True Romance (1993) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

A couple of working class dorks, one a prostitute with an IQ of about 12 and the other a career clerk in a comic book store, manage to emerge with all the money in a battle between cops, mob guys, and coked-out Hollywood bodyguards.

In the climactic shoot-out, all the players are gathered together in the same room, all pointing their guns at each other and shouting "drop 'em". They all begin firing, and everyone gets killed except our two heroes and one of their friends.

Gee, guess who wrote this silly, implausible exercise in hip tongue-in-cheek humorously jaded ultra-violence? Hint: it came in between Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. Actually, the talk is that this script sold for fifty thousand bucks, which Tarantino used to help finance "Dogs". The True Romance script sat on the shelf for a while and was picked up when Tarantino scored with Reservoir Dogs. He wrote, but didn't direct this one. That honor went to Tony Scott.

The cast assembled not just one or two of the usual psychotic bad guys and unbalanced good guys, but ALL of them. Every last one. Gary Oldman, Christopher Walken, Dennis Hopper, Samuel L Jackson, James Gandolfini, Tom Sizemore. It also has all the quirky off-center leading men. Brad Pitt, Christian Slater, Val Kilmer. In a sense, it's kind of a grand opera performed without singing. All the characters are larger-than-life, all the situations are wildly implausible, all the dialogue is like the exchanges between Spiderman and The Green Goblin. In other words, it's yet another adolescent masturbation fantasy, masquerading as "satire".


Patricia Arquette's nipples are just barely visible in a dark sex scene with Christian Slater. Slater's butt is seen in the same scene.

Arquette's breasts are seen in a bathtub scene which is among the "deleted scenes" on the DVD

I don't like this kind of film, largely because I can recite every plot twist and every line of dialogue before it happens. But many people really enjoy this kind of low-brain high-testosterone film, where all the rams try to butt horns until only the strongest one is left. If you are a male, less than 30 years old, you are the target market for this film, and may like it a lot, judging from the IMDb ratings. (Males under 18 rate it 7.9, males 18-29 rate it 7.8).

I guess Quentin Tarantino learned all his criminal behavior patterns from dime novels and comic books. It's the official geeks' concept of how tough guys talk.

It's pretty obvious that Tarantino hasn't ever met any real criminals, because real toughs don't spend hours talking about how tough they are. You can't do that if you're in the violence biz, because it allows your opponent time - time to catch his breath, to devise a plan, to find a hidden gun, whatever. Time is always the enemy, because the longer you delay to commit a crime, the greater the chance that unforeseen circumstances will disturb the plan. Professional criminals need to commit their crimes fast and get out before anything has a chance to go wrong. Only drugged-out losers talk about how tough they are. Tough guys don't have to, and don't want to, because they don't want anybody to know anything about them unless necessary. You think they go around broadcasting "hey, I'm a psycho killer"? If they do, they won't be around that much longer. If you do know a real tough guy, you probably aren't aware of it. You probably think he's a magazine distributor or something.

I knew some wiseguys when I was in the amusement game business. (A perfect business for them because all the revenues are in cash, so nobody notices if a few million more shows up here and there). The high powered guys were ultra-elegant and gracious in the Old World style, and the lower level guys would always try to bribe you rather than threaten you. That's obviously more effective. When you threaten people, they call the FBI. When you bribe people, they become part of the enterprise and keep their mouths shut, and you own them. And even if they refuse the money, they don't get on the horn to the Feds.

But, of course, that very boring businesslike behavior doesn't make for a good jack-off fantasy.


NOTES on the extended version:

As far as I can see, the unrated director's cut is the same as all the other versions I've seen. It is 121 minutes long, the same as previous releases.

I guess that means all of the additional "unrated" footage is on the second disk. This is a really solid DVD package, filled with commentary and extra footage. There are several deleted scenes (with additional nudity!), as well as a re-creation of the original ending, which was fabricated by director Tony Scott especially for the DVD from extra footage and storyboards.

DVD info from Amazon

  • digitally remastered sound and picture

  • three separate commentary tracks

  • feature-length storyboard track

  • several deleted scenes, with optional commentary

  • alternative (original) ending with 2 optional commentary tracks

  • selective commentary-track interviews

  • behind-the-scenes featurette


I like the alternate ending much better. It is more credible and truer to the noir tone of the film.

In the theatrical release, Slater and Arquette walked away from the gunfight with the money, simply walked through the lobby of the hotel, drove to Mexico, and raised a family there. The last scene shows them playing with their child on a beach in the sunset.

In the alternate script, Slater dies, Arquette is used as a human shield by a bad guy. When he is taken down by the police, Arquette gets away because the police assume she's an innocent bystander. She drives almost to Mexico, then stops the car, contemplates suicide, shrugs it off, abandons the car while it faces Mexico, and hitchhikes back to L.A. in the opposite lane.

Tuna's thoughts

True Romance (1993) was written by Quentin Tarantino, and directed by Tony Scott. While Tarantino's stamp is definitely on the film, with rapid fire violence, coarse language and and lots of colorful characters, it is also kind of a romantic fable about Patricia Arquette and Christian Slater. The extra features in this special directors cut included many deleted scenes, all cut for timing and pace, which included additional nudity from Arquette.

The most interesting special feature to me was an alternate ending, done the way Tarrantino originally wrote it, with commentary by both Tarrantino and Scott. The two quarreled over the ending. Scott felt that he, and the audience, fell for the kids, and really wanted them to get away with it. Tarrantino originally thought that was a bullshit Hollywood ending, and not realistic, but changed his mind after screening the film. He said that, had he directed the film, his ending would have been by far the better choice, but that Scott had included the fable love story, and his ending belonged with the film. He went on to say that Scott had done what a director is supposed to do, take a script, and make it his own. I, for one, would have felt cheated by the Tarrantino ending to the Scott film.

This is a solid action film, with a tremendous cast that included James Gandolfini as a Mafia type, and Samual Jackson as a pimp. Dennis Hopper even turned in a decent performance.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: Two and a half stars. Ebert 3/4, Berardinelli 2.5/4, Maltin 2.5/4.

  • The guys who liked it said it was humorous, hip, and action-packed

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 7.5, so it nearly makes the top 250 of all time.
  • With their dollars ... This is a popular video rental. It was less than a hit at the theaters ($13 million gross), but was not a failure.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, Tuna says, "With an IMDB score of 7.6 of 10, the proper score is B-. In this case, I think Tarrantino lite made for a very good film." Scoop says, "C+. The fact that the film is downright dumb is really irrelevant. My opinion is also pretty much irrelevant because the film isn't made for me or any grown-ups, but for 12 year old boys of all ages. If you like that kind of film, this is one of the bullgoose loonies."

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