Yes, I am another late bloomer to the Tarantino film True Romance. In my defense I didn’t even know it was one of his films until I actually received the Blu-ray (I’m not real big into research, you see), but what matters now is that I’ve seen it and can add it to my stack of wacky Tarantino outings that the man was responsible for in the 90s. Seriously—if that era was good for anything when it came to films it was Tarantino’s foul-mouth riddled scripts that took us through a handful of different directors and a whole slew of star power. This 1993 outing of True Romance boasts both the director, Tony Scott, and the star power (a huge cast that includes such stars as Samuel L. Jackson, Brad Pitt, and Val Kilmer…in tiny, tiny roles) and for those who haven’t seen it…well, just psych yourself up for the Tarantino way, as this film is just about as crazy as his stories get.
Runaway lovers Clarence and Alabama (Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette) play a dangerous game when they come to possess a suitcase of mob contraband. They head for Los Angeles, where they’ll sell the goods and begin a new life. But both sides of the law have other ideas. Screenwriter Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown) and director Tony Scott (Top Gun, Spy Game) shoot the works in this hard-edged mix of hip wit and dazzling action with an electrifying ensemble cast to die for.
If you feel you aren’t ready for the ridiculousness that is a full blown Tarantino film like Pulp Fiction or Reservoir Dogs, then may I suggest that you first delve into True Romance? Unlike Tarantino’s usual films (and the original script for this film, actually), this film is completely linear in that it starts at the earliest point in times and ends at the latest point in time, rather than switching back and forth between the two to confuse the hell out of the audience who isn’t prepared for such a thing. So in essence you get all of the wacky characters, dialogue, and situations from Tarantino that you expect, but none of the mind screwing setup. So…what I’m saying, is True Romance is like a fresh from the tap glass of Diet Tarantino…but that doesn’t make it go down any less smooth than the real thing.
The thing about True Romance is it has all the trappings of another Tarantino 90’s film, but a lot less of the acid-trip visuals and storytelling. I am, of course, referring to Natural Born Killers, which to this day befuddles me with its absurdity and upon reading up on this film afterwards (I’ll do the research afterwards, but not beforehand, you see) it seems that both this film and Killers were once meant to be one big story…and even Alabama from this film was referenced in Reservoir Dogs, so all of Tarantino’s works, it seems, were related at one point. Very cool bit of trivia, but ultimately completely irrelevant for this film.
Really this film is just a ton of fun to watch because it’s so accessible. It doesn’t alienate the viewer with some kind of forwards and backwards storytelling and, again, while many Tarantino diehards may find that off-putting, I truly believe watching True Romance before settling into the more well-known and serious Tarantino affair will be make for a much smoother transition. Everything about True Romance, from Slater’s character talking to an imaginary mentor (that’s Val Kilmer, by the way) before and after killing people to the strange but undeniable chemistry between Slater and Arquette, there’s just a lot of quirky and great characters to enjoy in this film. Plus you get the appearances from such individuals as James Gandolfini, Christopher Walken, Dennis Hopper, and Gary Oldman in small but meaningful roles.
It’s really just an ensemble piece and it just makes the film a veritable feast of talent as at the time they may not have been the popular figures they are now in Hollywood and to get them all into a film again would be nigh impossible (especially with Slater in the lead—seriously how did this film happen and his career still not result in much [sorry Slater, just saying]). Through the cocaine stealing, gun toting, torturing, and just good, all-around curse fest that is a Tarantino outing, True Romance just makes for a hell of a good time in front of the TV.
Those who haven’t seen it, do yourselves a favor and check it out as it’s a really Highly Recommended film.
Sadly the Blu-ray presentation of this film isn’t as stellar as I was hoping and it was, in fact, a tad bit disappointing. Now don’t get me wrong, I know the film is over fifteen years old so I know it won’t look immaculate, but there is some serious lack of detail to take in with this film. Despite boasting a full 1080p VC-1 encoded transfer, the visuals of the film just never really pop through. It’s relentlessly covered in a dreary haze that looks like they just scrubbed away the detail of the print; not necessarily through DNR as there are no real signs of that from what I could tell, it was just that the picture looked incredibly soft. Sure, it’s better than the DVD transfer, but it’s still a rather mediocre outing…but, I suppose short of doing a full restoration of the original print, we wouldn’t get much better anyway. The TrueHD 5.1 mix isn’t any more impressive either, as despite featuring worthwhile gunshot oomphs, it still feels soft and weak. But, again…over fifteen years old, so faulting it for that is kind of a cheap shot. At the very least the dialogue is crystal clear, although Oldman was hard to understand at times…but that’s only his character.
There was a two-disc edition of this film released at some point in time and Warner has carried over a whole slew of extras from that release. Included:
Deleted/Extended Scenes (29:19, SD)
Alternate Ending w/ optional commentary by Director Tony Scott or Screenwriter Quentin Tarantino (6:22, SD)
Commentary by Actors Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette
Commentary by Director Tony Scott
Commentary by Director Quentin Tarantino
Selective Actors Commentary (Dennis Hopper – 11:15, Val Kilmer – 4:08, Brad Pitt – 5:54, Michael Rapaport – 34:50)
Original Featurette (5:37)
Behind the Scenes – press a button during the film to watch behind the scenes footage
Theatrical Trailer (2:08, SD)
All of the content is in standard definition but…holy hell that is a lot of content. The individual actor commentaries especially are a treat, as they even get Val Kilmer to talk briefly about his role in the film, as small as it was. It’s just a fantastic collection of extras and I am genuinely surprised that I never heard of this film previously as it was apparently strong enough in fanbase for Warner to provide so many goodies for this film. Having said that why they chose the original cover art for this release and not the more impressive cover art from the 2005 release, I don’t know…it makes the film look very 80s, despite being made in the 90s.
Overall this is a jam-packed release, but with the disappointing Blu-ray elements…whether you pick this one up will depend on how much you enjoy the film and whether or not you own the previous two-disc release. Of course, from what I can tell, the two-disc release included only the rated version of the film, so you may, in fact, be upgrading based on that since this is the Director’s Cut…but having not seen the original I can’t compare the two. In any case this release comes Recommended, simply because it’s a nice and neat package and all in one place.
True Romance is now available on Blu-ray.