From the very first moments of True Romance, it’s very clear that this is a Quentin Tarantino penned script. Aptly directed and adapted by the late Tony Scott, this Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette leading piece is a great example of how ensemble casts were utilised in collating the gangster obsessed world of the early 1990s. Seedy motives, muddled characters that sat on the fence of good and evil, a lack of love for all of its protagonists and antagonists, any one of them could drop off the face of the Earth by the very next scene. It’s all the hallmarks of this period, and True Romance toys with them all well enough.
Taking a sudden decision to marry a prostitute, steal a bundle of cocaine and high-tail it to Hollywood to make a profit, True Romance has a high-octane premise that bases itself on the debauchery of the fictional characters found within the pockets of its idyllic settings. Lavish parties where drug deals are orchestrated with producers, flash cars and fast driving near beautiful landscapes as the police chase along behind. Scott’s worldbuilding is superb, with a stark contrast between where our characters begin, the cold and rather empty shell of Detroit put alongside the sunny, comfortable aesthetic of Los Angeles.
Two leading performances that seem rather underwhelming when compared to the rest of the talent on display, Slater and Arquette provide a formidable duo that falls short of the supporting performers. Christopher Walken, Dennis Hopper and James Gandolfini, in particular, easily outshine the more prominent roles throughout thanks to their natural ability to command and dominate the screen. There’s always the notion that, whoever Arquette and Slater share the screen with, they’ll be outshined. Not because they’re not as talented or interesting, but because they provide a catalyst for the characters around them, who act on the initial actions of our leading characters.
True Romance is clunky, a film that really does show the highs and lows of the mid-1990s in its filmmaking rather clearly. It’s a good bit of fun though, a decently light thriller with an ensemble like no other, a script penned with a love for the genre at its heart. Crime reigns supreme in this one, and the talented cast make it work like no other. Scott’s direction holds it all together nicely, with an abundance of action, character development and one big blow-out that makes for a wholly satisfying end to each and every character put onto the screen.