Somehow, I’ve never seen this movie before. Sure, it was featured by other writers on the site before and I’ve owned it for some time, but somehow I’ve never found the reason to watch it. Luckily, Arrow Video released several new versions of the film on blu ray and 4K UHD, which gave me the opportunity.
What was I waiting for?
True Romance was a script Quentin Tarantino sold after Reservoir Dogs and unlike so many of his written work, it was directed by someone else: Tony Scott (ironic, as Tarantino went off on Scott’s best-known film Top Gun in the 1994 movie Sleep With Me).
I kind of love that this started with Roger Avery unable to finish a script, so he turned it over to Tarantino, who gave him a stack of pages back which were Natural Born Killers and this movie, which starts after the prison riot and features Mickey and Mallory Knox tracking down the writer who made the cash-in film about their lives. As that writer hides out, he writes True Romance.
Tarantino has said that it’s his most autobiographical film and by and large, he was happy with the way it turned out. It’s pretty faithful to his screenplay, other than changing the story to a linear structure and not the all-over-the-place narrative that Tarantino would use for Pulp Fiction. He also took much of the film’s first act from his 1987 effort My Best Friend’s Birthday.
I have to say, as a man obsessed with movies that married a short-haired blonde from Detroit, this movie has a lot to say to me.
As Clarence Worley (Christian Slater) sits alone in a theater watching a Sonny Chiba triple feature, Alabama Whitman (Patricia Arquette) — named from Pam Grier’s character in The Big Bird Cage — spills her popcorn all over him, leading to an evening where the two bond over cinema, Elvis, diner food and sex.
The next day, she tells him that she was hired to give him a good time by his boss. He doesn’t care; they’re both in love. They get married and moments later, Elvis (Val Kilmer) himself appears to Clarence and tells him that he has to set Alabama free from her pimp Drexl (Gary Oldman, perfect for the too-brief time he’s on-screen). All Clarence wants is her to be free, Drexl attempts to kill him, but misjudges just how strong Alabama’s love makes the young man. Running into the night with two dead bodies left behind, the young couple learns that they have a briefcase packed with cocaine.
As we follow the couple to Hollywood, where Dick Ritchie (Michael Rappaport) and Elliot Blitzer (Bronson Pinchot) broker a deal with movie producer Lee Donowitz (Elliot Blitzer; this character produced Bounty Law in Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood, is the son of Donny Donowitz from Inglorious Bastards; the movie that he produced that Clarence speaks so highly of, Coming Home In a Body Bag stars Rick Dalton, who is the hero of Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood; he’s also pretty much Joel Silver).
This drug deal is complicated by the fact that Drexl had stolen the cocaine from Blue Lou Boyle, which sends Vincenzo Coccotti (Christopher Walken) and an army of killers on the trail of Clarence and Alabama. Meanwhile, a cocaine and oral sex aided and abetted arrest leads to the cops wiring Elliot for the big drug deal, an event that leads to a Mexican standoff between our happy couple, the Hollywood elite, organized crime and the police, led by detectives Nicky Dimes (Chris Penn) and Cody Nicholson (Tom Sizemore).
There’s so much that happens in this movie and so much to discuss, but I think it’s perhaps best experienced by the viewer. That said, there’s an astounding scene between Clarence’s father (Dennis Hopper) and Coccotti, as well as Alabama remaining resilient in the face and fists of a hired killer (James Gandolfini). Oh — and Brad Pitt pretty much inventing the movie Pineapple Express with his scene with the mob interrogating him.
The original ending had Clarence dying and the widowed Alabama eventually turning to crime. Evidence of that is in Reservoir Dogs and Mr. White (Harvey Keitel) talking about working with Alabama.
The Arrow Video release of True Romance has 4K restorations of both the Theatrical Cut and the Director’s Cut from the original camera negatives, as well as limited edition packaging with a reversible sleeve featuring newly commissioned artwork by Sara Deck (which also is featured as a poster in this impressive set).
There’s so much in this package, including a 60-page perfect-bound collectors’ booklet featuring new writing on the film by Kim Morgan and Nicholas Clement, a 2008 Maxim oral history featuring interviews with cast and crew and Edgar Wright’s 2012 eulogy for Tony Scott, as well as six double-sided, postcard-sized lobby card reproductions
There are multiple audio commentaries, with options from director Tony Scott, writer Quentin Tarantino, stars Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette, and critic Tim Lucas, Plus, you also get select scene commentaries by stars Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer, Brad Pitt, Michael Rapaport, Bronson Pinchot and Saul Rubinek.
As if that wasn’t enough, there are interviews with costume designer Susan Becker, co-editor Michael Tronick, co-composers Mark Mancina and John Van Tongeren, and Larry Taylor, author of Tony Scott: A Filmmaker on Fire.
Most interesting to me were the deleted scenes with optional commentary by Scott and the two different endings of the movie with commentaries by Scott and Tarantino that really add so much to this movie, as Tarantino discusses how the ending in the film is the right ending for the movie Scott made.
There’s also an electronic press kit featurettes, behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with Tony Scott, Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, Dennis Hopper and Gary Oldman, trailers and TV spots, and an image gallery.
You can get the following versions from MVD: