Tony Scott’s True Romance strikes an unusually brilliant balance of crime and romance: not too poetically saccharine, nor excessively violent and tasteless like Natural Born Killers. Written by Quentin Tarantino, with music by Hans Zimmer, it makes for a movie armed with prongs of humour, violence, and sex. The opening scene, sarcastically loaded (“we’d both f*ck Elvis. It’s nice to meet people with common interests, isn’t it?”) sets the tone for Elvis fanatic Clarence and call girl Alabama’s tested romance.
The two quickly establish an exhilarating, honeymoon-phase bond with unmatchable on-screen chemistry. Head over heels for one another, they both confess their love upon the night of their first meeting, then marry and get matching tattoos. All the clichés, yet none of the cringe. Even as the pair share pie in a nostalgic American diner, the cheesy ’80s love songs sound sweet and harmonious. Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack is not bound to any one genre, ranging from disco bops to classic rock, and remains timeless.
As Alabama, Patricia Arquette possesses an innocent aggressiveness, shouting “can you stop being so calm about all this?!?” when tearfully confessing her profession to Clarence. Played by Christian Slater, super-nerd Clarence creates a sweet and essential equilibrium. The relationship never wavers in intensity, their Bonnie and Clyde-esque romance going through a whole lot in its infancy – including murder, meeting the parents, and moving a big bag of cocaine.
Bouncy, fast-paced and exciting, it’s a love story laced with vivid tones and a tantalising, endlessly rewatchable violent plot. From the iconic ‘Sicilian’ scene to Brad Pitt as hilarious stoner Floyd, only stopping taking hits off a bong to kill some bad guys, there is not one moment or character that falls short.
Arquette is perfect in capturing all the facets of her character: girlish, ditzy, rooted in melancholy. Bringing out her vengeful side was aided by director Scott taking matters to the extreme, slapping Arquette across the face during filming after she had asked for help on how to unload emotion in the difficult mobster interrogation scene.
There are some parts of Tarantino’s screenplay that tickle, especially hilarious misheard dialogue (“who the f*ck is Dick?”, “Huh? You want me to suck his dick?”), giving a quick breather from the intense violence. Some scenes cause genuine shock, including casual, ironic racism in candid conversation. Only Tarantino could pull off this level of streamlined hilarity, propelled by Scott’s assured direction.
The insatiability of desire drives the plot: Alabama and Clarence’s sexual desire, and hope for a better life in Cancun. This film gives the impression that true romance can overcome all sorts of adversity, yet can also be the one thing to cause it. It isn’t bound within any era but is hedonistic in its creativity. Brad Pitt improvised most of his lines – there was a lot of creative freedom in the film’s production that is near-impossible to find in the industry today.
True Romance is worth a watch if you are a fan of either rom-com or crime films. The star-crossed lovers are off the rails yet perfectly functional in their little romantic bubble. Maybe Tarantino not directing is what makes this film so sweet. It’s full of complexity and glossiness that barely lets you come up for air and, most importantly, is blissfully romantic when it needs to be.
Watch the trailer below: