True Romance

True Romance Information

True Romance is a 1993 American romantic crime film directed by Tony Scott and written by Quentin Tarantino. The film stars Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette with a supporting cast featuring Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer, Gary Oldman, Brad Pitt, Christopher Walken and James Gandolfini.


Comic book store clerk and film buff Clarence Worley (Christian Slater) watches a Sonny Chiba triple feature at a Detroit movie theater for his birthday. There he meets Alabama Whitman (Patricia Arquette), seemingly by chance. They go to a diner for pie and flirt before heading to Clarence's apartment. After having sex, she confesses that she is a call girl hired by Clarence's boss as a birthday present. But, she has fallen in love with Clarence and he with her. The next day, they marry.

Alabama's pimp, Drexl Spivey (Gary Oldman), makes Clarence uneasy. An apparition of his idol, Elvis Presley (Val Kilmer), tells him that killing Drexl, who is also a drug dealer, will make the world a better place. Clarence tells Drexl that he has married Alabama and she has no additional business with him. Drexl and Clarence fight, Clarence draws a gun and kills Drexl. He grabs a bag that he assumes belongs to Alabama. When he tells Alabama he killed Drexl, she sobs and finds this "so romantic."

Opening the suitcase, the two find it is full of cocaine, which was stolen by Drexl. Clarence and Alabama decide to leave for California immediately. First they pay a visit to Clarence's estranged father, Clifford Worley (Dennis Hopper), a former cop. Clifford tells Clarence that the police assume Drexl's murder is a drug-related killing.

In Los Angeles, the young couple plan to meet Clarence's old friend, Dick Ritchie (Michael Rapaport), an aspiring actor. Back in Detroit, Clifford is confronted in his home by gangster Vincenzo Coccotti (Christopher Walken), who wants the drugs taken from Drexl, his underling. Clifford refuses to reveal where his son has gone. Accepting that he is going to die anyway, he insults Coccotti by claiming that Sicilians are descended from Black people, using a racial epithet to describe them. Coccotti shoots Clifford in the head and then finds a note on the fridge giving Clarence's address in L.A.

Clarence plans to use Ritchie's contacts with an actor named Elliot Blitzer (Bronson Pinchot) to sell the drugs to a film producer, Lee Donowitz (Saul Rubinek). Elliot, who has some of the cocaine, is stopped while speeding and is arrested for drug possession. Believing Clarence's story of getting the drugs from a dirty cop, he informs on Donowitz.

Alabama is found alone in the motel room and interrogated and brutally beaten by Coccotti's henchman, Virgil (James Gandolfini). In the subsequent fight, Alabama manages to kill Virgil. She and Clarence talk of moving to Cancún with the money from the drug deal. Knowing that Elliot's cocaine was uncut, and with Elliot "confessing" in order to avoid prison, detectives Nicholson (Tom Sizemore) and Dimes (Chris Penn) conclude that a sizable drug deal is about to go down. Promising him that he can avoid prison in return for cooperation, the two detectives have Elliot wear a wire. Coccotti's men, led by wiseguy Lenny (Victor Argo), learn where the deal is going down from Ritchie's pothead roommate, Floyd (Brad Pitt).

Clarence, Alabama, Ritchie, and Elliot, with the drugs in tow, pay a visit to Donowitz's suite at the Ambassador Hotel. While in an elevator, Clarence thinks that Elliot is trying to set him up. But after Clarence confronts Elliot at gunpoint inside the elevator, Elliot reassures Clarence that there is no setup, and that the deal will go through. Clarence makes a good impression on Donowitz, complimenting the producer for his Vietnam War film Coming Home in a Bodybag. Clarence excuses himself to the bathroom, where he has another conversation with the apparation of Elvis. Meanwhile, Donowitz and his armed bodyguards are ambushed by both the cops and gangsters who break in at almost the same time. Donowitz realizes that Elliot is an informant and throws a pot of coffee on him. Nicholson then shoots Donowitz, and a shootout begins. Ritchie abandons the drugs and flees. Almost everybody else, including Donovitz, Elliot, Lenny, and Nicholson, are killed in the crossfire, and the bags of cocaine are blown apart by bullets. Clarence is shot as he exits the bathroom. Dimes, who survived the shoot-out, finds one of Donowitz's wounded bodyguards, and kills him for shooting Nicholson. Alabama then shoots Dimes.

As Alabama cries over Clarence, it is revealed that the gunshot had only grazed his face and narrowly missed his eye. He and Alabama escape with Donowitz's money as more police set a perimeter around the hotel. One of the gangsters holds a young woman hostage and demands a ransom, until he is shot and killed. Clarence and Alabama are shown on a beach in Cancún, with a son they have named Elvis.



The title and plot are a play on the titles of romance comic books with their overwrought love stories"?very popular in earlier decades"?such as "True Life Secrets", "True Stories of Romance", "Romance Tales", "Untamed Love" and "Strange Love".

True Romance was a breakthrough of sorts for Tarantino. Released after Reservoir Dogs, it was his first screenplay for a major motion picture, and Tarantino contends that it is his most autobiographical film to date. He had initially hoped to serve as the film's director, but he ended up losing interest in directing and sold the script. According to Tarantino's audio commentary on the DVD release, he was happy with the way it turned out as, apart from changing the nonlinear narrative he wrote to a more conventional linear structure, it was largely faithful to his original screenplay and, although he initially opposed director Tony Scott's decision to change the ending (which Scott maintained was of his own volition, not the studio's, saying "I just fell in love with these two characters and didn't want to see them die") he realized when seeing the completed film that Scott's happy ending was more appropriate to the film as he had directed it, whereas the originally scripted ending would have been more suited to Tarantino's directorial style.

The film's score by Hans Zimmer is a theme based on Gassenhauer from Carl Orff's Schulwerk. This theme combined with a voiceover spoken by Arquette is an homage to Terrence Malick's 1973 crime film Badlands, in which Sissy Spacek speaks the voiceover, and that also shares similar dramatic motifs.


Critical reception

Reviews for the film were largely positive. It holds a "fresh" rating of 91% based on 47 reviews collected from notable publications by review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, with the consensus, "Fueled by Quentin Tarantino's savvy screenplay and a gallery of oddball performances, Tony Scott's True Romance is a funny and violent action jaunt in the best sense".

Phil Villarreal of the Arizona Daily Star called it "one of the most dynamic action films of the 1990s." Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave it three stars, saying "it's Tarantino's gutter poetry that detonates True Romance. This movie is dynamite."

Roger Ebert gave the film a positive review remarking that "the energy and style of the movie are exhilarating", and that "the supporting cast is superb, a roll call of actors at home in these violent waters: Christopher Walken, Dennis Hopper, and Brad Pitt, for example." A negative review by The Washington Posts Richard Harrington claimed the film was "stylistically visceral" yet "aesthetically corrupt".

Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote, "True Romance, a vibrant, grisly, gleefully amoral road movie directed by Tony Scott and dominated by the machismo of Quentin Tarantino (who wrote this screenplay before he directed Reservoir Dogs), is sure to offend a good-sized segment of the moviegoing population."

Box office performance

Although a critical success, True Romance was a box office failure. It was given a domestic release and earned $12,281,551 on an estimated $13 million budget. Despite this, the film developed a cult following over the years.


Empire ranked True Romance the 157th greatest film of all time in 2008.

The Hopper/Walken scene, colloquially named "The Sicilian scene", has been praised. Tarantino himself has named it as one of his proudest moments. "I had heard that whole speech about the Sicilians a long time ago, from a black guy living in my house. One day I was talking with a friend who was Sicilian and I just started telling that speech. And I thought: 'Wow, that is a great scene, I gotta remember that'." The dialogue from the scene can be found at wikiquote.

Oldman's villain also garnered acclaim. MSN Movies wrote, "With just a few minutes of screen time, Gary Oldman crafts one of cinema's most memorable villains: the brutal, dreadlocked pimp Drexl Spivey. Even in a movie jammed with memorable cameos from screen luminaries [...] Oldman's scar-faced, dead-eyed, lethal gangster stood out." Jason Serafino of Complex named Spivey as one of the top five coolest drug dealers in movie history, writing, "He's not in the film for a long time, but the few scant moments that Gary Oldman plays the psychotic dealer Drexl Spivey make True Romance a classic ... Oldman gave us a glimpse at one of cinema's most unfiltered sociopaths."

See also

  • 1993 in film
  • Cinema of the United States
  • List of American films of 1993

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