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True Romance

For other uses, see True Romance (disambiguation).
True Romance
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Tony Scott
Produced by Gary Barber
Samuel Hadida
James G. Robinson
Bill Unger
Written by Quentin Tarantino
Starring Christian Slater
Patricia Arquette
Dennis Hopper
Val Kilmer
Gary Oldman
Brad Pitt
Christopher Walken
Music by Hans Zimmer
Cinematography Jeffrey L. Kimball
Edited by Michael Tronick
Christian Wagner
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release dates
  • September 10, 1993 (1993-09-10)
Running time
118 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $13 million[2]
Box office $12,281,551[3]

True Romance is a 1993 American romantic crime film directed by Tony Scott and written by Quentin Tarantino. The film stars Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette with a supporting cast featuring Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer, Gary Oldman, Brad Pitt, and Christopher Walken.


Clarence Worley (Christian Slater) watches a Sonny Chiba triple feature at a Detroit movie theater on his birthday where he meets Alabama Whitman (Patricia Arquette). They go to a diner and flirt with each other. At Clarence's apartment they have sex. She confesses that she is a call girl hired by Clarence's boss as his birthday present. Each claims to have fallen in love and they marry and express their commitment with one another by getting tattoos. An apparition of Elvis Presley (Val Kilmer) tells Clarence that killing her pimp will make the world a better place.

Clarence visits Alabama's pimp, Drexl Spivey (Gary Oldman), who makes Clarence uneasy. Clarence tells Drexl that he has married Alabama and she has no additional business with him. Drexl and Clarence fight, Clarence draws a gun and kills Drexl. He grabs a bag that he assumes contains Alabama's belongings (which in fact contains drugs that Drexl's peddling). Later Clarence and Alabama go to see Clarence's estranged father, Clifford Worley (Dennis Hopper), a former cop. Clifford tells Clarence that the police assume Drexl's murder is a drug-related killing, and that the cocaine belonged to Irish mob boss "Blue Lou" Boyle.

In Los Angeles, the young couple plan to meet Clarence's old friend, Dick Ritchie (Michael Rapaport), an aspiring actor. Back in Detroit, Clifford is confronted in his home by Don Vincenzo Coccotti (Christopher Walken), Boyle's consul in the Detroit Mafia, who wants the drugs taken from Drexl. Clifford refuses to reveal where his son has gone. Accepting that he is going to die anyway, he insults Coccotti by claiming that Sicilians are "niggers" descended from the Moors. Coccotti shoots Clifford in the head and then finds a note on the fridge giving Clarence's address in L.A.

Clarence plans to use Ritchie's contacts with an actor named Elliot Blitzer (Bronson Pinchot) to sell the drugs to film producer Lee Donowitz (Saul Rubinek). Elliot goes on a roller coaster ride with Clarence to discuss the circumstances of Clarence's once in a lifetime score. Clarence lies to Elliot about a connection he has with a corrupt police officer, but is convincing enough to make Elliot believe him.

Alabama is found in the motel room of the Safari Inn and brutally interrogated by Coccotti's underboss, Virgil (James Gandolfini). In the subsequent fight, Alabama kills Virgil.

Elliot, who has some of the cocaine, is stopped for speeding and is arrested for drug possession. Believing Clarence's story of getting the drugs from a dirty cop, he informs on Donowitz.

Alabama and Clarence talk of moving to Cancún with the money from the drug deal. Knowing that the cocaine was uncut, and with Elliot "confessing" in order to avoid prison, detectives Nicholson (Tom Sizemore) and Dimes (Chris Penn) conclude that a sizable drug deal is about to go down. Promising him that he can avoid prison in return for cooperation, the two detectives have Elliot wear a wire. Coccotti's crew learn where the deal is going down from Ritchie's roommate, Floyd (Brad Pitt).

Clarence, Alabama, Ritchie, and Elliot, with the drugs, visit Donowitz's suite at the Ambassador Hotel. In the elevator, Clarence confronts Elliot at gunpoint, accusing Elliot of trying to set him up, but Elliot reassures Clarence that there is no setup. Clarence makes a good impression on Donowitz, then excuses himself to the bathroom, where he has another conversation with Elvis. Meanwhile, Donowitz and his bodyguards are ambushed by both the cops and mobsters who break in at almost the same time. Realizing that Elliot is an informant, Donowitz throws a pot of coffee on him. Nicholson then shoots Donowitz, which leads to a violent shootout. Ritchie abandons the drugs and flees. Almost everyone is killed in the crossfire. Clarence is shot as he exits the bathroom. Dimes, who survived the shoot-out, kills one of Donowitz's wounded bodyguards for shooting Nicholson. Alabama then shoots Dimes. A sole mafioso makes it to the lobby and takes a hostage, but is gunned down by the police descending on the hotel turned war-zone. Clarence is alive but loses sight in an eye. They escape with Donowitz's money while more police set a perimeter around the hotel. In the aftermath (which appears to be several years later) Clarence and Alabama are shown on a beach in Cancún, with their young son, Elvis.

In an alternate ending, Alabama walks out of the shoot-out alone with the money and drives towards the Mexican border. In a monologue that follows, Alabama chastises Clarence for getting himself killed and losing everything he had. When she runs out of gas, she begins hitchhiking.



The title and plot are a play on the titles of romance comic books with their overwrought love stories—very popular in earlier decades—such as "True Life Secrets", "True Stories of Romance", "Romance Tales", "Untamed Love" and "Strange Love".

True Romance was a breakthrough for Tarantino. Released after Reservoir Dogs, it was his first screenplay for a major motion picture, and Tarantino contends that it is his most autobiographical film to date. He had hoped to also direct the film, but lost interest in directing and sold the script. According to Tarantino's audio commentary on the DVD release, he was happy with the way it turned out. Apart from changing the nonlinear narrative he wrote to a more conventional linear structure, it was largely faithful to his original screenplay. He initially opposed director Tony Scott's decision to change the ending (which Scott maintained was of his own volition, not the studio's, saying "I just fell in love with these two characters and didn’t want to see them die"). When seeing the completed film, he realized Scott's happy ending was more appropriate to the film as Scott directed it.[4] The film's first act, as well as some fragments of dialogue, are taken from Tarantino's 1987 amateur film My Best Friend's Birthday.

The film's score by Hans Zimmer is a theme based on Gassenhauer from Carl Orff's Schulwerk. This theme combined with a voiceover spoken by Arquette is an homage to Terrence Malick's 1973 crime film Badlands, in which Sissy Spacek speaks the voiceover, and that also shares similar dramatic motifs.


Critical reception

Reviews for the film were largely positive. It holds a "fresh" rating of 92% based on 47 reviews collected from notable publications by review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, with the consensus, "Fueled by Quentin Tarantino's savvy screenplay and a gallery of oddball performances, Tony Scott's True Romance is a funny and violent action jaunt in the best sense".[5]

Phil Villarreal of the Arizona Daily Star called it "one of the most dynamic action films of the 1990s".[6] Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave it three stars, saying "it's Tarantino's gutter poetry that detonates True Romance. This movie is dynamite."[7]

Roger Ebert gave the film a positive review remarking that "the energy and style of the movie are exhilarating", and that "the supporting cast is superb, a roll call of actors at home in these violent waters: Christopher Walken, Dennis Hopper, and Brad Pitt, for example".[8] A negative review by The Washington Post's Richard Harrington claimed the film was "stylistically visceral" yet "aesthetically corrupt".[9]

Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote, "True Romance, a vibrant, grisly, gleefully amoral road movie directed by Tony Scott and dominated by the machismo of Quentin Tarantino (who wrote this screenplay before he directed Reservoir Dogs), is sure to offend a good-sized segment of the moviegoing population".[10]

Box office performance

Although a critical success, True Romance was a box office failure. It was given a domestic release and earned $12,281,551[3] on an estimated $13 million budget.[2] Despite this, the film developed a cult following over the years.[11]


Empire ranked True Romance the 157th greatest film of all time in 2008.[12]

The Hopper/Walken scene, colloquially named "The Sicilian scene", has been praised.[13] Tarantino himself has named it as one of his proudest moments. "I had heard that whole speech about the Sicilians a long time ago, from a black guy living in my house. One day I was talking with a friend who was Sicilian and I just started telling that speech. And I thought: 'Wow, that is a great scene, I gotta remember that'."[14]

Oldman's villain also garnered acclaim. MSN Movies wrote, "With just a few minutes of screen time, Gary Oldman crafts one of cinema's most memorable villains: the brutal, dreadlocked pimp Drexl Spivey. Even in a movie jammed with memorable cameos from screen luminaries [...] Oldman's scar-faced, dead-eyed, lethal gangster stood out."[15] Jason Serafino of Complex named Spivey as one of the top five coolest drug dealers in movie history, writing, "He's not in the film for a long time, but the few scant moments that Gary Oldman plays the psychotic dealer Drexl Spivey make True Romance a classic ... Oldman gave us a glimpse at one of cinema's most unfiltered sociopaths."[16]

"Robbers", a song by the English indie pop band The 1975 from their 2013 debut album, was inspired by the film. Vocalist Matthew Healy explained: "I got really obsessed with the idea behind Patricia Arquette's character in True Romance when I was about eighteen. That craving for the bad boy in that film [is] so sexualised."[17]

See also


  1. ^ "TRUE ROMANCE (18)". British Board of Film Classification. 1993-10-08. Retrieved 2012-11-16. 
  2. ^ a b "True Romance (1993) - Box office / business". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2012-11-16. 
  3. ^ a b "True Romance (1993)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2011-08-18. 
  4. ^ Spitz, Marc (25 April 2008). "True Romance: 15 Years Later". Maxim. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
  5. ^ "True Romance". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 2011-08-18. 
  6. ^ Villarreal, Phil. "Review: True Romance". Arizona Daily Star. 
  7. ^ Travers, Peter (10 September 1993). "True Romance: Movie Review". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
  8. ^ "True Romance". 10 September 1993. Retrieved 2011-01-17. 
  9. ^ Harrington, Richard (10 September 1993). "True Romance". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2011-01-17. 
  10. ^ Maslin, Janet (10 September 1993). "True Romance: Desperadoes, Young at Heart With Gun in Hand". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-01-17. 
  11. ^ Spitz, Marc. "True Romance: 15 Years Later". Maxim. Retrieved 23 April 2013. 
  12. ^ Empire's 500 Greatest Movies Of All Time
  13. ^ Lyttelton, Oliver. The 10 Best Dennis Hopper Performances, On What Would Have Been His 76th Birthday. IndieWire. May 17, 2012. Retrieved December 5, 2012.
  14. ^ True Romance Unrated Director's Cut DVD commentary
  15. ^ True Romance (1993) - Drexl Spivey. MSN Movies. 2011. Retrieved December 17, 2012.
  16. ^ Serafino, Jason. The 25 Coolest Drug Dealers In Movies. Complex. October 24, 2012. Retrieved December 21, 2012.
  17. ^ Murray, Robin (April 28, 2014). "The 1975 – Robbers (Explicit)". Clash. Retrieved June 29, 2014. 

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