True Romance
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True Romance
True Romance
True romance.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byTony Scott
Produced by
Written byQuentin Tarantino
Music byHans Zimmer
CinematographyJeffrey L. Kimball
Edited by
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • September 10, 1993 (1993-09-10)
Running time
118 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States[2][3]
Budget$12.5 million[4]
Box office$12.3 million[4]

True Romance is a 1993 American neo-noir[5]romantic crime film written by Quentin Tarantino and directed by Tony Scott. The film stars Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette with an ensemble cast including James Gandolfini, Dennis Hopper, Michael Rapaport, Bronson Pinchot, Val Kilmer, Gary Oldman, Brad Pitt, and Christopher Walken. The plot follows an ex-prostitute (Arquette) and her husband (Slater) on the run from the Mafia after stealing a shipment of drugs from her former pimp.

Beginning life as an early script by Tarantino, the film was the first of his films to be released following the smash success of Reservoir Dogs, and was the first screenplay by the filmmaker to not be directed by him. The film is regarded by proponents as a cross-section of writer Tarantino and director Scott's respective individual trademarks; including a Southern California setting, pop cultural references, and stylized violence punctuated by use of slow motion.[6][7]

Upon initial release, the film received highly positive critical reviews, with critics praising its dialogue, characters, and off-beat style.[8] Though initially a box-office failure, its positive reception earned it a cult following, and it is today considered one of Scott's best films, and one of the best American films of the 1990s.[9][10][11]


At a Detroit theater showing kung fu films, Alabama Whitman (Patricia Arquette) strikes up a conversation with Elvis Presley fanatic Clarence Worley (Christian Slater). After the triple feature show, Alabama invites Clarence for pie. They converse at a diner, where he asks her multiple questions, one of which is, "Do you have a fella?" Later that night, they have sex at Clarence's apartment in downtown Detroit. Clarence awakes to find Alabama huddled in blankets, crying on the ledge of a large billboard ad outside of his window. She tearfully confesses that she is a call girl hired by Clarence's boss as a birthday present but has fallen in love with Clarence. He takes it in stride and they marry the next day.

An apparition of Elvis (Val Kilmer) visits Clarence and convinces him to kill Alabama's pimp Drexl (Gary Oldman). Clarence goes to the brothel where Alabama worked, shoots and kills Drexl, along with Drexl's sidekick, Marty, and takes a bag he assumes contains Alabama's belongings. Back at the apartment, he and Alabama discover the bag contains a large amount of cocaine.

The couple visit Clarence's estranged father, Clifford (Dennis Hopper), a former cop and now a security guard, for help. After checking around with some old cop friends, Clifford tells Clarence that the police assume Drexl's murder is a gang killing. After the couple leave for Los Angeles, Clifford is interrogated by Don Vincenzo Coccotti (Christopher Walken). consigliere to a mobster named "Blue Lou Boyle", the mobster whom Drexl had been doing business with and who is now after the cocaine. Clifford, realizing he will die anyway, mockingly defies Coccotti. Infuriated, Coccotti shoots Clifford dead. A note on the refrigerator leads the mobsters to Clarence's Los Angeles address.

In Los Angeles, Clarence and Alabama meet Clarence's friend Dick (Michael Rapaport), an aspiring actor, and his roommate, Floyd (Brad Pitt). Dick introduces Clarence to a friend of his, actor Elliot Blitzer (Bronson Pinchot), who reluctantly agrees to broker the sale of the drugs to film producer Lee Donowitz. While Clarence is out buying lunch, Coccotti's underboss, Virgil (James Gandolfini), finds Alabama in her motel room and beats her for information. She fights back and kills him with his shotgun.

Elliot is pulled over for speeding and arrested for drug possession. To stay out of jail, he agrees to record the drug deal between Clarence and Donowitz for the police. Coccotti's crew learn where the deal will take place from Dick's roommate Floyd. Clarence, Alabama, Dick, and Elliot go to Donowitz's suite at the Ambassador Hotel with the drugs. In the elevator, a suspicious Clarence threatens Elliot at gunpoint, but is persuaded by Elliot's pleading.

Once in the hotel room, Clarence fabricates a story for Donowitz that the drugs were given to him by a corrupt cop, and Donowitz agrees to the sale. Clarence excuses himself to the bathroom, where a vision of Elvis reassures him that things are going well. Donowitz and his bodyguards are ambushed by the cops and mobsters and a shootout begins after Elliot accidentally reveals himself as an informant. Dick abandons the drugs and flees. Almost everyone is killed in the gun battle, and Clarence is wounded as he exits the bathroom. He and Alabama escape with Donowitz's money as more police arrive. They flee to Mexico where Alabama gives birth to a son, whom she names Elvis.



The title and plot are a play on the titles of romance comic books such as True Life Secrets, True Stories of Romance, Romance Tales, Untamed Love and Strange Love.

The film was a breakthrough for Tarantino. Released after Reservoir Dogs, it was his first screenplay for a major motion picture, and Tarantino contends that it is his most autobiographical film to date. He had hoped to also direct the film, but lost interest in directing and sold the script. According to Tarantino's audio commentary on the DVD release, he was happy with the way it turned out. Apart from changing the nonlinear narrative he wrote to a more conventional linear structure, it was largely faithful to his original screenplay. He initially opposed director Tony Scott's decision to change the ending (which Scott maintained was of his own volition, not the studio's, saying "I just fell in love with these two characters and didn't want to see them die"). When seeing the completed film, he realized Scott's happy ending was more appropriate to the film as Scott directed it.[12] The film's first act, as well as some fragments of dialogue, were repurposed from Tarantino's 1987 amateur film My Best Friend's Birthday.

The film's score by Hans Zimmer is a theme based on Gassenhauer from Carl Orff's Schulwerk. This theme, combined with a voiceover spoken by Arquette, is an homage to Terrence Malick's 1973 crime film Badlands, in which Sissy Spacek speaks the voiceover, and that also shares similar dramatic motifs.


Critical reception

Reviews for the film were largely positive. It holds a "Certified Fresh" score of 92% on the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, with an average rating of 7.54/10, based on 53 reviews. The site's consensus states: "Fueled by Quentin Tarantino's savvy screenplay and a gallery of oddball performances, Tony Scott's True Romance is a funny and violent action jaunt in the best sense".[13] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B-" on an A+ to F scale.[14]

Phil Villarreal of the Arizona Daily Star called it "one of the most dynamic action films of the 1990s".[15]Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave it three stars, saying "it's Tarantino's gutter poetry that detonates True Romance. This movie is dynamite."[16]

Roger Ebert gave the film a positive review remarking that "the energy and style of the movie are exhilarating", and that "the supporting cast is superb, a roll call of actors at home in these violent waters: Christopher Walken, Dennis Hopper, and Brad Pitt, for example".[17] A negative review by The Washington Post's Richard Harrington claimed the film was "stylistically visceral" yet "aesthetically corrupt".[18]

Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote, "True Romance, a vibrant, grisly, gleefully amoral road movie directed by Tony Scott and dominated by the machismo of Quentin Tarantino (who wrote this screenplay before he directed Reservoir Dogs), is sure to offend a good-sized segment of the moviegoing population".[19]

Box office performance

Although a critical success, True Romance was a box office failure. It was given a domestic release and earned $12.3 million[4] on a $12.5 million budget. Despite this, the film developed a cult following over the years.[20][21]


Empire ranked True Romance the 83rd greatest film of all time in 2017, writing: "Tony Scott's handling of Quentin Tarantino's script came off like the cinematic equivalent of cocaine-flavoured bubble-gum: a bright, flavoursome confection that had an intoxicatingly violent kick. It also drew some tremendous big names to its supporting cast."[9]

The Hopper/Walken scene, colloquially named "The Sicilian scene", was praised by Oliver Lyttelton of IndieWire, who called it "one of the most beautiful tête-à-têtes in contemporary cinema, wonderfully written and made utterly iconic by the two virtuoso actors".[22] Tarantino himself has named it as one of his proudest moments. "I had heard that whole speech about the Sicilians a long time ago, from a black guy living in my house. One day I was talking with a friend who was Sicilian and I just started telling that speech. And I thought: 'Wow, that is a great scene, I gotta remember that'."[23]

Oldman's villain also garnered acclaim. MSN Movies wrote: "With just a few minutes of screen time, Gary Oldman crafts one of cinema's most memorable villains: the brutal, dreadlocked pimp Drexl Spivey. Even in a movie jammed with memorable cameos from screen luminaries [...] Oldman's scar-faced, dead-eyed, lethal gangster stood out."[24] Jason Serafino of Complex named Spivey as one of the top five coolest drug dealers in movie history, writing: "He's not in the film for a long time, but the few scant moments that Gary Oldman plays the psychotic dealer Drexl Spivey make True Romance a classic ... Oldman gave us a glimpse at one of cinema's most unfiltered sociopaths."[25]Maxim journalist Thomas Freeman ranked Spivey as the greatest performance of Oldman's career.[26]

"Robbers", a song by the English indie rock band The 1975 from their 2013 debut album, was inspired by the film. Vocalist Matthew Healy explained: "I got really obsessed with the idea behind Patricia Arquette's character in True Romance when I was about eighteen. That craving for the bad boy in that film [is] so sexualized."[27]

Brad Pitt's stoner character in True Romance, Floyd, was the inspiration for making the film Pineapple Express, according to producer Judd Apatow, who "thought it would be funny to make a movie in which you follow that character out of his apartment and watch him get chased by bad guys".[28]


True Romance
Soundtrack album by
Various Artists
ReleasedSeptember 7, 1993
LabelMorgan Creek
ProducerHans Zimmer
Quentin Tarantino film soundtracks chronology
Reservoir Dogs
True Romance
Pulp Fiction
Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic3/5 stars

The soundtrack consists of a wide variety of music, ranging from rock to dance music. The album listing is as follows:

No.TitleContributing artistLength
1."You're So Cool"Hans Zimmer3:40
2."Graceland"Charlie Sexton3:26
3."In Dreams"John Waite3:45
4."Wounded Bird"Charles & Eddie5:11
5."I Want Your Body"Nymphomania4:18
6."Stars At Dawn"Hans Zimmer2:04
7."I Need A Heart To Come Home To"Shelby Lynne4:21
8."Viens Mallika Sous Le Dome Edais from Lakmé"Léo Delibes3:57
9."(Love Is) The Tender Trap"Robert Palmer2:37
11."Amid The Chaos Of The Day"Hans Zimmer4:54
12."Two Hearts"Chris Isaak3:33

Home media

True Romance was released on VHS and DVD on September 24, 2002 as a Two-Disc set.[29]. It was later released on Blu-ray.[30]

See also


  1. ^ "TRUE ROMANCE (18)". British Board of Film Classification. 1993-10-08. Retrieved .
  2. ^ "True Romance (1993) - Overview". 2015-03-05. Retrieved .
  3. ^ "TRUE ROMANCE | American Cinematheque". Retrieved .
  4. ^ a b c "True Romance (1993)". The Numbers. Retrieved .
  5. ^ Silver, Alain; Ward, Elizabeth; Ursini, James; Porfirio, Robert (2010). Film Noir: The Encyclopaedia. Overlook Duckworth (New York). ISBN 978-1-59020-144-2.
  6. ^ "You're So Cool: Looking Back On 'True Romance' 20 Years Later". UPROXX. 2014-05-14. Retrieved .
  7. ^ "Classic Film Review: True Romance Remains a Sweet, Distinctly Male Movie". Consequence of Sound. 2018-09-09. Retrieved .
  8. ^ True Romance (1993), retrieved
  9. ^ a b "Empire's 500 Greatest Movies Of All Time". Empire. June 23, 2017. Retrieved 2018.
  10. ^ Lyttelton, Oliver; Lyttelton, Oliver (2012-08-20). "The Essentials: The 5 Best Tony Scott Films". IndieWire. Retrieved .
  11. ^ "Celebrating the Films of Tony Scott". Film School Rejects. 2018-06-22. Retrieved .
  12. ^ Spitz, Marc (25 April 2008). "True Romance: 15 Years Later". Maxim. Archived from the original on 16 August 2011. Retrieved 2012. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  13. ^ "True Romance". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved .
  14. ^ "CinemaScore".
  15. ^ Villarreal, Phil. "Review: True Romance". Arizona Daily Star. Archived from the original on December 22, 2008. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  16. ^ Travers, Peter (10 September 1993). "True Romance: Movie Review". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2012.
  17. ^ "True Romance". 10 September 1993. Retrieved .
  18. ^ Harrington, Richard (10 September 1993). "True Romance". The Washington Post. Retrieved .
  19. ^ Maslin, Janet (10 September 1993). "True Romance: Desperadoes, Young at Heart With Gun in Hand". The New York Times. Retrieved .
  20. ^ Spitz, Marc. "True Romance: 15 Years Later". Maxim. Retrieved 2013.
  21. ^
  22. ^ Lyttelton, Oliver. The 10 Best Dennis Hopper Performances, On What Would Have Been His 76th Birthday. IndieWire. May 17, 2012. Retrieved December 5, 2012.
  23. ^ True Romance Unrated Director's Cut DVD commentary
  24. ^ True Romance (1993) - Drexl Spivey. MSN Movies. 2011. Retrieved December 17, 2012.
  25. ^ Serafino, Jason. The 25 Coolest Drug Dealers In Movies. Complex. October 24, 2012. Retrieved December 21, 2012.
  26. ^ Freeman, Thomas (March 21, 2018). "Gary Oldman Is Turning 60, So Revisit His 10 Best Roles of All Time". Maxim. Retrieved 2019.
  27. ^ Murray, Robin (April 28, 2014). "The 1975 - Robbers (Explicit)". Clash. Retrieved 2014.
  28. ^ Svetkey, Benjamin (April 18, 2008). "'Pineapple Express': High hopes for James Franco". Entertainment Weekly. Time Inc. Retrieved 2008.
  29. ^ Indvik, Kurt (July 3, 2002). "Warner Bows First Premium Video Line". Archived from the original on August 28, 2002. Retrieved 2019.
  30. ^

External links

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