Tony Scott and Quentin Tarantino combine their talents to explosive effect
STEALING. CHEATING. KILLING. WHO SAYS ROMANCE IS DEAD? In 1993, action movie supremo Tony Scott teamed up with a hot new screenwriter named Quentin Tarantino to bring True Romance to the screen, one of the most beloved and widely-quoted films of the decade. Elvis-worshipping comic book store employee Clarence Worley (Christian Slater) is minding his own business at a Sonny Chiba triple bill when Alabama Whitman (Patricia Arquette) walks into his life — and from then on, the two are inseparable. Within 24 hours, they’re married and on the run after Clarence is forced to kill Alabama’s possessive, psychopathic pimp. Driving a Cadillac across the country from Detroit to Hollywood, the newlyweds plan to sell off a suitcase full of stolen drugs to fund a new life for themselves… but little do they suspect that the cops and the Mafia are closing in on them. Will they escape and make their dream of a happy ending come true? Breathtaking action set pieces and unforgettably snappy dialogue combine with a murderers’ row of sensational performances from a stunning ensemble cast in Scott and Tarantino’s blood-soaked, bullet-riddled valentine, finally restored in dazzling 4K with hours of brilliant bonus features.
True Romance represents one of those magical combinations; the right collision of creative talents at the right time. In this case, the directorial swagger of Tony Scott (Top Gun, The Last Boy Scout, Man On Fire), and the distinct brand of violence, humor, and sprawling dialogue of Quentin Tarantino (Inglorious Basterds, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood). A crime drama with a thick streak of romance, as mismatched newly-weds go on a cross-country run after stealing drugs from the mafia. Shades of Bonnie and Clyde tinged with moments of high drama or surrealism that feel like homages to Shakespeare, something befitting these star-crossed lovers.
There’s plenty to entertain, mostly by playing off this odd-couple of Slater’s geeky comic store employee (and film nerd) Clarence, and Arquette’s troubled call-girl Alabama. Bad decisions and ill-fortune lead them on this mis-adventure. Slater, riding high off his work in Heathers, is an affable lead, while Arquette deftly delivers a bubbly figure tinged with sadness. The chemistry between them is what grounds and propels the entire escapade. While the leads shine, they often give way to a supporting cast including luminaries such as Val Kilmer, Gary Oldman (letting rip as a pimp who thinks he is a rastafarian), Dennis Hopper, Christopher Walken, Brad Pitt and James Gandolfini, who relish every second of screen time they get.
Of course, this cast is working with the snap and play of Tarantino’s verbiage. Coming as one of his first screenplays (alongside Reservoir Dogs, written and directed by Tarantino the preceding year), there is an evident edge. Some of the violence feels sadistic and excessive. The dialogue, too, leans harder into more racist sentiments and tropes. A more raw and unrefined work, but the distinct talent comes through. While Scott is clearly enamored with the writing, he puts his own stamp on things, tilting the tone toward something a little less dark. The extra features dig well into the conflict between the pair, notably in terms of the ending. The film hurtles along, entertaining with an off-kilter tone and tendency to go a little over-the-top, that burnishes off some of the more violent moments. The frenetic pace, met with a pulpy aesthetic, adds relish to this road trip romance running right through a gangster movie.
Arrow continues their fine efforts to release top quality packages on the 4K format. Scott’s cinematic aesthetic has always been vibrant and the transfer here showcases that well. From the cooler, gritty beginnings in Detroit, to the sun bathed California vistas, the film looks superb. Detail and depth of image standout, while the color palette is robust, particularly vibrant when the film sees splashes of red. A natural grain, and lack of any artifacts or damage, cap off a superb 4K presentation.
The package itself comes in a hard card sleeve, adorned with newly commissioned artwork from Sara Deck. Within, is the disc case, along with a double-sided poster showcasing the new art, six lobby card reproductions, and a 60 page collector’s booklet, featuring several essays on the film along with some interviews, and a tribute to Tony Scott by Edgar Wright.
- [Archival] Audio commentary by director Tony Scott: A more personal commentary, which makes it well worth a listen. Scott shares some insights to his approach and aims for specific scenes, comments on his weaknesses and strengths, work on camera angles and takes, as well as how he altered the script to fit his own version of the story he was creating.
- [Archival] Audio commentary by writer Quentin Tarantino: You don’t need a reminder that Tarantino likes to talk and is a fountain of film knowledge, but here it is. Some of the more interesting stuff here concerns his commentary on the changes Scott made to his script, some approved, some not.
- [Archival] Audio commentary by stars Christian Slater & Patricia Arquette: Surprisingly a bit dull, as there are long periods of silence, with the pair largely just responding to some scenes by recounting tales from the set. Not nearly as juicy or packed as the other commentaries here.
- [New] Audio commentary by critic Tim Lucas: A new recording, and one that takes advantage of the film being out and evaluated for 30+ years. Well researched, highly detailed, and actually interesting.
- Select scene commentaries by stars Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer, Brad Pitt and Michael Rapaport [archival] and Bronson Pinchot and Saul Rubinek [New]: Each lends a voice over to a specific scene where the character they portray has a key moment — great inclusion here and something that many discs should lean towards instead of full commentaries sometimes.
- New interview with costume designer Susan Becker: Shares a look at the wardrobe tests for the leads.
- New interview with co-editor Michael Tronick: Discusses the process of working with Scott, shares some footage of the director on set, and breaks down a few specific scenes from the film.
- New interview with co-composers Mark Mancina and John Van Tongeren: The composers discuss how they shared/broke up working on the score alongside Hans Zimmer.
- New interview with Larry Taylor, author of Tony Scott: A Filmmaker on Fire: A broader conversation about the director, and the place True Romance holds in his catalog of films, and how it impacted his future output.
- Deleted scenes with optional commentary by Tony Scott: Thankfully accompanied by commentary to give context for their exclusion.
- Alternate ending with optional commentaries by Tony Scott and Quentin Tarantino: A really great inclusion, as you get essentially a dueling description of the original and revised ending, and Tarantino’s concession that Scott made the right choice.
- Electronic press kit featurettes, behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with Tony Scott, Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, Dennis Hopper and Gary Oldman
- Trailers, TV spots, and Image galleries
The Bottom Line
True Romance is a collision of Tarantino’s distinct (and here, at times raw) style of storytelling, molded by the stylish hand of Tony Scott. A charged and captivating combination of talents, given extra life by a truly game cast. Arrow go above an beyond yet again in putting together a package that delivers the best image, along with materials that celebrate the film.
True Romance 4K UHD, is available from Arrow Video now