True Romance has Quentin Tarantino written all over it. After Reservoir Dogs, Tarantino quickly became a noteworthy filmmaker. Yet he chose not to direct his personal screenplay for True Romance. Maybe that’s why I’ve seldom heard about the movie. Top Gun director Tony Scott’s style can be seen, but all of the Tarantino motifs are unmistakable. There’s crime, pop culture references, liberal use of the “N” word, sudden violence, and an intense appreciation for the movies. Christian Slater plays comic book fan/Elvis enthusiast Clarence. He meets sexy call girl Alabama played by Patricia Arquette at a cheesy kung fu triple feature. They quickly develop a steamy true romance that leads to marriage and an unexpected crime filled life on the run.
True Romance has an all-star cast filled with major Hollywood celebrities, soon to be famous actors, and future Tarantino collaborators. Samuel L. Jackson is very suddenly killed off and Brad Pitt is a stoner left out of the action. Former Scott collaborator Val Kilmer plays an unseen Elvis mentor to Clarence. Although True Romance isn’t nonlinear like Tarantino intended, it does feel like a series of vignettes with many colorful characters involved. An unrecognizable Gary Oldman is an instant scene stealer as Alabama’s psychotic dreadlocks sporting pimp Drexl Spivey.
Clarence & Alabama end up on the run when they accidentally take his supply of cocaine. The mob starts hunting them, including Christopher Walken and a pre-Sopranos James Gandolfini. The latter stands out in a rough fight with Alabama, but it’s Walken and Dennis Hopper as Clarence’s police father who have the most memorable scene. Hopper taunts Walken with his Sicilian upbringing and Walken makes Hopper the first person he’s killed since 1984. Clarence’s Hollywood friend, the police, mob, and potential coke buyers eventually get involved in a bloody shootout with a happier ending than you’d expect. True Romance could’ve been as big as Pulp Fiction, but I like it better as an underrated cult film.