True Romance has Quentin Tarantino's fingerprints all over it, although it was actually directed by Tony Scott. It has everything, from a Mexican standoff, to the rat-a-tat dialogue, to the same obsession with 70s flicks that are common in many of Tarantino's films. The only thing it's missing is Uma Thurman.
The story is almost beside the point: a comic book nerd named Clarence Worley (Christian Slater, were we all to suffer his lot in life!) hooks up with a prostitute, Alabama Whitman (Patricia Arquette) with a heart of gold. What could have been a traumatic experience for the both of them blossoms into a passionate romance. It's not long before the two get married.
Unlike say, Pretty Woman, True Romance reminds us that being a prostitute is not fun. Part of the unglamorous side of Alabama's life is her abusive pimp, Drexl Spivey (Gary Oldman, fantastic as always). Clarence decides to get Alabama's possessions back from the pimp and settle the score. The plot spirals from there, but it involves a huge amount of cocaine that's so expensive, just possessing it is a liability.
On Clarence's side is his big doofus of a friend, Dick Ritchie (Michael Rapaport), an aspiring actor that's particularly Joey-esque. For some reason, Brad Pitt plays Floyd, Dick's stoner roommate. Clarence also looks for help from his dad, Clifford (the always amusing Dennis Hopper). Guiding (if you can call it that) Clarence through life is his illusionary mentor, Elvis (wouldja believe, Val Kilmer?). No, seriously. It doesn't take long before Dick hooks Clarence up with a buyer. That buyer is Eliot Blitzer, representing the famous Hollywood director Lee Donowitz (played by Bronson Pinchot and Saul Rubinek respectively).
The cocaine belongs to the Mob, of course, led by Vincenzo Coccotti (Christopher Walken) and his thug Virgil (James Gandolfini), two of the most philosophical Mobsters you'll ever meet. The dialogue between Walken and Hopper is worth the price of admission alone. Also on the trail of the coke are the police, led by Cody Nicholson (Tom Sizemore) and his partner Nicky Dimes (Chris Penn). They almost sound more like the Mob than the Mob does. Which is perhaps the point.
True Romance isn't just about romance. It's about passion, the kind of passion that binds people together in ways they can't even understand: lovers (Clarence and Alabama), fandom (Clarence and Elvis), and even murder (Vincenzo and Clifford). Our hero perseveres because he believes in the power of love and, once he finds it, will do anything to keep it alive. It's that passion that propels the plot forward, such that even those who only peripherally experience the romance between Clarence and Alabama are willing to sacrifice everything for them. But True Romance reserves its passion most for the love between father and son. It can be a love worth dying for (Clarence and Clifford), or a hatred so intense that it's self destructive (Lee and Eliot).
This is one star-studded cast that actually lives up to expectations. Don't be fooled: True Romance is as passionate and foul-mouthed as anything Tarantino has written. But it's a love letter to lovers, celebrating what brings out the best and worst in humanity.
Watch it, if only to see two pros (Hopper and Walken) at the top of their game. Trust me, I should know…I'm part Sicilian.