Cult Movies: Tarantino-written crime caper True Romance 'a movie nerd's version of Badlands'

Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette in True Romance
Ralph McLean

True Romance

IT'S hard to believe, but Tony Scott's cult-friendly crime caper True Romance is almost three decades old. A brand new 4K Blu-ray reissue of the 1993 film on Arrow Video is a timely reminder of both the film's good points and failings.

Written by Quentin Tarantino in the kind of fast-talking, pop culture-cribbing style that feels like someone doing a note perfect parody of the nerdy cinema enthusiast at his most unhinged, it's certainly not for everyone and, in many ways, hasn't aged particularly well.

It's got a cast to die for though, with turns from the likes of Brad Pitt, Christopher Walken, Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer and James Galdofini, plus an upbeat, unrelenting verve that makes it entertaining despite its obvious flaws.

Gauche and gormless more than hip and knowing, it's actually quite a naive little fable, albeit one that really wants to show you how much it knows about American movie history and popular culture.

Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette star as Clarence and Alabama, fresh-faced and love-struck partners who decide to leave their mundane world behind them for a more exciting life in sun kissed Los Angeles. On their way, they attract unwanted attention from angry pimps and murderous mobsters and soon the blood is being spilt and the body count rising by the minute.

There are many meandering subplots to consider, but really the fun is in that simple journey from normality to madness – and True Romance certainly cranks up the craziness.

Aside from Slater's wild-eyed performance, which gives the film an almost teenage naivity at times, there are numerous star appearances and dubious cameos from those aforementioned big names to look out for, even if the quality rockets from ripe to rubbish with alarming speed.

On the plus side, Christopher Walken has a stand-off with Dennis Hopper that will live long in the memory after much of this is mere cinematic dust and Brad Pitt makes a surprisingly believable stoner.

On the negative side, Gary Oldman loads up on ham for his frankly risible turn as a nasty white Rasta called Drexl. The less said about that in 2021 the better but, as I say, the standards flip-flop alarmingly here as the 'Tarantino meter' is turned up to 10 for the inevitable wise guy banter and predictable pop culture references.

Scott directs the neatly structured set pieces with a pleasingly relentless pace that never lets up, however, and there's an oddly upbeat score from Hans Zimmer to enjoy. Even if it all feels like a Stars in Their Eyes take on Tarantino at times ("Tonight Matthew, I'm going to be... a movie nerd's version of Badlands!") True Romance is still fun in a wild and wooly 1990s kind of way.

Arrow, as always, deliver on the re-issue front with a stunning HD transfer and a luxurious package that includes both the original theatrical version and extended director's cut, plus any amount of deleted scenes and fancy featurettes.

There's even a commentary track from Tony Scott himself for those wishing to learn all about this cult classic from the man who made it. Recommended, with reservations.

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