Tony Scott burst onto the scene in 1983, after a number of short/mid-length films and commercials, with his feature debut the iconic vampire movie “The Hunger“. Although garnering a mixed critical reception it gained a cult following, but more importantly led to Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer approaching him to direct “Top Gun” (1986). It would go on to become one of the quintessential 80s movies and biggest box office hits of the decade. On the surface a generic 1980s film, yet shot through with subtle knowing humour, heart, and uniqueness that typifies a Tony Scott movie. Over the next few years he followed this with “Beverly Hills Cop II” (1987), “Days of Thunder” (1990), “The Last Boy Scout” (1991), and the hugely underrated “Revenge‘” (1990). The latter was the first time he really got to showcase the depth and soul of his cinema.
Three years later he went on to create an absolutely faultless piece of cinema, “True Romance“. Yet unbelievably it was a flop on its original US release, taking the UK and European release for it to be recognised with the glowing acclaim and bigger box office it so richly deserved.
A comic-book nerd and Elvis fanatic Clarence (Christian Slater) and a prostitute Alabama (Patricia Arquette) fall in love. Clarence breaks the news to her pimp and grabs a suitcase of cocaine on his way out thinking it is Alabama’s clothing. The two hit the road for California hoping to sell the cocaine, but the mob is soon after them.
Having watched “True Romance” countless times over the years, never ever tiring of it, and always discovering something new to admire, it seemed perfection could not be improved on. Until now!
Arrow Video‘s stunning new 4k restoration breathes unimaginable new life into one of the defining films of the 90s. Everything about it just pops out of the screen. Most notably the stunning cinematography by Jeffrey L. Kimball and the sumptuous production design by Benjamin Fernandez. Yet what really stands out are the performances. Among the best acting ever committed to celluloid intensified to breathtakingly new heights. Finally topped of with a stunning new sound design that heightens everything. Alongside all this Arrow have produced an amazing package with superb extras of commentaries, interviews, deleted scenes, and more (some carried over from previous releases), and a limited edition booklet with some wonderful writing, particularly an appreciation of Tony Scott and his career by his number one fan, critic and writer Nicholas Clement.
Many view this seminal 1993 master-work as a Quentin Tarantino film, yes it was his screenplay, but is actually first and foremost a Tony Scott movie. When compared to the original script (well worth searching out as it was published a number of years ago) it is evident Scott’s visionary approach took the material to a whole other level. So to pigeon-hole it simply as a Tarantino movie is a huge disservice to Scott who elevated the former’s typical episodic novelistic approach to that of a beautiful, touching, humorous, brutal, blood-soaked, immersive, heightened neo-noir fairy tale.
“True Romance” defines Scott’s complex, eclectic melding of artistic hyper-stylism with substance like no other, barring his 2004 masterpiece “Man on Fire“. Almost avant-garde stylistic leanings very often lead to his movies being unjustly accused of lacking depth. Scott said of this “I always get criticised for style over content, unlike Ridley’s films that go into the classic box right away. Mine sort of hover. Maybe with time people will start saying they should be classics, but I think I’m always perceived as reaching too hard for difference, and difference doesn’t categorize you as the ‘classic category’.”
Heart is the predominant characteristic which sets apart a Tony Scott film, none more so than that of “True Romance“. Anyone who has seen it will be familiar with the line “You’ve got heart kid” which illustrates its transcendence of even the best of Tarantino, and sums up perfectly the essence of Scott’s movies. Nick Clement encapsulates them beautifully, “We care about the characters because Tony Scott cares.” Clarence and Alabama’s denouement throws this into clear focus, with Scott opting to change the original ending. Tarantino disagreed with this, the only time he said they had “a Mexican stand-off” with each other, but eventually he came to realise that it was perfectly in keeping with the movie Scott had created rather than the film he would have made.
Headlined by Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette as Clarence and Alabama. Both arguably never better, and supported by a once in a lifetime cast of Dennis Hopper, Christopher Walken, Gary Oldman, Val Kilmer, Brad Pitt, James Gandolfini, Samuel L. Jackson, Chris Penn, Tom Sizemore, Michael Rappaport, Bronson Pinchot, and Saul Rubinek. Some in very early roles, others seasoned veterans at the top of their craft.
Who can ever forget “The Sicilian scene” with Hopper and Walken going head to head, one of the greatest scenes in cinema history. A young Gandolfini watching on, and years later having obviously learned from the experience. In a later scene he would take acting to the extreme by wanting Arquette to actually stab him in the foot with a corkscrew, instead he and Scott compromised with a compass. Arquette and Gandolfini in that scene alone, gave their all to once in a lifetime characters, as all the cast did. This and “The Sicilian Scene” epitomise to the contrary the criticism that Scott was not an actor’s director.
Scott was a true original and an auteur in the truest sense of the word who was eclipsed by his brother Ridley, and never really given credit for the unique artistic craftsmanship he brought to cinema.
“a creative visionary whose mark on film is immeasurable.” – Tom Cruise
To this day I still dearly miss Tony Scott’s sincere, kinetic, artistic, boundary-pushing, film-making genius.
“True Romance” is one of the best examples of this, and without a doubt my favourite of his many movies.