Classic movie: True Romance

2012-08-22 14:43
Sean Billings
With the very sudden death of director Tony Scott (Top Gun, Enemy of the State) it seemed apt to look back at one of his best films, True Romance, ironically not one he often got enough personal plaudits for, as the film is famous in movie circles for many things mostly unrelated to Scott himself:
Romance was Quentin Tarantino's first screenplay, which hung around gathering dust before Reservoir Dogs exploded on the scene the year before, so making anything "Tarantino" hot property, the studio subsequently buying the script in a Hollywood minute.

It boasted the best ensemble cast for a film since, well anything made by Woody Allen and Robert Altman combined – even the guy who is in the room and then gets blown away one second later turns out to be Samuel L Jackson for crying out loud!

Of course lets not forget to mention that scene – yes, the one where Dennis Hopper gets Christopher Walken to kill him after mentioning something about Sicilians, Moors and eggplant – pure uncut Tarantino dialoguing – true cool instead of just trying to sound it.

For all these cited reasons the film can pop up in any number of film geek's online chats and be mined for classis quotes – "I haven't killed anybody since 1984" – yet perhaps it’s most influential factor, director Scott himself, slips under the radar.

The reasonably straight-forward narrative sees Detroit comic book store attendant Clarence Worley (Christian Slater) and first time call girl Alabama Whitman (Patricia Arquette) fall head over heels for each other, and then go on the run to LA with a suitcase full of nose candy after an altercation with Alabama's hideous pimp Drexl (no one does toxic slime better than Gary Oldman – also see The Professional)

Naturally people get killed – lots of them, the language is vulgar, yet witty in the Tarantino sort of way – and the story heads to an almighty stand-off last seen by Wyatt Earp, the Clanton gang and ALL their friends.  

However it is Tony Scott's touches though that makes the film more than just a quick talking, movie star loaded action shoot 'em up.  

The Scott "gleam" is on every shot – close ups and wide angles all beautifully framed and colour filtered and polarized – his trademark look that would come to define (and occasionally overpower his characters and story) his distinctive style over the decades. Where would the likes of Michael Bay (Bad Boys, The Rock) and Simon West (Con Air) be without the influence of that famous Scott sheen?

Then, to have so many name actors over the title is one thing - to get all of them to fill each character with such commitment and passion, even if just in a small cameo - takes a talent and fine balancing act behind the microphone.  From Brad Pitt's stoner Floyd to James (pre-The Sopranos) Gandolfini's weary hitman, every character is given definition and attention.

Yet in the middle of all the guns and roller coasters, True Romance is truly just a simple love story between two lost souls, who turn out to be more resilient than anyone else around, and provide the story with it's heart and anchor - and Scott never forgets that - even with so many possible distractions around. 

Clarence finds strength and hidden resourcefulness (his love of Elvis Presley is a resource on it's own) that surprises every time (really just a comic book clerk?) and Alabama – in career best performance from the then lesser known Arquette sister – surprisingly turns out to be possibly the toughest of all in a sordid world filled with so much testosterone and tough guys.

Tony may never be as revered as brother Ridley (Blade Runner, Alien, Gladiator) but he never pretended to be anything other than a professional director for hire that would most likely give a studio a commercial success and an audience a hell of an entertaining time, unlike some other "directors" who spout deeper meaning while producing bland and shallow fodder.

He may have made more successful box office smashes (Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cops II), perhaps the definitive submarine adventure (Crimson Tide) and a film with Bruce Willis playing a character even cooler than Die Hard's John McClane (The Last Boy Scout), but I hope that True Romance is the one that he will be remembered for – never mind the Tarantino connection and the A-list actors popping into every frame.

No, this is pure uncut Tony Scott: Action with a heart, cinema with style and flash with substance. True cool instead of just trying to be.

RIP: Tony Scott (1944 – 2012)

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  • tiaan.odendaal1 - 2012-08-22 19:12


  • jam3son.walk3r - 2012-08-23 08:33

    Brilliant movie, great cast and great story. Finally a there was "chick flick" I could actually sit through. I watched it again last month, and still enjoyed every moment of it!

      klipkop.degroote - 2012-08-30 11:08

      Really enjoyed Gary Oldman with dreads in this. Great movie for sure.

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