Our score for “True Romance” was 85/100, close to the users’ 87/100. “True Romance” is a B movie crime story, which cost only $12.5 million to produce back in 1993 when Quentin Tarantino was writing for money because he had only one hit, Reservoir Dogs, to his credit. The director, Tony Scott (“Top Gun,” “Crimson Tide,” “Man on Fire”) brought the best out of the mid-level stars, Christian Slater (the hero, Clarence Worley, an unpaid comic book store clerk) and Patricia Arquette (the heroine, Alabama Whitman, who objects to being called a whore: “I’m a call girl‒there’s a difference you know.”).
Tarantino also talked some of his A-list friends into doing the movie on the cheap: Dennis Hopper (Clarence’s dad, security guard Clifford Worley), Gary Oldman (Detroit dope dealer, Drexl), Samuel L. Jackson (unlucky dope dealer), James Gandolfini (menacing mobster, pre Tony Soprano), Christopher Walken (eloquent mob lawyer, Vincenzo Coccotti), Brad Pitt (pot head), Chris Penn and Tom Sizemore (out of control cops)‒and Val Kilmer (see if you can find him).
After Clarence and Alabama have a “date,” they fall in love for real in a tender “True Romance.” Clarence comes to Drexl’s dope house to retrieve Alabama’s belongings. Fortunately, when Clarence is in trouble, he can channel advice from his mentor, Elvis Presley. As mob lawyer Christopher Walken later tells Dennis Hopper, “Your son, the cowboy, it’s claimed, came in the room blazing and didn’t stop.” The famous “cigarette” scene in which lawyer Walken questions Hopper to find Clarence’s whereabouts follows, but Clarence and the new Mrs. Alabama Worley have already left Detroit to become cocaine dealers to the stars in L.A. When Clarence enters L.A.’s classic Ambassador Hotel for a big drug deal, he says, “If there’s one thing this last week has taught me, it’s better to have a gun and not need it than to need a gun and not have it.” That’s all I am going to tell you.
Every scene and every character in “True Romance” is very good to great. The dialogue is Tarantino at his best. You will always remember certain lines. After you watch “True Romance,” go to MovieQuotes.com for 29 classic quotes, which, along with the great soundtrack, make “True Romance” a mini opera that gets better every time you experience it. That’s why it’s called a “cult flick.” Just saying “movie True Romance” into my Android phone produced five showings in the next week.
Here’s what some good and bad reviewers wrote about “True Romance” back in 1993 (paired with their records from 2020‒they haven’t changed much):
Mick LaSalle 100/100 Top-5 reviewer (+16) of the San Francisco Chronicle (-22)
“Anybody who talks about True Romance has to start with the writing. It's dazzling. In scene after scene, Tarantino surprises the audience even while coming up with dialogue that rings much more true than anything you could have anticipated.”
Susan Wloszczyna 100/100 No name reviewer of the mediocre USA Today (-12)
“These gun-crazy, lust-loopy kids on the run are irresistible in the best crime rush since ‘GoodFellas.’” [“True Romance” is not as good as the classic, “GoodFellas” (90).]
Peter Travers 75/100 Bad reviewer (-31) of Rolling Stone (-33)
“The blistering confrontation scene between Hopper and Walken -- both in peak form -- will be talked about for years. It's pure Tarantino: a full-throttle blast of bloody action and verbal fireworks.” [Bad reviewer gets it right; happens frequently.]
Richard Harrington 30/100 Reported with Others (-5) of The Washington Post (-42)
“Despite its noir references and evocations, this slick film, directed by Tony Scott from Quentin Tarantino's script, is a preposterously bloody mess, as is the plot.”
[But Harrington did like: “Scream” (79), “Hellboy” (81), “Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II” (70) and multiple rock group documentaries.]
Gene Siskel 25/100 Gene died in 1999, but the Chicago Tribune (-16) has always had bad reviewers and continues on with Michael Phillips (-16)
“A stupid, stylized road picture.” [Road? 85% of the movie was shot in L.A.]
Kenneth Turan 10/100 The worst reviewer (-21) of the dreadful L.A. Times (-56) - now retired
“It is hard to say what is more dispiriting about “True Romance,” the movie itself or the fact that someone somewhere is sure to applaud its hollow, dime-store nihilism and smug pseudo-hip posturing as a bright new day in American cinema.”
[But Turan gushed over: “Viral: Antisemitism in Four Mutations” (86), “The Woman Who Loves Giraffes” (100), “A Shaun the Sheep movie: Farmageddon” (96), “IP Man 4: The Finale” (90).]