alabama Whitman (Patricia Arquette), on the run to Mexico while trying to sell a briefcase of cocaine stolen from Alabama's former pimp. The pacing of the story is spectacular, with the third act climaxing in a hotel room scene that's under-sold if described as intricately exciting.

That's enough to recommend this, though there's the context -- at the time of its release, Tarantino's career was getting seriously rolling. "Reservoir Dogs" had hit the previous year and critics and audiences had developed an appetite for his style: real attention to dialog, violence, and strong stories using traditional 'grindhouse' contexts not known for strong stories.

Tarantino's great work was attracting great actors; "True Romance" featured major contributions by Christopher Walken and Dennis Hopper, including one long scene that both writers and actors study to this day. "Reservoir Dogs" included Harvey Keitel.

If you've never seen "True Romance" or haven't seen it since it was released you may be surprised or put off by how it has aged. It has a bit of a "neon" look to it that's hard to believe was deliberately tacky, as opposed to regrettable contemporary "Hot Topic" production design. But as the earliest significant installment of Tarantino's career, it's a priceless time capsule.

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