True Romance Review
Over two decades later, True Romance still engages thanks to its fantastic cast and the late Tony Scott’s frenetic direction, but it’s really only Tarantino’s script that stands out.Aside from the fact that four of the cast members are no longer with us, we’re never likely to get this cast together in a movie – Samuel L. Jackson, Brad Pitt, Christopher Walken, Dennis Hopper, James Galdolfini, Val Kilmer, Tom Sizemore, Gary Oldman – and certainly never with a script this good. For that alone, True Romance is something of a flawed classic. Its flaws are still undeniable, of course, with Scott happy to rip from one sequence to the next with his trademark hyperkinetic style (although he hadn’t quite gone full-tilt back in 1993; this is far from Domino), but unable to fully rein-in the myriad sub-plots and broad-stroke characterisations on offer. Fans will probably forever wonder how Tarantino would have fared adapting his own script but, back at the time, it simply wasn’t an option.It’s a credit to both Scott and Tarantino, however, that they could somehow put Christian Slater at the centre of the satellite story arcs, and make him a halfway decent protagonist. His on-screen chemistry with the tough-but-cute Patricia Arquette helps no end, making this one of those very few Slater-led features that is actually pretty good. Specific scenes stand out of course – not least the Hopper/Walken and Arquette/Gandolfini stand-offs, and Pitt’s hilarious stoner too! – but the whole doesn’t quite work seamlessly. But with a script as good as this, the good far outweighs the bad, and leaves you with an enjoyable ensemble Badlands riff which provides the more palatable, sunny side to that other Tarantino-scripted chaotic romance, Natural Born Killers; its far more unpleasant younger sibling. This is crazy, stupid, Tarantino-style love.
Blu-ray Picture QualityTrue Romance has been about on Blu-ray since 2009, and it’s never really seen much of an upgrade. Reputedly the French release is the one to own, with the US and UK versions never quite escaping their VC-1 origins. It’s one of those titles that’s frequently been said to be ‘little upgrade over the DVD’ which, frankly is utter hyperbole. Of course it’s an upgrade; the DVD looks terrible. But, with most modern movies looking spectacular, and plenty of beloved classics getting premium treatment, True Romance does stick out like something of a sore thumb.
Despite still being an upgrade over the old DVD, True Romance’s antiquated Blu-ray release ticks pretty-much all of the boxes in terms of picture issues.
Colour issues, contrast variation, faded blacks, excessive DNR application – you name it, and this Blu-ray release has got it. There are some scenes which are decent enough, and have some solid detail and reasonable stable colours, but there are too many that don’t. As stated, it stands as an upgrade over the old DVD, but is nowhere near the standard we have come to expect these days and barely passes an average rating.
Blu-ray Sound QualityOn the aural front the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track is much more promising. Although far from perfect, and, again, far from comparable to most modern day releases (even of older films), there’s far more good than bad.
Even if the video is a let-down, the audio is solid, occasionally even impressive by comparison.
Tarantino’s all-important trademark dialogue gets clear and coherent presentation throughout, dominating the frontal array where necessary, and enshrouded in an enveloping blend of atmospheric background effects and that all-important score. Surrounds don’t exactly get a full-on workout, but this was always a dialogue-driven – and thus frontally-dominated – affair, and the LFE input gives the audio a little more depth.
Blu-ray ExtrasUnlike its Blu-ray releases, True Romance was treated to some exceptional Special Editions on DVD, which mostly pays off in the Extras department, where they are all ported over. No less than 3 Audio Commentaries (Slater and Arquette; Tony Scott; and Tarantino!); Selective Scene Commentaries from Hopper, Kilmer, Pitt and Michael Rapaport; Extensive Deleted/Extended Scenes with Optional Director’s Commentary; an Alternate Ending with Optional Director’s and Writer’s Commentary; an Original 1993 Featurette; a Behind-the-Scenes Interactive Featurette; an Animated Photo Gallery and the Theatrical Trailer. Couldn’t really ask for much more, could you?.
This now-dated Blu-ray release doesn’t exactly bring the 21-year old movie into the 21st Century, with solid audio and extras not quite making up for the video.
Slightly weaker than the majority of the Tarantino-directed adaptations of his own scripts, this Tony Scott effort is still a very entertaining affair, benefiting not only from the writer’s distinct style, but also from a fantastic ensemble cast, some of whom bring to life surprisingly against-type characters.
Tarantino completists won’t want to miss out on adding this to their collection, even if it has yet to get the treatment they would have liked for it.
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