Thursday, August 23, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—True Romance (1993) ***½

R, 120 min.
Director: Tony Scott
Writer: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer, Gary Oldman, Brad Pitt, Christopher Walken, Bronson Pinochot, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Rapaport, Saul Rubinek, Conchata Ferrell, James Gandolfini, Victor Argo, Chris Penn, Tom Sizemore, Kevin Corrigan

Tony Scott and Quentin Tarantino made a surprisingly fit pair in 1993, when Scott directed Tarantino’s first sold screenplay. The original screenplay was one of QT’s sprawling dialogue-driven epics until Warner Bros. parceled it out into the two scripts that would become “True Romance” and “Natural Born Killers”. The former probably came out closer to something that held the QT signature than Stone’s paranoia-driven take on reality-based television and serial killers.

Scott’s film has a never-ending list of stars in small roles. Samuel L. Jackson may have a record for his role here as the highest billing for the least amount of screen time. He’s on screen for about a total of 12 seconds before he’s blown away in a drug deal. Oh no, wait, Val Kilmer is never seen on screen and he’s billed even higher than Jackson. Of course, he actually has some significant dialogue as the hero’s imaginary Elvis, and you do get to se him out of focus in the mirror once.

“True Romance” is alive with Tarantino’s excellent dialogue, and Scott adds to that by making the film visually alive. From the neon lit comic book shop to the sundrenched magic hour hotel room where Alabama is nearly beaten to death by a young and thin James Gandolfini, “True Romance” is electric with Scott’s lighting style and sideways camera angles. It is probably one of the better director/writer collaborations of Scott’s career.

Scott would employ Tarantino again as a punch up writer a couple of years later on his military submarine thriller “Crimson Tide”. Tarantino would never have another director helm one of his scripts. Scott was integral to launching the career of one of the greatest writer-directors Hollywood will ever see. Because of his immense talent, QT probably would’ve made it without Scott’s help, but Scott saw it first.

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