Film / True Romance
Tired of relationships? Try a romance.

True Romance is a 1993 movie written by Quentin Tarantino (based on a script by Roger Avary) and directed by Tony Scott. It stars Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette, with a supporting cast that includes Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer, Gary Oldman, Brad Pitt, and Christopher Walken.

It tells the story of outlaw lovers Clarence Worley (Slater) and Alabama Whitman (Arquette), who accidentally steal a suitcase full of cocaine and then go on the run from the mob. The couple make their way to Hollywood to sell the drugs — but it's there that the mob catches up with them.

The movie is notable, beyond its star-launching casting, for being the film that put Tarantino's writing on the Hollywood map. Additionally, it is fairly well-known (and well-liked) within the movie industry, given all the stars in it; but it isn't widely known, except among Tarantino fans.

This film provides examples of:

  • Acceptable Targets/Asshole Victim: Invoked by Clarence's Spirit Advisor after Clarence kills Drexl.
    "You think a cop gives a fuck about a pimp? Listen. Every pimp in the world gets shot. Two in the back of the fuckin' head. Cops'd throw a party, man."
  • Actually Pretty Funny: Don Vincenzo appears to have this reaction to Clifford's jibes about Sicilians being descended from black people. Not that it stops him from shooting him.
  • Aerosol Flamethrower: Alabama uses one on Virgil.
  • And a Diet Coke: Christian Slater's character goes to buy "the two biggest, fattest burgers" a burger stand has, two chili fries... and a Diet Coke.
  • Ax-Crazy: Drexl and to a slightly lesser extent, Virgil.
    • Well, Clarence's sanity can also be called into question, just a smidge.
  • Babies Ever After: Aww, Elvis.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted HARD in the fight between Alabama and Virgil.
  • Black and Grey Morality
  • Blast Out: In gloriously chaotic style.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: When Virgil is about to shoot Alabama, she proves she is willing to fight back. This impresses him enough to put his gun away and instead start a melee fight in which Alabama gets the upper hand and finishes Virgil off in spectacular fashion.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Mostly averted. Clarence fires his revolver five times in one scene and police can be seen reloading their guns during the shootout. The Gangsters can also be seen taking a massive amount of magazines and shotgun shells with them in a briefcase. However, Clarence does manage to kill Drexl and his bodyguard by firing seven shots out of a six shot revolver, although this is less overkill than most films.
  • Call Back: On their date, Alabama says her favorite music is "Phil Spector girl-group stuff." When she gets back to the motel room to find Virgil, if you listen closely, you can hear the Crystals' recording of "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" in the background.
  • Cluster F-Bomb
  • Combat Pragmatist: Alabama averts the usual She-Fu trope hard by using anything and everything she can get her hands on as a weapon to fight back against and kill Virgil.
  • The Consigliere: Vincenzo Coccotti serves as this to the unseen Blue Lou Doyle.
  • Disney Death: Clarence, after getting shot in the eye. The film certainly isn't a Disney film, though. Originally, Clarence was supposed to die, and Alabama gives a grief-stricken monologue cursing him before riding off with the money.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Lee is shot to death after he throws coffee on Elliot.
  • Elvis Presley: Clarence is obsessed with Elvis, among other things. His Spirit Advisor is implied to be Elvis, but never named.
  • Eye Patch Of Power: Clarence, in the epilogue. Though, seeing as how he's only seen smiling and playing with his infant son, it's not all that scary.
  • Eye Scream: An offscreen one by Clarence to Drexl, who already has a blind eye. Later, Clarence also loses an eye in the shootout (ironically the same one).
  • Face Death with Dignity: Clifford on realizing he won't make it out alive.
  • Fanservice: The make-out session in the phone booth, in particular.
  • Fourth Date Marriage: More like the-very-next-day marriage.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Drexl has a very evil scar.
  • The Ghost: Blue Lou Boyle is the mafia kingpin who owns the dope. He's referred to a number of times, but the closest we get to him is his consigliere, Vincenzo Coccotti, who is terrifying enough on his own. A scene was written for Blue Lou, but it was never filmed.
  • Groin Attack: Drexl gets shot in the groin.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: During the face-off between Vincenzo and Clifford, Clifford knows full well if he gives up his son they'll both be killed. So he taunts Vincenzo with the infamous Sicilian monologue, provoking Vincenzo into shooting him dead without any further torture. The Mooks still find clues that lead them to Clarence and Alabama.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Alabama.
  • If It's You, It's Okay: Clarence has a monologue explaining why he would have sex with Elvis.
  • It Gets Easier: The hitman Virgil explaining to Alabama — in the process of beating her into a bloody mess — how hard it is at first to kill someone. He notes that he threw up after his first kill but by the third one he had "leveled off." He now kills people just to see their expressions change.
  • Karma Houdini: Vincenzo, and also the mob boss Blue Lou Boyle, who remains unseen.
  • Karmic Death:
    • Drexl is shot in the groin.
    • Virgil is killed by a woman.
  • Living Lie Detector: Vincenzo Coccotti claims that he is a master liar and therefore a master at spotting lies. It seems likely that the reason he reacts the way he does when Clifford starts to tell him about Sicilians' black heritage is because he can tell that Clifford really is telling the truth rather than simply making stuff up to insult him.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: The film has an impressively large and star-studded ensemble.
  • The Mafia: Frightening and dangerous and led by Christopher Walken.
  • Making Love in All the Wrong Places: The phone booth? HOT.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Alabama drops into Clarence's life and takes an earnest liking to all of his weird, geeky tastes and interests. Except The Partridge Family. That's where she draws the line.
  • Meet Cute: Subverted. Clarence thinks he's having one of these, but Alabama has been paid to be there. Of course, then she does fall in love with him.
  • Mexican Standoff: Tarantino's trademark.
  • More Dakka: The reason Boris doesn't obey the cops is that he and his buddy are armed with a hell of a lot more firepower than the LAPD — also, he just hates cops.
  • Moe Greene Special: How Clarence gets his eyepatch of power.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Lee Donawitz is a major Hollywood player and a bit of a coke-lover who counts among his proudest achievements a Vietnam movie hailed for its accuracy (if Clarence's lines about his Vietnam-Vet family members are meant to be truthful). In short, Oliver Stone. Made even more apparent if you notice that the "stills" playing in his apartment are from Platoon.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Virgil to Alabama. But then...
  • No Kill Like Overkill: The way Alabama kills Virgil. She uses a cork screw, a toilet lid, a bust of Elvis, an Aerosol Flamethrower, and a shotgun. BAD. ASS.
  • Numbered Sequels: Discussed In-Universe. Hollywood producer Lee Donowitz is most famous for his 80s Vietnam action movie Coming Home in a Bodybag. When he asks his assistant Elliot (who's an informant for the cops by that point) about ideas for a sequel title, the latter just replies "Coming Home in a Bodybag 2". Donowitz snarks that his member is more creative than that.
  • One Last Smoke: Although he quit smoking, Clifford indulges in one last smoke when he decides to commit suicide by gangster.
  • Orchestra Hit Techno Battle: The fight scene between Clarence and Drexl has 'I Want Your Body' from Nymphomania playing in the background.
  • Outlaw Couple: Although they don't actually commit very much crime.
  • Out Of Character Is Serious Business: Vincenzo underscores getting his own hands dirty after offing Clifford.
    (three headshots) Vincenzo: I haven't killed anybody (three more shots) since 1984.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: The Mafia. Clifford knows this, and uses it to provoke them into killing him immediately, before they can torture him to death.
  • Pretty Fly for a White Guy: Drexl thinks he's black, but he's mostly white, with maybe some Native American.
  • Psycho for Hire: Virgil, the hitman who seems to delight in torturing his victims first.
  • Rasputinian Death: Virgil, and deservedly so.
  • Red Shirt: Despite the fact that Samuel L. Jackson is billed in the opening credits, his character Big Don only gets a little over a minute of screentime before getting gunned down by Drexl.
  • Revised Ending: An alternate ending, which was Quentin Tarantino's original ending to the script. Clarence dies, and Alabama leaves alone with the money. She is then shown driving to Mexico alone, and she delivers a narrative monologue where she claims that she never really cared about Clarence, but used him to get away from Drexl and get money from the drugs. In the original script, she considers suicide after this, but ultimately doesn't.
  • Relative Button: In addition to insulting the infamous ethnic pride of Sicilian mobsters, the Sicilian Monologue also makes it personal when Clifford starts insinuating that some female ancestor of Vincenzo's slept with a black man.
  • Shout-Out: The use of "Gassenhauser" in the score could be seen as a reference to Badlands. That or Hans Zimmer ripping off Carl Orff.
  • Silent Offer: The protagonist makes an offer in an envelope for his "peace of mind." The envelope is empty.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The upbeat techno music during the scene with Drexl, the calm soothing piece during the Virgil scene and the Sicilian scene.
  • Spirit Advisor: Clarence occasionally gets advice from an apparition that behaves like Elvis Presley.
  • Shaggy Search Technique: After beating Alabama bloody without finding out where the drugs are hidden, Virgi is bemused when he accidentally finds the suitcase hidden under the bed.
    "I can't believe you hid it under the bed. I can't believe I didn't look under the bed!"
  • The Slacker: Floyd, Dick's roommate, played by Brad Pitt.
  • The Stoner: Floyd, again...
  • Stylistic Suck: Lee Donowitz's film within a film, Comin' Home in a Body Bag, appears to be an archetypal brain-dead 80s action movie, though Clarence talks about it like it's Apocalypse Now.
  • Suicide by Cop: Clifford intentionally enrages the mafia gangsters so that they'll kill him outright before they can torture his son's location out of him.
  • Trigger Happy: The entire last shootout, but the bodyguard Boris and his buddy are very gunhappy.
  • Too Kinky to Torture/I Shall Taunt You: Alabama goes out of her way to mock Virgil after using a Bust of Elvis on him.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Virgil ruthlessly and unscrupulously beats and tortures Alabama. Despite expressing admiration for her 'heart', he is also shown prepared to shoot her, but she eventually manages to kill him.
  • Worthy Opponent: Open to interpretation, but the hearty laugh and the kiss on the cheek that Vincenzo gives Clifford before he shoots him indicates a sizable amount of respect for the balls the other man shows.