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Runaway lovers Clarence and Alabama (Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette) play a dangerous game when they come to possess a suitcase of mob contraband. They head for Los Angeles, where they'll sell the goods and begin a new life. But both sides of the law have other ideas. Screenwriter Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown) and director Tony Scott (Top Gun, Spy Game) shoot the works in this hard-edged mix of hip wit and dazzling action with an electrifying ensemble cast to die for.
For more about True Romance and the True Romance Blu-ray release, see True Romance Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on May 12, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, Dennis Hopper, Gary Oldman, Brad Pitt, Christopher Walken
Director: Tony Scott
» See full cast & crew
True Romance Blu-ray Review
Guns, drugs, gangsters, and true love...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, May 12, 2009
Mentioning the name Quentin Tarantino is one of the quickest ways to get to my cinematic heart. My infatuation with the barbed-tongued filmmaker's frenetic flicks began at sixteen when I ducked into an unguarded theater and witnessed the madcap, multifaceted madness that is Pulp Fiction. From there, a trip to the video store led me to Reservoir Dogs, Tarantino's first and arguably most unnerving directorial exploration of the criminal mind. I was hooked. Over the next fifteen years, Jackie Brown lured me in with its slowburn noir nuances, Kill Bill blew me away on two separate occasions, and Death Proof left me marveling at the hyperactive auteur's blood-soaked abandon. Along the way, I plunged into the director's screenwriting catalog as well: films like Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers, Robert Rodriguez's From Dusk Till Dawn and, of course, Tony Scott's True Romance. There's a startling disconnect between each film's dialogue and visual aesthetic -- as I've come to learn, Tarantino scripts are best realized when the man himself is at the helm -- but I suppose sharp writing is sharp writing. While True Romance isn't the simmering ensemble piece it probably would have been had Tarantino been pulling every string, it's still a decent, at-times compelling jaunt through the lives of two star-crossed lovers on the lam.
Clarence Worley (Christian Slater) leads a boring, uneventful life as a comicbook-store register jockey; a loser of sorts who spends most of his free time watching classic grindhouse movies, listening to Elvis music, and chatting with an apparition of the King himself (Val Kilmer). But when he falls for a young blonde named Alabama (Patricia Arquette), he doesn't realize his destiny is about to take a sharp turn into a seedy underworld of killers and thugs. Undeterred by the revelation that his new love is a prostitute, Clarence proposes and marries Alabama. But when a trip to her pimp (Gary Oldman) leads to murder, Clarence has to visit his father (Dennis Hopper), get help from an aspiring actor (Michael Rapaport) and a worthless stoner (Brad Pitt), stay one step ahead of a vicious gangster (Christopher Walken), arrange a drug deal between a Hollywood actor (Bronson Pinchot) and a movie producer (Saul Rubinek), and avoid a sting operation run by two hot-headed detectives (Tom Sizemore and the late Chris Penn). Can two fugitives like Clarence and Alabama ever find happiness?
True Romance isn't a weak or mediocre film by any stretch of the imagination -- it's certainly not the "bastardization of crime cinema" some have accused it of being -- but it is stretched a bit too thin: characters appear and disappear at Scott's finicky whim, talented heavyweights are limited to one or two scenes, and most of the on-screen ultraviolence loses its edge as the director toys with Tarantino's experiments in the surreal. Scott seems to use every scene as a stylistic training ground for future endeavors (the critically-panned Domino comes to mind), failing to realize that the key to selling Clarence and Alabama's love lies in their intense commitment to one another... not in tricky camera angles, in the editing bay, or beneath a veneer of seedy smoke. Tarantino, on the other hand, has a better sense of his lovers' unconventional attraction and his villains' devious desires. Not only does his rapid-fire dialogue reveal more about the core of each dealer, snitch, and detective than any overblown distraction Scott parades across the frame, he genuinely seems intrigued by the personalities populating his volatile world.
Thankfully, in spite of Scott and Tarantino's creative tug-of-war, the cast rises to the occasion, pumping their sycophants and psychopaths full of droll wit and streetwise charm. Slater plays a variation of himself (yet again), but it works in this case; his Nicholson-esque delivery and furrowed brow transforms Clarence into a naive victim of circumstance forced to adapt to an ever-evolving reality. Arquette could have simply run through the motions; instead, she molds Alabama into a tragic lost soul whose decisions have inevitable and irreparable consequences. Better still, Walken (with a single weighty scene), Oldman (dead before he gets a chance to do much of anything), Hopper (whose best material comes during a deteriorating interrogation), and Pitt (constrained to a couch) prove that screentime isn't necessarily a measure of acting prowess or scene-stealing potential. By the time an overindulgent Mexican standoff (with more than a dozen participants) affects the lives of nearly everyone involved in Clarence's crumbling drug deal, True Romance has abandoned any semblance of an engaging narrative in the hopes that its performances will keep it afloat.
Ultimately, Scott's guns-n-gangsters genre pic is a superficial, frantically-paced love story struggling to establish a cohesive identity. I'm sure some of you will adore its brash attitude and twisted story, but I found it to be a fun yet tiresome flick in Tarantino's screenwriting career.
True Romance Blu-ray, Video Quality
Sadly, True Romance features a drab and dreary 1080p/VC-1 transfer that fails to recover from a slew of fundamental technical issues. Each scene admittedly looks better than it ever has before, but skintones are either flushed, bronzed, or smeared, contrast is inconsistent and murky, blacks are often left unresolved, shadow delineation is underwhelming, and an unnecessarily heavy application of noise reduction robs the image of facial detail, fine textures, and overall clarity. While some slight edge enhancement has been implemented to artificially "fix" these less-than-desirable side effects, it merely adds minor ringing to the transfer's growing list of problems. Taken as a whole, it isn't a complete loss -- as squishy and overworked as every close-up may be, I doubt the film could have looked any better unless the studio had granted it an expensive, original print restoration -- but the picture is flat and lifeless throughout. Diehard Romancers will probably declare this to be the version to own since it boasts a notable upgrade over the 2002 Special Edition DVD. However, casual fans and newcomers alike will be left wondering what went wrong. Hopefully, Warner will revisit Scott and Tarantino's lovechild in the future and give it a proper high definition treatment.
True Romance Blu-ray, Audio Quality
True Romance arrives on Blu-ray with a decidedly decent Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless surround track that -- despite a variety of dull, dated, and disappointing source elements -- makes a solid first impression (especially when you realize the film turns sixteen in September). Dialogue is clean and clear (even though prioritization is occasionally wonky), LFE support adds some much-needed oomph to engines and gunfire, and dynamics are noticeably improved compared to the 2002 DVD's bland audio mix. More importantly, while the conversational nature of the film lends itself to a front-heavy audio presentation, the rear speakers inject enough ambience and acoustic realism to create a suitably immersive soundfield. Pans are slightly stocky and directionality is occasionally imprecise, but I didn't get the sense that either issue should be attributed to the proficiency of Warner's track. If anything, True Romance could have used a more thorough restoration to give every word and scream the sort of clarity and polish audiophiles expect from a top-tier, catalog release.
True Romance Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Blu-ray edition of True Romance serves up many of the significant special features that grace the 2002 2-Disc SE DVD. But despite reports to the contrary, Warner's BD-50 disc does not include the animated photo gallery listed on the rear coverart or the faux-PiP storyboard track from previous releases. Regardless, three full-length audio commentaries, an hour of scene-specific actor commentaries, a collection of lengthy deleted scenes, and a branching behind-the-scenes featurette should give fans plenty of material to dig through. Granted, all of the video content is presented in lowly standard definition, but this package is sure to please those who take the time to wade through everything it has to offer.
True Romance Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
True Romance is an enigmatic ensemble piece that will either appeal to your deviant sensibilities or send you to your shelves to revisit a real Tarantino flick. Alas, the Blu-ray edition is a somewhat haphazard release. While it includes a solid Dolby TrueHD audio track and an extensive supplemental package, it suffers from a mediocre video transfer and the disappearance of two promising special features. All things considered, the Blu-ray edition looks and sounds better than any previous DVD, but it isn't strong enough to survive close scrutiny. Give it a rent or wait till it's on sale... there are bigger and badder May releases awaiting your hard-earned cash.
Blu-ray bundles with True Romance (3 bundles)
True Romance Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Today on Blu-ray - May 26th - May 26, 2009
Father's Day may still be a few weeks away, but that hasn't stopped studios from flooding the market with male targeted films. Universal is taking their turn today, releasing four catalog titles that are sure to appeal to a good number of high definition fathers ...
• Warner Announces True Romance for May - February 11, 2009
Warner Home Video has announced that they will bring the Christian Slater film 'True Romance' to Blu-ray on May 26th in its unrated form. Scheduled to come on a BD-50, video will be presented in 2.40:1 1080p VC-1. Audio specs have yet to be fully detailed ...
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