Written by Quentin Tarantino and directed with flair by the late Tony Scott, True Romance is a timeless tale of two star-crossed lovers on the run from the mob: compelling love story, surreal crime thriller and offbeat comedy all in one.
Back in UK cinemas this week more than 20 years after its release, the 1993 cult classic still holds a special place in countless cinephiles’ hearts. Here are nine key reasons why.
(Some spoilers below)
1. Tarantino’s script
Witty, inventive and bursting with distinctive ideas, Quentin Tarantino’s superb screenplay offers an early glimpse into the off-the-wall movie genius we now know and love.
Snappy dialogue cracks back and forth like gunfire between the larger than life characters, while the written beats are like a delicious platter of the ingredients that would later make Tarantino renowned: from nerdy pop culture musings, to Kung-Fu movie appreciation, to the interweaving hitters on an explosive collision course with one another.
2. The incredible cast
From established greats to before-they-were-famous up-and-comers, the movie’s eclectic ensemble cast can boast an impressive 12 Oscar nominations between them. It’s a seriously strong array of talent.
As well as a top of his game Christian Slater and the always-wonderful Patricia Arquette, we have Val Kilmer, Samuel L Jackson, and a young James Gandolfini nailing a memorably intense scene as a grinning, sadistic thug. And that’s before we even get onto…
3. Gary Oldman as Drexyl Spivey
One of several outrageous scene-stealers in the film, the heavyweight British character actor has a broad range to be sure, and his scarred, jive-talking, whiteboy Rasta pimp is definitely a highlight of his eccentric ’90s villains phase.
Combining the unhinged menace of Leon’s Stansfield with a bizarre, leering demeanour and accent that is as funny as it is disconcerting, Oldman’s brief turn spins Drexyl as both pantomime bad guy and a thoroughly nasty, sleazy piece of work.
4. Christopher Walken vs Dennis Hopper
Make no mistake: this is one of the finest scenes in cinematic history. It’s amazing to watch two masters of the acting craft at the top of their game, sparring spectacularly with one another and serving up every single top-notch Tarantino threat, wisecrack and speech with real verve and gravitas.
Expertly constructed and unspeakably tense, the wince-inducing ‘Sicilian’ soliloquy and Walken’s reaction towards the end of this suspenseful interrogation sequence are justly famous, but it’s the look in Hopper’s eyes that really sells it.
5. Brad Pitt’s stoner genius
Before he became the go-to hunk for an assortment of crowd-pleasers, Pitt also earned his stripes as a series of gleefully oddball misfits (see Twelve Monkeys for another great example).
Here, he gets some of the best belly-laughs of the movie as Dick’s layabout, pot-guzzling roommate Floyd. His ultra-chilled reaction to a bunch of shotgun-wielding Mafia men storming into his home, is absolutely priceless.
6. The assorted weirdness
Just one of several fantastical elements dotted throughout the film, Val Kilmer pops-up as an imaginary Elvis, who appears to Clarence and offers him various pieces of guidance along the way.
It perfectly captures the daydreaming naivety of a male lead hooked on violent action movies and Hollywood happy endings, and helps bolster the film’s highly original, zany atmosphere.
7. The music
Inspired by Terrence Malick’s Badlands, and drawing on the same classical motif, Hans Zimmer’s beautiful score is arguably one of his best – and most overlooked.
Beautiful, bittersweet, and almost child-like in its sensibilities, it’s a lilting lullaby to guide Clarence and Alabama blissfully off into the sunset.
8. The Mexican stand-off
Making Reservoir Dogs look utterly tame by comparison, the eventual explosion of bullet-spewing violence in a hotel suite – near the film’s climax – sees cops, mobsters and a film producer and his heavies all facing off in an orgy of destruction.
Every sub-plot in the previous hour or so has been building up to this boiling-point moment, and it’s jaw-dropping when all hell finally breaks loose.
9. The wonderfully unconventional love story
Both a tribute to, and affectionate lampooning of, classic against-the-odds Hollywood romances (complete with heavy riffing on Bonnie & Clyde and the aforementioned Badlands), True Romance is a heady mix of pop culture nostalgia and dreamy wish-fulfillment set against a visceral gangster thriller backdrop.
When it comes down to it though, it’s a surprisingly sweet tale of a movie nerd and call-girl who fall for one another, and must do what ever it takes to make their unlikely relationship happen.