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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 19.42%
Average: 2.91%
Pretty Bad: 10.68%
Total Crap: 2.91%

4 reviews, 79 user ratings

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True Romance
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by Jack Sommersby

"Too Cool For School, Right? NOT!"
2 stars

If only it were as "happening" as the filmmakers would like to aver.

I wish I could work up more enthusiasm for True Romance. On the surface it seems to possess the kind of wacky ingredients necessary for a fun-filled action film with its own individualistic sense of black humor. The screenplay is by the eclectic Quinten Tarantino (Reservoir Dogs) and directed by king of the hacks, Tony Scott (Top Gun). A mixed bag of talents, yes, but I thought with this talented cast and junk-level storyline that Tarantino would be in his element and Scott might have been able through his mechanical unimaginativeness to cancel out the screenwriter's bouts of irritable self-indulgence. To be fair, things play themselves out fairly well for about fifteen minutes; after that, the film shows its true spots and makes the painfully obvious impression that it's running on borrowed footsteps from vastly (and even moderately) superior films.

The story is quite simple, to say the least. Clarence (Christain Slater, with ugly spiked-black hair) is a twenty-five-year-old living a meager but not intolerable life in Detroit: he works in a comic-book store, lives alone, and spends a good many nights at ratty theatres to take in kung-fu flicks. On his birthday night, he meets a pretty blonde named Alabama (the reliably-inefficient Patricia Arquette) and are soon positively smitten, declaring their love for each other on the balcony of Clarence's apartment that night. As it turns out, though, Alabama is a hooker who Clarence's boss paid to give his socially-reclusive worker a night of pleasure. Clarence goes to see her pimp, Drexl (a truly whacked-out Gary Oldman with cornrolls), with the meeting ending with Clarence killing him and making off with a suitcase. The case, which Clarence thought contained Alabama's clothes (yeah, that's worth taking a chance with your life on!), actually contains two-million dollars worth of cocaine, and this puts this newly-married duo find themselves in quite the thorny predicament. They decide to trek off to Hollywood to see Clarence's actor pal Dick (Michael Rappaport) who might know some people in the industry interested in high-quality coke for a bargain price. The deal is eventually set up, and their dream of living on a luxury island seems close to being a reality. Little that they know that Drexl's partners (led by Christopher Walken's quietly malicious Vincenzo) are tracking them and intend to get their merchandise back and eliminate the couple for good measure.

Not particularly original, huh? The storyline is far from earth-shattering, to be sure, but this didn't necessarily mean that some good escapist harm couldn't be had from it, especially since the script boasts a few scenes possessive of some wit and freshness, along with a show-stopping one chock-full of dynamic psychological tension. The film's a failure, though, which is due to equal parts negligence between the screenwriter and director, as I feared. The plotting itself is almost irrelevant in light of its shopworn obviousness so as to make a children's pop-up book come off as Shakespearean by comparison, but Tarantino's desperate attempt at making the characters "happening" and Scott's slickly commercial direction shining an obnoxious aura of coolness upon them is the ultimate double negative. The characters speak attention-getting dialogue that makes you aware of both it and the film as such; the actors gamely try to make every italicized line their own but are at a terrible disadvantage because this spoken jive-drivel that pseudo-artsy types myopically deem as "colorfully distinctive" never comes off in a normal conversationalist manner. It sounds like scripted dialogue, not everyday speech, and when you can't buy the words from the characters' mouths you can't buy into the characters, either -- in essence, they're portraying "attitudes" not people. And with no emotional stake in them (as the central couple, Slater and Arquette -- who dramatically and erotically is a zero -- generate not so much as an iota of chemistry) you're forced to be guided not by story or structure (not with that flimsy plot) but by Tarantino's sensationalism as well as Scott's "Look, Ma -- I'm Directing!" showmanship.

Scott approaches filmmaking as a simplistic form of basic presentation. He doesn't believe in allowing a scene to play itself out or breathe in terms of appropriate camera usage in relation to his characters; we're intended to be romantically enthralled by the Clarence/Alabama relationship, but every scene is overdressed with neon, smoke, ceiling fans (all three Scott staples) and so much frenetic editing (Scott's ultimate staple) that Scott ends up distancing us from their passion because they've no more depth and aren't treated any with any more than models in a cologne ad. Frequently the audience prays for a scene to contain no more than five to ten cuts, yet Scott is so proudly dedicated to his beloved slam-bang editing that headaches rather than excitement are what's elicited. Suffice to say, he, unlike Die Hard's John McTiernan, isn't gifted at assembling multiple shots and producing a logistically comprehensible action scene out of them; as a result, the shootouts are as fumbled as the aerial sequences in Top Gun were -- we're given no bearings as to the spatial relationship between one shooter and another.

So what we're finally left with in the end is a barrage of idiotic dialogue and substandard action trying to pass themselves off as integrated film components. Are there any positive qualities to be had in this slickly-packaged piece of hodgepodge? There's Rappaport's appealing bewilderment, Dennis Hopper's phenomenal degree of warmth as Clarence's father, and a honey of a turn by Brad Pitt as a hopelessly spaced-out doper who seems physiologically incapable of removing his forever-horizontal self from the couch. Plus, there's an unforgettable scene between Hopper and Walken that will likely be the scene talked about upon departing the theatre: Hopper's tied to a chair while Walken tries to extract information as to Clarence's whereabouts, and the two carry on a bizarre conversation on the subject of Italian family origins which is geared to enrage Walken. It's not that the scene is particularly well-written, but both actors play off each other almost beautifully (almost musically), and Scott's timing is for once on the mark by letting the two of them define and deepen the scene. But the rest of True Romance is an ass-backwards piece of so-called entertainment. Quinten Tarantino and Tony Scott have certainly concocted an attention-getting package, but it's one better left suited to the dark recesses of a musty basement.

For a better Tony Scott film, try "Revenge"; for Tarantino, "Jackie Brown" is pretty hard to beat.

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originally posted: 11/17/07 15:01:13
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User Comments

2/21/17 morris campbell great cast dull movie 2 stars
4/08/16 David Hollingsworth One of the most violent but awesome films of the 1990's! 5 stars
1/17/10 Dane Youssef Tarantino's most personal little flick. Worth seeing at least once in your lifetime. 4 stars
4/06/09 matt brad pitt smoking weed out of a honey jar. 5 stars
9/21/08 action movie fan exciting tense stand off thrill ride-very good 4 stars
5/18/08 jm Christian slater was crappy. Drexel stole the show,joel silver was hillarious 4 stars
11/26/07 reddye5 This is a great film. The above review does not do the film justice! 4 stars
10/08/07 KNurse one of the best movies ever made 5 stars
5/01/07 travis Easily one of the 5 best movies of the 90's 5 stars
12/30/06 AJ Muller Lucky enuf to see in theaters; ain't the best flick I ever seen, but damn sure my favorite. 5 stars
10/20/06 MP Bartley Too much cute 'look-at-me!' dialogue - but Scott keeps it charging along nicely. 4 stars
10/07/06 Ashley The best movie I have ever's a mix of drama, action, thriller, and romance 5 stars
12/10/05 havthat This is my favorite movie of ALL TIME, bar none. 5 stars
10/10/05 Monday Morning Bob, Lord of Evil, hits it right on the head. 5 stars
8/30/05 ES Likable with surprising appearances, a star studded romp that doesn't stink 4 stars
7/07/05 Isaac Baranoff Cool as hell! 5 stars
6/28/05 ed cool 5 stars
6/12/05 Hack-SAW Not too bad but, not the best I've seen... 4 stars
5/13/05 Jennifer Regan Great movie, definitelly worth watching 5 stars
2/13/05 Matt Fekete Greatest Love Story. ;-) 5 stars
1/24/05 Jeff Anderson This is one brilliantly directed, and awesomely written(QT's a genius)film! GREAT CAST!!!!! 5 stars
11/19/04 psycho black dwarf doesn't over-rely on its violence or love story - the dialogue stands out most! 4 stars
10/15/04 The Bride I'd fuck Elvis... Pure gold!!!! 5 stars
7/23/04 satanius It's best love story i've ever seen on film.And it's full of violence.Great match. 5 stars
7/15/04 Mike My fave film of all time 5 stars
1/22/04 Plop Rather crap. Offensive, dumb script, muddled plot and violence glorification galore. 2 stars
11/29/03 john great script and great cast - 5 stars
11/16/03 Cameron Slick I love this this movie, it's such a deep romantic action film. 5 stars
11/01/03 I Would This is not cool 3 stars
9/01/03 yhbnjh great 5 stars
8/19/03 AD sucked 2 stars
6/19/03 Vince Good shit, the Walken/Hopper scene takes the cake. 5 stars
5/13/03 Mr. Hat (I'm Back, Mo'fos!!!) 90% of the kudos goes to QT for his fucking great script. 5 stars
4/01/03 Jack Sommersby More square than hip. Blandly plotted and not nearly as clever as it thinks it is. 2 stars
3/11/03 Tommy Linds Another great movie from Tarrantino. A great cast. A great story. Need I say anymore? 5 stars
1/14/03 Nancy Niedzielski Gary! 5 stars
11/14/02 Alex Harland An excellent range of actors! One of Tarrantino's finest! 5 stars
10/15/02 Charles Tatum This stuck with me like Chinese food 3 stars
9/04/02 Joe Zappa QT's brain has imploded with clips from his favorite movies, and it's actually really cool. 4 stars
9/02/02 movie guy GREAT 5 stars
7/27/02 sdjfsdkjf That ending didn't feel like Tarantino. They should have left Clarance dead. Loved Walken. 4 stars
4/15/02 hannah brill film gota watch it now 5 stars
3/02/02 Alan Smithee Extremely violent and lots of fun........Patricia Arquette is gorgeous. 5 stars
1/11/02 Iain Anglin It's better to have a gun and not need it, than to need a gun and not have it. Great Movie 5 stars
12/09/01 Mr. Hat (formerly Joe Zappa) The mayhem is okay sometimes, but it's mostly just cheesy as fuck. 2 stars
11/29/01 KMG Yawwnnnn 1 stars
10/09/01 jawsboy stupid shit, but also really fun and entertaining shit. Excellent performances from all. 4 stars
7/27/01 TLsmooth Great story and cast. If you don't like it, eat a dick. 5 stars
7/12/01 jacqui rollicking adventure killed by tiresome drug bust; charming leads; hopper/walken r perfect 4 stars
5/15/01 Brian It's just completely badass. 5 stars
5/04/01 ChiefAlDog egg. egg. egg. 5 stars
2/16/01 Michael Nicholls Sexually charged love story with lots of flying bullets 5 stars
11/09/00 penelope awesome movie 5 stars
7/16/00 Vinnie Vic Vega The only normal guy is played by Dennis Hopper. 'Nuff said. 4 stars
6/21/00 Mr. Blond Samuel L. Jackson gets his head blown off in the first 5 minutes! 5 stars
6/05/00 Jed This is quite possibly the worst tarantino film ever made. 1 stars
4/27/00 Trina Barnard Gary Oldman rocks 5 stars
4/15/00 Peter Roberts Arquette is adorable, Slater is charismatic 5 stars
1/02/00 Nice Guy Eddie absolutely incredible cast, check out the guy from Perfect Strangers! 5 stars
12/04/99 PervertedPixie Kooky Tarantino Flick. Has some cracking characters! 5 stars
11/27/99 the Grinch Along with Pulp, probably Tarantino's best movie. Chris Walken plays a mafioso! See it! 5 stars
10/27/99 weedhead Good amount of killing, Brad Pitt can burn some trees!!! 4 stars
8/10/99 The Graduate It's Quentin. Need I say more? 5 stars
7/04/99 J-Dogg What's the big deal? Who cares if this is from Tarantino. He makes shit too! 3 stars
4/03/99 Scott Best underrated film ever. This movie has big shiny brass balls. 5 stars
3/14/99 Sam Vimes Best movie made. EVER 5 stars
2/09/99 Bob, Lord of Evil I liked it... I liked it alot.... 5 stars
12/29/98 Romeo A suck ass of a movie. Gary Oldman was the only one worth watching here. Paduy, paduy. 1 stars
12/13/98 Binky Just perfect. 5 stars
11/26/98 Mr.Pink One mean motherfucker of a movie! 5 stars
11/18/98 MinxxDaShorty A trip all the way, Tarantino is god to me! 5 stars
11/18/98 Lord Of The Dunce Slater was such the stud, and Arquette quite the piece. Great movie. 5 stars
11/17/98 Gray Whitten I need to find me a good woman like Alabama and read comics for a living. 5 stars
11/13/98 Sideshow Lemur You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll be predisposed to acts of violence. 5 stars
11/13/98 Jules I just want to say: This movie was so cool. 5 stars
10/28/98 Silent Rob This movie has everything from a little eyed joe, to a damned if I know! 5 stars
10/24/98 Timmy C Tarantino's unsung masterpiece 5 stars
10/23/98 Negative Creep Call me crazy but Clarence is my hero ;) 5 stars
10/20/98 {{{OZ}}} One of the greatest love story/road movie/shoot em up/gangster flicks ever. If the only one 5 stars
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  02-Jul-1993 (R)


  02-Feb-1994 (R)

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