"It Ain't White Boy Day, Is It?"

And they say Tarantino doesn't do romance.
Missed me? Forgot I existed? Yeah, so did I. Truth me told, I've been massively A-To-Zing o'er here, so I've had little to no time to do anything else. However! I do not shirk responsibility. At least, not when it's something epic and fun like a Quentin Tarantino Blogathon. And so I rallied and sat down to watch True Romance, a film I've surprisingly only seen once before. Truth be told, True Romance isn't my favorite Tarantino film. For one simple reason: it's not really a Tarantino film. Yes, he wrote the script, and you can see that "gutter poetry" of his rearing its head here and there. Still, at the end of the day, it's a Tony Scott film, with a couple Tarantino highlights to keep you going. 

Plot: True Romance follows the story of Clarence, a nerd who can't quite luck out with the ladies because he's too busy watching samurai films. Ring any bells? He meets the woman of his dreams, Alabama, only to find out she's a hooker who's been hired by his boss to give him a good time. What happens next is a bloody trail of evidence that proves just how far two people will go to stay together.

Image from listal.
The Music: While watching the film, the music was the one, constant, nagging reminder that this was not a Tarantino film. I have to wonder what this film would look like if it was given a more "Taratino score". You know what I mean--Al Green, Dusty Springfield--all those great, classic artists who could definitely crank out a good, romantic tune. To be honest, the music really might be the one thing that forced me to knock this movie down a peg. It sounds petty, and maybe it is, but after the second, third, hundredth time Clarence and Alabama's theme song came around, I was ready to stab Hans Zimmer in the thumb piano. Don't get me wrong. I love Hans Zimmer. Inception will always get me in the mood to transverse time and space. However, this song was so fake-cheery every time it played I got the image of a bunch of African children laughing and chasing after some white married couple riding a horse down a beach off into the sunset. Don't even pretend like you don't know what I'm talking about.

Image from my.spill.com.
The Characters: Clarence and Alabama are our two main characters and, really, two excellent fucking characters. Let's look at the facts. Clarence is, yes, a movie-geek and a bit of a socially inept nerd. However, he's also incredibly quick on his feet and great at manipulating everyone around him. Mainly due to the fact that he has a small Elvis living inside of him telling him what to do. That's right, Clarence is basically the profile of every serial killer that's snapped and shoved bodies under his floorboards because a voice in his head told him to. Or maybe it's just Christian Slater who hasn't sat right with me since Heathers (1988). Either way, we can't help but love him because he's Clarence and he does everything he does for one simple reason: he's crazy about Alabama.

And who can blame him? I'm crazy about Alabama. What's not to love? She's played by the beautiful Patricia Arquette and she's a fucking powerhouse. Here's what I love about Alabama: she's fierce, she's a wild woman, and she will hold her own and get the shit beat out of her. And she's so fucking femme. She's no Sarah Conner. She doesn't chop off her hair, dirty up her face, and strap an uzi onto her back. But she's not a useless booby-prop either. Alabama doesn't conform to the stereotypical female love interest role, and for that, we salute her. I mean, c'mon. That scene where she gets beat to all hell? One of my favorite moments on the movie and a powerful fucking rebuttal to all those useless damsel in distress roles. Rock on, Alabama, rock on.

Image from cimemovies.fr.
The Actors: One of the best things about this movie are the many famous faces that pop up when you least expect them. And so, roll call: Gary Oldman reminds us that he can do anything. Samuel L. Jackson makes Tarantino's poetry sing and then leaves as quickly as he came. Brad Pitt gives Pineapple Express (2008) something to look forward to and, frankly, still does a better job of it. Christopher Walken is his usual beast of a man. Dennis Hopper does a fantastic job at playing Clarence's once dead-beat dad. More on him later. Val Kilmer is unrecognizable, but that's kind of the point anyway. Chris Penn's face always makes me happy. James Gandolfini is terrifying as shit. And a couple you may not know but now you officially should: Bronson Pinchot is whiny, sleazy, and perfect for the role. Michael Rapaport is my new favorite bad actor. And Saul Rubinek steals the show as every producer you wish you didn't know. It's just a great fucking list of names and everyone fits in their role perfectly. There's not a bad apple in the bunch. Now that is an accomplishment in itself.

The Conversation/The Iconic Moment: I had to put these two in the same category because there really is only one crowning moment in this film. One purely Tarantino, fucking magical moment. One moment, and shit suddenly got real. And that's none other than the "conversation" between Clifford Worely (Dennis Hopper) and Vincenzo Coccotti (Christopher Walken). If there's anyone more terrifying that Christopher Walken, I hope I never encounter them because they will surely hunt my nightmares until my dying day. The dude's a fucking rockstar of intimidation. And Dennis Hopper, who's had my love since Easy Rider (1969), gives it right back to him. The chemistry between these two kills me. Every time. But at the end of the day, what it boils down to is this: it's just a brilliant fucking script. The slow build, the uneasy tension, the final culmination of it all...damn. All I can say. If you never see this film, at very least, watch this scene. Now excuse me while I watch it a couple hundred times.

The Mexican Standoff: Really, where would we be without a good, old-fashioned, Mexican Standoff? The funny thing about it is, despite the fact that this is a signature Tarantino move, this scene kept giving me flashbacks of various other films. Like Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels (1998), where all our different characters quite literally collide with another at the end. Or even Boogie Nights (1997), where our hero comes to terms with his downfall in the middle of a rotten drug deal. Which is, clearly, unfair of me, since all those movies came after True Romance. And it wasn't that I didn't like the scene--trust me, I did. I just kept getting the feeling that it was something I'd seen before. Still, I will never say no to a good gun fight, especially with a couple epic feather-covered death scenes. Rock on.

Image from gq.com.
Fun Facts: This movie actually has quite few little facts surrounding the production, especially since Quentin Tarantino sold the script and then stepped away from it completely. True Romance is an elaboration on Tarantino's first film project, My Best Friend's Birthday. It's also the most autobiographical of Tarantino's scripts, which we kind of figured out anyway. C'mon. Clarence is an Elvis man who practically lives at the movie theater when he's not pursuing comic books. We can see the connection. It's also worth noting that this script was originally a monster of a movie that was split up between True Romance and Natural Born Killers. Between you and me, I think Natural Born Killers is a better romance, but I'm willing to fight about it.

And now for my favorite bit, which even I didn't catch the first time around. Remember good old Reservoir Dogs? In Mr. White's flashback, he mentions working alongside a wild woman who went by the name of Alabama. Starting to put the pieces together? Clarence was originally supposed to die in the shootout, leaving Alabama on her own to turn to the life of crime. And this is why we love being die-hard Tarantino fans. Talk about world building. J. R. R Tolkien has nothing on that shit.

And that's a wrap for True Romance. If you've got any True Romance posts you want to throw at me, hit me up at mhufstader (at) gm.slc.edu before May 1st and I'll give you a shout out. Next up, my favorite movie of all time: Pulp Fiction (1994)


  1. great review. I think of it as a very cool film with the mark of Tarantino on it. SUch great performances, makes you wonder what could 've been with Mr. Slater. I didn't know that detail about True Romance/ Natural Born Killers but that's so cool.

    1. Thanks, homie! I agree, it's certainly a cool one with a couple Tarantino highlights here and there. The performances are spot on. Last I heard, Slater almost had a TV show? I've got idea what that man's up to. But I agree! Tarantinoverse is crazy.

  2. I love this film. I may try to catch this in time, but no promises.
    If I can't, can I send an old post about the Sicilian scene?

    1. I'm late responding, but yes and yes (clearly)! Great post!

  3. Classic film. Everybody was at their best. Especially Gary Oldman. Drexel is one of his best characters.

    1. Agreed! Gary Oldman is the fucking man. He's just completely unrecognizable as Drexel.

  4. Mickey and Mallory are hands down winners over Clarence and Alabama. I love Christian and Patricia, but I think that Tony Scott did not know how to handle the material like Ollie Stone did. He's just not that kind of director.

    Love that little tidbit about true Romance and Reservoir Dogs. Very cool.

    1. Man, I've got to agree with you. I love Clarence and Alabama but...Mickey and Mallory are kind of the shit. In a evil will-kill-you way.

      Thanks! I love Tarantino's little connections.

  5. Great review, M! I gotta say, I'm not always a Slater fan, but I love him in this, Heathers, Broken Arrow, and Pump Up the Volume (dance! dance!). I can't believe he sold his character so charismatically without him coming off like a loser or insane.

    Best of all, is the romance at heart here. Patrica Arquette is so good that I believe that she's serious about Clarence, despite lying to him and being a hooker and barely knowing him. And, for such a fine and compelling woman, you can believe that he falls head over heels and isn't just horny/desperate. The credible/incredible romance here is the real achievement of True Romance.

    It's true, this is a Tony Scott film. And you're right to mock the "African-Paradise" music, as I chose to call it. Still, Chantilly Lace and Itty Bitty Tear are exceptional songs, and well used here.

    And yes, Tarantino disowned the film because the ending was re-written so it is happier, but I never caught the line about Alabama in Reservoir Dogs. Very nice!

    You're right to focus on the Walken/Hopper scene. That thing sells the whole movie by itself. Yes, this cast is amazing! Nice job, M.

    1. Thanks! Monster comment! And I agree with you, Slater has his moments. He was fantastic in Heathers, which surprised me because that's almost...the opposite role that you'd expect from him. I haven't seen Broken Arrow or Pump Up The Volume, but they both sound like a fun time. Still, I'd be hard pressed to see a movie solely for Slater.

      Alabama is the shit. Really. I've got to agree with you--they have a real, solid romance, which is more than any romance movies seem to have these days. At best, the leading lady usually has a good ass or that "love at first sight" glance. Other than that, she's usually pretty useless. Alabama, however, is hard NOT to love.

      African-Paradise is exactly what it is. Glad someone else is on the same page with me on that one! But the soundtrack certainly has its moments.

      And Walken/Hopper. Damn. I could watch that over and over. Thanks, man!


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