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True Romance (Limited Edition) (4K Ultra HD)
Though it flopped at the box office, this unlikely pairing of kinetic director Tony Scott and novice screenwriter Quentin Tarantino absolutely works at every turn, even when it shouldn't. How many love stories offer pulpy violence, witty dialogue and an absolutely stacked cast of genre favorites like Dennis Hopper and Gary Oldman? True Romance may be the only such film. It is surprising that Scott and Tarantino made this film together at all. The late director came off a string of hits like Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop and Days of Thunder as the 1980s ran into a new decade, and Tarantino had just written and directed his breakthrough, Reservoir Dogs. This is Tarantino's first screenplay for a major motion picture, and he originally intended to direct the project. Scott, a master of the modern blockbuster, signed on after Tarantino sold the script and made a film that the now prolific writer and director is proud of. Yes, True Romance is a love story. It is about Alabama Whitman (Patricia Arquette) and Clarence Worley (Christian Slater), who meet, not quite by chance, at a movie theater during a Sonny Chiba triple feature. Unexpected circumstances lead them on a cross-country adventure, where they visit Clarence's father, Clifford (Hopper), and wind up in Los Angeles in the company of drug-fencing movie producer Lee Donowitz (Saul Rubinek). Entertaining at every turn, True Romance looks better than ever on this fantastic new Collector's Edition from Arrow Video.
An intoxicating concoction of bright, sugary fun, mixed with drug-fueled mayhem and violence, True Romance is truly an odd bird, and certainly has the markings of both Tarantino and Scott. Alabama and Clarence meet in a very Tarantino way, quickly falling in love, but Alabama recently began a new career - prostitution - and has a pesky pimp, Drexl Spivey (Oldman), who is not ready to set her free. Clarence is pretty even-tempered but sometimes an apparition of Elvis Presley (Val Kilmer) tells him to do crazy things, like try to kill Drexl's squad and take Alabama on the run. This does not quite work out, but the pair does leave with a bag containing a ton of cocaine. This causes the drug dealer's mob supplier to send enforcer Vincenzo Coccotti (Christopher Walker) to come knocking. Staying one step ahead of the mob, Alabama and Clarence look toward Los Angeles and a brighter future, which they hope to fund by offloading the cocaine to hyper producer Donowitz. The cast is amazing, and further supporting players include the late Chris Penn as a detective onto Donowitz; Brad Pitt as the stoner roommate of Michael Rapaport's aspiring actor Dick Ritchie; Bronson Pinchot as the actor brokering the drug sale; James Gandolfini as a mob underboss; and approximately 25 seconds of Samuel L. Jackson.
There are some very memorable scenes in the film; at the top of the list is the "Sicilian scene" between Walken and Hopper. This tete-a-tete between a mobster with all the leverage and a doomed man is a fantastic scene marred only by the racial epithets used. Despite that, it's a powerful showdown between two actors at the top of their game. Both Oldman and Pitt make for colorful supporting talent, and it's a hoot watching these prestige actors playing so against type. Oldman, particularly, is almost unrecognizable in dreadlocks with a cloudy eye. Pitt's stoner Floyd inspired the film Pineapple Express according to Judd Apatow, and Gandolfini apparently owed his role on "The Sopranos" to his performance in True Romance, as the show's casting director asked him to audition after seeing a clip of his performance here.
And let's not forget Slater and Arquette, who are wonderful. These characters could potentially be off-putting and unbelievable, but the actors have such chemistry and do such great work here that you pretty much fall in love with the couple, too. You enjoy the ride and wherever the road leads. Scott takes Tarantino's script and honors the writing while bringing his own energy to the screen. True Romance has great energy, is packed with colorfully gritty photography, and everything bops along to the island-like Hans Zimmer score. Scott changed the ending to Tarantino's script to something more upbeat, and I think it works well. The film offers a heightened reality, and everything culminates in an explosive finale. True Romance is violent, with real stakes, but it is also frequently very funny. With Tarantino's writing, Scott's direction, and an A+ cast, True Romance is a winner.
THE 4K ULTRA HD:
Arrow Video releases True Romance with a 2.35:1/2160p/HEVC/H.265 transfer with Dolby Vision and HDR10 from a native 4K source. The image was recently remastered from the original 35mm negative and intermediary elements, and the results are superb. Beautifully detailed and lifelike, the image honors Jeffrey L. Kimball's cinematography and Scott's keen, stylistic eye. This means the transfer must conquer plenty of smoke, haze, roving shadows and blistering highlights; and it certainly handles these challenges well. Despite a few purposely softer moments, the transfer is intimately detailed; facial features and textures in fabrics are acutely visible and the image looks great in motion. The HDR pass enhances the colors, black levels and highlights but in a pleasing, natural way. Skin tones are accurate, the print is in pristine shape, and aliasing, noise reduction and edge enhancement are not a problem.
The disc includes 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio mixes. This movie was released in theaters in stereo, but I opted for the surround mix, which offered pleasing dialogue reproduction, effective effects balancing and plenty of support for the score. Ambient effects make use of the surrounds, and the subwoofer fires up during action sequences, when effects pan the entire sound field. Neither crowding nor distortion is an issue. This mix is not quite 2022 impressive, but it is certainly a nice presentation for the film. English SDH subtitles are included.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
Arrow Video has produced a beautiful Limited Collector's Edition for the film. This single-disc release offers both the theatrical (1:58:14) and director's cuts (2:00:36) of the film in 4K Ultra HD via seamless branching, alongside on-disc and physical extras. The disc is packed in a black 4K case with two-sided artwork; the theatrical artwork and newly commissioned artwork by Sara Deck. That slides into a sturdy slipbox that also houses a folded, two-sided poster, lobby cards, and a 60-page booklet with essays and film information. The extras are abundant and fans will be pleased.
You get an Audio Commentary by Tony Scott; an Audio Commentary by Quentin Tarantino; an Audio Commentary by Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette; and an Audio Commentary by Tim Lucas. Next you get Select-Scene Commentary by Dennis Hooper (11:07/HD); Select-Scene Commentary by Val Kilmer (4:08/HD); Select-Scene Commentary by Brad Pitt (5:47/HD); Select-Scene Commentary by Michael Rapaport (34:40/HD); Select-Scene Commentary by Bronson Pinchot (16:27/HD); and Select-Scene Commentary by Saul Rubinek (6:51/HD). You're So Cool with Susan Baker (10:05/HD) is a newly shot interview with the costume designer; Relentless Romance (12:50/HD) is a new interview with co-editor Michael Tronick; Amid the Chaos of the Day (11:59) is a chat with the composers; A Hunger for Mayhem (7:51/HD) is a brief overview of director Scott; and Cadillac Man (7:51/HD) is a piece about one of the film's fans who now owns the purple Cadillac from the movie.
Carryover extras include Deleted and Extended Scenes (29:15/HD), with optional commentary by Scott; an Alternate Ending (6:23/HD), with optional commentary by Scott or Tarantino. You get a host of Electronic Press Kit goodies (47:05/HD and SD); Trailers and TV Spots (5:48/HD); and Image Galleries. Despite the lack of a feature-length documentary, this material certainly covers all aspects of the film's production and legacy.
Wholly entertaining and with great replay value, True Romance is a fantastic Tony Scott/Quentin Tarantino hybrid with a stocked cast. The film flopped at the box office but is a great mix of romance, pulpy violence and humor. As usual, Arrow Video knocks it out of the park with its Limited Edition 4K Collector's Edition, which offers gorgeous video, rocking sound and a ton of bonus content alongside sweet physical packaging. DVD Talk Collector Series.
William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.