True Romance

***

Reviewed by: Scott Macdonald

True Romance
"Another victim of the style over substance genre."

A grand, large, cliche-filled mess of a film, hurtling from one moment to the next. It's no irony the best moments of True Romance are short-lived. Let's take Gary Oldman, playing a deliciously cruel pimp who is under the delusion that he's a black man, gleefully exaggerating his swagger and voice to suit his impression. A delight to behold, easily keeping our attention - and indeed, the film dispatches with him swiftly with a painful looking bullet or two.

An adolescent mindset runs through the script by Quentin Tarantino (who contributes a commentary on the new DVD). He hasn't refined his own writing skills to suit. Director Tony Scott takes the lead and creates a suitable world in which fast cuts, long monologues and quick movements from scene to scene are the order of the day. It wrings out the audience and tries to milk dramatic juice so readily that it's pointless to resist. I watch the film with a cheery grin, as I tick off a list of cliches. Its seductive world of fast women, rock music, guns and drugs doubtless appeal to the power-fantasies of the intended audience of under 17s. (Ironically, the film is 18-rated.)

Copy picture

The film's hero, Clarence, is undoubtedly Tarantino's favourite. He's an easygoing chatterbox who works at a comic-book store and enjoys his job. (Tarantino worked in a video store for many, many years... so the parallels are simple.) On his birthday, he goes to the movies for a triple bill of kung-fu hits starring film legend Sonny Chiba (Hattori Hanzo in the recent, terrific Kill Bill). In the audience he meets a young woman called Alabama *snigger* who is a beginner hooker run into the ground by Oldman's pimp. Clarence marries Alabama, makes a pincushion out of Oldman, and accidentally makes off with $5m worth of cocaine.

It's interesting: if Clarence and Alabama are our heroes, why are they so uninteresting? They look great - Christian Slater is suitably young and fearless and Patricia Arquette, who plays Alabama, insists on wearing fittingly low-cut clothing to show off her great body. But there's nothing else to note about these two characters which doesn't serve the thin story.

From then on, the movie takes no time in moving us to Los Angeles, and another splendidly colourful supporting cast, including Brad Pitt as an engagingly lazy stoner and James Gandolfini as a philosophical and vicious hitman. Each of them have moments of their own, when the film slows down and dials down the noise enough to appreciate these wonderfully written characters.

The movie's best part is when it spends a good ten or so minutes with Dennis Hopper (as Clarence's father) and Christopher Walken (as the drug lord). It's like no torture session that I've ever seen. Tarantino's words delivered from these veterans sting just as much as any real pain delivered. And even so, there's time for very big laughs as Hopper effortlessly insults Walken's Sicilian heritage while smoking his last cigarette.

The movie has a quick look at cocaine deals, set on a rollercoaster. It's a nice metaphor for the entire film. Although unlike said fairground attraction, the best moments of True Romance are when it shuts up for a moment to share drama. But I'm needlessly complaining, True Romance wasn't made for me, but I can appreciate it as another victim of the style over substance genre.

Reviewed on: 14 Dec 2006
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True Romance packshot
An earnest young comics geek goes on the run with an inexperienced hooker and an accidentally acquired suitcase full of cocaine - Christopher Walken's cocaine...
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Director: Tony Scott

Writer: Quentin Tarantino

Starring: Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, Dennis Hopper, Christopher Walken, Brad Pitt, Val Kilmer, Michael Rapaport, Samuel L Jackson, James Gandolfini, Gary Oldman

Year: 1993

Runtime: 120 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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