Friday, 1 July 2011

100 days, 100 films; Day 15 - True Romance

#86 - True Romance

Hold up a minute there. Does this sound like another Chick Flick? You’d be forgiven if you thought that because that’s what I thought it was when my brother suggested this movie. But believe me, this is no Chick Flick. Sure it’s kind of a love story but it’s more like a modern day Bonnie and Clyde style film than anything else. And just in case you needed any more convincing, it’s written by the one and only Quentin Tarantino. In fact, this was the film that brought his writing to the attention of all the big shots in Hollywood.

Our hero is Clarence (Christian Slater), your average nice guy who works in a comic book store. One day he meets the girl of his dreams, Alabama (Patricia Arquette), who is actually a call girl. They get on so well they get married the very next day, and Clarence stops by her pimp’s place to pick up her stuff. Instead he shoots the pimp dead and takes off with the wrong suitcase, bringing home a stock of cocaine instead. He and Alabama take off to LA looking for someone to sell the coke too. Unfortunately for them, a group of Italian-American gangsters try to track them down so they can get the cocaine for themselves.

The film boasts an impressive all star cast besides Slater and Arquette; we also have Dennis Hopper as Clarence’s father, Christopher Walken as the mob boss, James Gandolfini as a ganster (big surprise) and two one-scene wonders in Gary Oldman as Drexl (the pimp) and Brad Pitt as Floyd, Clarence’s friend’s stoner roommate. Seriously, Pitt is hilarious in this film before he was even a real star. I don’t think he ever leaves the couch in his five minutes or so of combined screen time. Someone else you guys might recognise is Michael Rapaport who played Phoebe’s cop boyfriend in Friends (the guy that shot the birds through the window). And last, but by no means least, we’ve got Val Kilmer playing Elvis. Well, he’s a hallucination that talks to Clarence a couple of times and he’s credited as “Mentor” but he’s definitely meant to be Elvis.

Clarence and Alabama make probably one of the cutest couples in film ever, way better than Jack and Rose or Sandy and Danny, and this is coming from a guy who hates Romance films. I’ve never really thought Patricia Arquette was much, having only seen her in Medium, but she is smoking hot in this...and kinda cute as well – which makes the graphic fight scene she’s in all the harder to watch. These two are just the perfect match and I honestly didn’t know Tarantino could write couples well. The rest of the characters are all likeable enough – even James Gandolfini as the hitman...that is until he starts roughing up poor Alabama. 

Naturally, being a Tarantino film, the dialogue is the best part. This man just has a way of writing words that...well...let’s just say I’ve been doing the midday Buddhist rituals for him a lot longer than I’ve been doing them for Sir Ian and Patrick Stewart. And of course the best scenes in the film are the dialogue ones. There’s an especially fun one where the mob has tracked down Clarence’s father and try to get information out of them. What does daddy do? Why he goes off onto a bit explanation about why Sicilians (Walken is playing a Sicilian gangster) were spawned by black people. Except he says it a lot less PC (yes he uses the N word, to Walken’s delight) and practically digs himself into a big hole. And the whole eggplant/cantaloupe comments were ad-libbed in by Hopper and Walken. As for other scenes, there’s a charming little scene where Clarence and Alabama arrive at his friend’s (yes Brad Pitt is in the scene). The friend answers the door to Alabama who asks if he called for a date. There are literally too many cool scenes to name in this film.

Actually, dialogue isn’t the only thing this film has going for it; there’s some pretty good action scenes in it that are pretty thrilling. Probably the most suspenseful one is where Alabama arrives in her motel room to find James Gandolfini waiting for her. It’s a little hard to watch, seeing the poor cutie get beaten up but Tarantino writes feminism too so Alabama comes back, using the toilet bowl and a bust of Elvis as her weapons of choice among other things. Then it wouldn’t be a Tarantino film (or Rodriguez for that matter but I don’t think he had anything to do with this film) without a typical Mexican stand-off. In this film it happens in a massive hotel suite with three parties – the Italians, the heroes and the cops. I won’t spoil the ending for you, but I read up about what was going to be the original ending, and I’m glad they gave us the one in the film. Tarantino doesn’t do everything perfectly after all.

So, this film isn’t that widely known except to Tarantino fans. If you are one and you haven’t seen this, then give it a look because I hold it up there with his best – and this is from somebody who didn’t enjoy Kill Bill. Just to clear up confusion, Tarantino didn’t direct, Tony Scott directed. It has a fairly typical 3-act structure so that’s what would make it different from the average Tarantino film. Until next time Team Tarantino, follow me on Twitter.

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