True Romance was released in 1993. I was 4 at the time, so I didn’t manage to see it myself until around 2000. I used to sneak videotapes home from a friend’s house in innocuous cases to watch in my room with the sound down low, scared to enjoy the film for fear I wouldn’t hear my mum coming up the stairs. I watched a lot of classics that way; Face/Off, Time Cop, Terminator... if people were getting slaughtered I was generally pretty content.
It wasn’t until True Romance that I realised there was something special about the tapes I was putting into the machine.
At its core, it’s a love story. The script was originally penned by Quentin Tarantino, so you know it’ll never be as simple as a tiny second act spat followed by a third act reunion, and indeed it’s completely absent.
Clarence is a comic book geek and film obsessive watching a Sonny Chiba triple feature for his birthday, while there he meets a girl, Alabama, and they hit it off. There’s a tiny hitch when Alabama tearfully confesses to being a call girl after they do the deed, but Clarence takes it in his stride and they get married within a few days, accidentally managing to steal a suitcase full of cocaine from the mob.
Christian Slater really brought the character to life, and for weeks afterwards I was desperate to be Clarence Worley, I admired the easy charm and the passion that came across in every scene. Clarence was quite frankly “the man”. I grew up fairly similarly, I came to love comic books and about the time I went to university I discovered my film obsession.
Tony Scott gave us a host of characters, each with a “defining” moment and despite a script that could have been a bleak tale of Romeo and Juliet proportions, Scott delivers us a fairy tale.
Every time Worley gets shot in the closing firefight, I cross my fingers and my breath catches in my throat.
“Get up Clarence, get up,” I think as my mouth goes dry. And every time, in a room full of corpses, he does just that – taking us to the gambol around the beach with his child for the closing scene. They’d made it.
The original plan for the ending was to make it a doomed romance, to have Clarence and Alabama fall at the final hurdle and to leave Alabama to bear Clarence’s child alone. This would have set a bleak tone but test audiences, just like me, wanted cinema magic to happen for the couple, who are entirely devoted to each other for the films two hour runtime.
And that taught me pretty much everything I needed to know about love, too – if two people cared about each other enough, it didn’t matter what life threw at them, they’d find a way.
I’ve watched thousands of films since, many worse, and even a few that were better, but few speak to me (pretension alert ahoy!) on the same level as True Romance. It gave me a hero that wasn’t so much reluctant as totally out of his depth, and paired this with a film that, despite all the gunfights, all the pithy conversations and glorious moments, gave audiences a-
I’m not going to say "a True Romance", even though that’s what I mean: A real romance.
I still watch the film once every few months and I still love every second of it – it’ll always be what Tony Scott means to me. I’ve watched and loved pretty much every other film he’s ever made (Beverly Hills cop 2. AMAZING) but I’ll always thank Tony Scott for True Romance; the film that told me who I wanted to be.