True Romance review – when you’re tired of relationships, try a romance…

Posted on 14 February 2022
By Andy Johnson
  • Share:

Want a love letter to send your lover’s heart racing this Valentine’s Day? Jump in Clarence and Alabama Worley’s purple Cadillac and immerse yourself in this romantic roller coaster of a movie.

Star-crossed lovers on the run with a suitcase of cocaine, which Clarence steals by accident instead of Alabama’s clothes, from her pimp Drexl, following a murderous rampage. Critics write the plot off as an adrenaline-fuelled adolescent fantasy.

But the sparks of rage and burning desire for vengeance towards anyone, who has harmed your loved one, surely speaks to the heart of the human condition.

“Amid the chaos of that day… All I could hear was the thunder of gunshots and all I could smell was violence in the air. I’m amazed my thoughts were so clear and true. Three words went through my mind endlessly, repeating themselves like a broken record… “you’re so cool, you’re so cool, you’re so cool.”

Alabama’s poetic prayer, dancing above Hans Zimmer’s sublime score, is something special to play at least once a year. It reels me back to those tender teenage years, taking True Romance home from my first job, at Apollo Video.

The black magnetic spool played out this hyper surreal adventure, where the protagonist’s movie dreams project onto his life. I was hooked. The exact same tape holds pride of place in my collection, after saving it from oblivion when the shop, on Balls Road, Birkenhead, finally closed its doors.

Each scene triggers a visceral response and is a masterclass in creating cinematic tension. The neon drenched shootout at Drexl’s whorehouse is typical of director Tony Scott’s style and sets the tone for the rest of the film.

True Romance is Quentin Tarantino’s first script and he describes it as his most ‘autobiographical.’ He said: “True Romance is my most personal script because the character of Clarence was me at the time I wrote it. He works in a comic shop – I was working in a video store.

“When my friends from that time see True Romance, they get melancholy; it brings back a certain time for us. It was weird when I first watched the movie, because it was like watching a big budget version of my home movies or memories.”

Quentin used the $50,000 from selling the story to make Reservoir Dogs, which was released to instant acclaim in 1992.

So when True Romance entered pre-production a year later, the cream of Hollywood was clamouring to play Tarantino’s unique characters and roll their tongues through his textured dialogue.

Whenever recommending this to a first time viewer, I love to watch the incredulity at the dazzling cast ripple across their face.

Half the original trailer is a gunshot ricochet roll call of iconic 90s names; Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, Gary Oldman, Christopher Walken, Brad Pitt, Dennis Hopper, James Gandolfini, Val Kilmer, Michael Rappaport and Samuel L. Jackson.

Describing his eagerness to step into the shoes of Drexl Spivey, during an on-set interview, Gary Oldman said: “Tony Scott sat me down with this fantastic script.

“He said ‘I’m not very good at explaining the story, but there’s this character I want you to play and he’s a pimp. He’s a white guy, who thinks he’s a black guy’ and I said… ‘ok I’ll do it.’

“Quentin’s got this imagination that can take you anywhere. His characters are people we’ve seen before, but he takes them somewhere else.”

You could observe that Tarantino put as much of himself into the character of Drexl, as he did Clarence and was probing the pitfalls of cultural appropriation, 30 years before it left the world of academia and entered the realm of internet outrage.

The Sicilian scene, a dramatic face off between Hopper and Walken, understandably raises all kinds of issues for new audiences. But redemption for Clarence’s father comes in the form of self sacrifice. He knows pouring vitriol on the history of their race will lead to his death.

Brad Pitt’s Stoner Supreme Floyd steals the show from his sofa, surviving the wrath of the Sicilian mob, simply by telling the truth. Directing them to the final Mexican standoff.

True Romance was a beacon for my formative years. When my chance came to travel across America, there was only one route to take.

Following Clarence and Alabama’s footsteps, buying a beaten up purple Dodge from Detroit and driving to LA on a pilgrimage to see Tarantino. That trip led me to meet the man himself and get my True Romance screenplay signed.

But that’s a story for another time. Call in to the video shop at one of our upcoming VideOdyssey events and I’ll happily tell you all about it.

True Romance is one of those hard to find films (not available on streaming services) – so if you want us to hook you up with a VHS copy and a private cinema screening… send us a napkin love note and we’ll be yours forever.