True Romance (1993)
True Romance was made at a time when Quentin Tarantino not yet had full creative and financial freedom in the business. He sold this script to finance his directorial debut Reservoir Dogs, and Top Gun hot shot (how about that?) Tony Scott was set to direct. That might seem like a clash of styles (and Scott made a few changes to the script - altering Tarantino's unchronological narrative to the linear one that appears in the film), but it still works brilliantly. However, close to all kudos must go to the screenwriter. True Romance is a great example (almost as great as the mentioned Reservoir Dogs) of just how unbound, fresh and playful Tarantino's writing was in the early 90s. Not many writers can make an interesting scene by just placing two until then unknown characters in a room and have them start an argument that goes on for minutes. Tarantino could. Here is crisp dialogue and high tension all the way and practically every scene oozes passion.
It might seem belated to claim that with a different director (preferably Tarantino himself), True Romance could have been an even better movie, but I maintain that Tony Scott does make a few poor choices here. First of all, he doesn't shoot violence with the same poetic, clairvoyant lens that Tarantino does. An example is the scene where Slater and Oldman meet; it has all kinds of potential, but Scott blurs it up in the end - throwing the camera back and forth and making too many cuts. The Gandolfini/Arquette scene has much of the same problem. I would have loved to see Tarantino's version of those scenes.
So, is True Romance a romantic film as well? Well, Slater and Arquette definitely throw off sparks. Patricia's laughter alone can melt most hearts, and their unlikely encounter is well-portrayed and cutely acted. The perhaps best aspect of their romance, is the erotic element. Scott is at his best in a couple of love scenes, as the two young stars steam it up. The romance in itself turns out to be perhaps too close to the Natural Born Killers/Bonnie and Clyde versions. It was never intended for Clarence and Alabama to be neither cold-hearted nor speculative like those other couples (Bonnie Parker will have me excused). These are naïve, "innocent" kids in love, which is what makes them charming and sympathetic. At times, this is forgotten, but not to a destructive effect.
The all-star cast also makes its impact with great character actors in a number of vibrant roles (typical Tarantino at his best). I could mention Brad Pitt's delightful junkie (perhaps his best role ever), Christopher Walken in a typical, but still powerful performance. Dennis Hopper as the loving dad (yes, as a matter of fact). Bronson Pinchot in another funny, neurotic character. And the great Chris Penn/Tom Sizemore who seem to have the time of their lives. However, it is impossible not to give special mention to Gary Oldman who, during the first half of the 1990s gave fantastic character performances on a string. Here he is as captivatingly good as ever. In 1993 he was just about where Philip Seymour Hoffman is now, and to watch him is an absolute delight. The same can be said about Tony Scott's film, even though it easily shines through that it's far more Tarantino's.