FILM (1993)

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 April, 2012, 12:00am


True Romance
Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, Dennis Hopper
Director: Tony Scott

It's a common conundrum with couples: you snuggle up on the sofa for a movie night, popcorn at the ready, but you can't decide what to watch. She wants a romantic tale filled with damsels in distress and dashing gents; he prefers something a little more escapist and action-packed: strong, silent types packing magnums and machetes.

There's little middle ground between the two - except perhaps for True Romance, a film that stands proud as one of the very few universally praised by both sexes.

Written by movie-obsessed motor mouth Quentin Tarantino the same year he hit paydirt with Reservoir Dogs, the film takes cues from and pays homage to classic cinema - all imbued with the Tarantino-isms that we've come to expect.

A comic bookstore guy and a hooker with a heart of gold meet and fall in love over a kung fu triple-bill and a plate of pie. After a deadly encounter with a white pimp, they escape with a suitcase of cocaine, kicking off a cross-country road trip to Hollywood, where their slow-witted actor friend, his pot-smoking roommate, a bunch of gangsters and two overeager detectives await.

Take the plot, sprinkle it with the stammering scriptwriter's trademark sense of dialogue, toss in a who's who of 1990s cinema in supporting roles and shoot the usually over-the-top director Tony Scott with a tranquiliser or two, and you have something approximating True Romance.

It's anchored by the two leads, a never-better Christian Slater and a never-hotter Patricia Arquette, both subtly playing the love-knows-no-bounds card. They're backed by some of cinema's finest actors in scenes forever etched into pop culture: Gary Oldman's almost unrecognisable turn as a pimp; Brad Pitt forever stoned on his sofa; James Gandolfini's brutal bathroom fight; and of course, Christopher Walken and Dennis Hopper in 'the Sicilian scene'.

However, the romance in the title isn't just between the two leads: no, Tarantino has said this is his most autobiographical film. We'll take the guns and drugs with a grain of salt, but it's obvious the filmmaker is exorcising his personal demons: his puppy-dog thoughts on love, his strained relationship with his father, his dealings with shady Hollywood producers. It all comes out, and that's why it works.

True Romance isn't exactly a masterpiece, but it's a rare film: a heart-tugging love story backed by bullets and blood. And here's a tip: guy or girl, slap it on the next time you start dating someone.

If they dig it, you know that like the two main characters, you're in for a ride. If they don't, well, you'll always have the film.