Sunday, November 21, 2010

True Romance

Directed by Tony Scott.
1993. Rated R, 120 minutes.
Christian Slater
Patricia Arquette
Gary Oldman
Christopher Walken
James Gandolfini
Dennis Hopper
Bronson Pinchot
Brad Pitt
Michael Rapaport
Saul Rubinek
Samuel L. Jackson

Sarah Silverman

The setup is nearly too unbelievable for words. Since words are all I have, I’ll just tell you what happens and let you make of it what you will. Clarence (Slater) is a loner who has way too much love for Elvis Presley and decides to spend the night of his birthday alone in a theater showing a triple feature of all three of Sonny Chiba’s Street Fighter movies. While there, he meets the beautiful Alabama (Arquette). The two hit it off, he shows her the comic book shop where he works and spends a good deal of his off time. They end up making love in his hole-in-the-wall apartment. In the wee hours of the same night she admits to him she’s a call-girl that was hired by his boss who wanted to make sure his top employee got laid for his birthday. She also admits that what started as an act became genuine and she is truly in love with him. Not the least bit upset about any of this because he had a great time, he admits that he’s also in love with her. Clearly, he needs to get out more. Then again, even if he had he might never meet another girl who’s not only into martial arts flicks but is really interested in his endless pontification on all the things in pop-culture he’s passionate about. Anyhoo, our two lovebirds get up first thing in the morning, head to the Justice of the Peace and get hitched. Um…yeah, I guess.

I’m with you. It plays like a geek’s wet dream come true. It’s the ultimate affirmation for those of us who tend to spend too much time in fantasy land. Keep immersing yourself in the alternate reality of your choice, without compromise and sex with beautiful women will miraculously (immaculately?) occur because you’re just that cool. Before any of you geek gods try to strike me down with the bolt of lightning you acquired from the roll of a twenty-sided die, spare me. I’ve been called a geek more than once by people who actually know me. Luckily for you strangers, my ridiculously sexy exterior conceals the analytically superior processor within my skull. Oh, wait…you wanna read about the movie, don’t you?

The reason the open plays like a fanboy’s fantasy is because, essentially, that’s what it is. For those unaware, this was written by a then video store clerk, still pop-culture and b-movie enthusiast named Quentin Tarantino. An opening like this only makes perfect sense.

Enough of this. I’ve spent way too much time on the first fifteen minutes of the movie. The truth is, even though we’ve got a flimsy basis for love, the rest of the film absolutely sizzles. In no way is this a conventional love story. All you really need to know to prove that is that what sets the story in motion is that Clarence's stupidity…er…bravery causes him to try and get Alabama’s things from her pimp, Drexel (Oldman). That’s former pimp, unbeknownst to Drexel. Bada-boom, bada-bing Clarence accidentally ends up with a suitcase full of cocaine and our loving couple goes on the run from the people it belongs to.

Like the best of Tarantino what makes the movie is not the plot but the situations the plot puts the characters in. The more tense the situation, the better the writing is a general Tarantino rule and it applies here. These moments are deliciously outrageous, violent and often clever. This is what drives the movie, makes it a thrilling watch.

The other major factor in making it a good movie are the characters. Really, most of them aren’t well developed. What they are is purpose driven, extreme and totally willing to say whatever comes to mind. Many of them are people we love to hate. Filling these roles is a superb cast that delivers every line perfectly. Stealing the show, however, are two guys who were relative newcomers at the time, James Gandolfini and Brad Pitt. Pitt plays a great stoner and Gandolfini is flat scary.

To his credit, director Tony Scott seems to stay out of the way of the screenplay. It doesn’t feel like his other movies. It’s less him, but in this case that works out well. It does, in fact, feel like a Tarantino movie except it doesn’t bounce around the timeline the way most of his self-directed films tend to. That said, atop what seems to be a faulty foundation an excellent movie is built.

MY SCORE: 8.5/10

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