Those mad geniuses at Arrow have done it again. Their UHD edition of Tony Scott’s True Romance is the definitive edition of the film.
As I sat there watching Top Gun: Maverick there was a single thought that wormed through my head.
I miss Tony Scott.
There was something lacking from the 35+ years-in-the-making sequel and in the opening moments you instantly knew… it was the Tony Scott touch. The visualist has been gone for almost a decade and his impact on film is still felt. Those of us that had been with Scott through everything know a simple fact. Eventually, everyone will come around to a Tony Scott joint and hail it as the genius work it is. Except for The Fan… I just don’t know if The Fan will ever be truly loved.
True Romance was instantly loved though. Quentin Tarantino script. Tony is in his prime apex years (aka the Blue Gel phase). A cast of A-Listers and up-and-comers. No matter the box office, it was loved by the film community. In the intervening decades it feels like the love has been lost as Scott’s work here, fandom favoring Crimson Tide, Spy Game, and Man on Fire showed his prowess as a truly great commercial filmmaker.
The Scott film billed as “the Bonnie and Clyde of the 1990s” in trailers is truly just that. A blood-soaked violent romance that alternates between sweet and truly sour. One minute it’s kisses and talk of fast-food burgers the next Tony Soprano (a pre-frame James Gandolfini) is literally beating the shit out of the angelic sex worker turned newly minted bride Alabama (Patricia Arquette). It is that mixture and balance that Scott’s direction, even more than Tarantino’s script, elevates True Romance to something special.
Yes, the monologues are ripely Tarantino, but the film feels completely Scott’s without question. Scott smartly has stripped away the clever non-linearity of the script and given a straight-ahead narrative. The film still feels like Tarantino’s riff on Elmore Leonard with the crisp hardboiled dialog and affection for characters that the man known as Dutch was known for. It’s Scott’s understanding none of the violence, drugs, or crimes do not matter as much as the two young kids that fall in love hard.
Though even now, the centerpiece of the film isn’t a gunfight or the love story but the mano-e-mano face-off between Christopher Walken and Dennis Hopper. Even now with all of the complicated racist verbiage in the scene … the scene is still electrifying. Maybe even more so in the wake of our current times. It would be more troubling if the scene wasn’t performed by two of the greatest actors of their generations. Even watching it now, the shock of the dialog is still present but adds a layer of the acting that’s on display. Walken and Hopper never blink during the scene playing it as two great actors facing off, shrugging off the future context of wavering lesser performances. It is a not-so-subtle reminder of the two legends’ powers as performers.
Another aspect designed to provoke in our era of sanitized and comic book violence True Romance in its Director’s Cut iteration. The mention of Tony Soprano beating Alabama was no joke. The most disturbing piece of violence in the film is the physical assault of Alabama. Though Scott shoots it visually interesting it’s never a perfume ad. In the theatrical cut, the scene is almost incidental without true heft. In fact, all the violence is up ticked in a way that’s almost shocking and a view inside how arbitrary and restrictive the MPAA was and still is.
True Romance with more troubling aspects – which were always there – in the modern era is more of a Molotov cocktail of a film than it was when initially released.
The New 4K restorations of both the Theatrical Cut and the Director’s Cut from the original camera negatives by Arrow Films beautifully reproduce the 35mm shot film’s visual look. Shot by Jeffery Kimball during Scott’s “blue period”. The specific visual style with the softer focus field has never sat right on home video. The UHD all but resolves many of the issues that the former iterations had. The sharpness, grain structure, color reproduction, and contrast levels are near perfect. The image looks as close to what it looked like opening weekend in theaters projected in 35mm (I should know having seen it twice that weekend).
They include the following;
- Audio commentary by director Tony Scott
- Audio commentary by writer Quentin Tarantino
- Audio commentary by stars Christian Slater & Patricia Arquette
- Audio commentary by critic Tim Lucas
- Select scene commentaries by stars Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer, Brad Pitt, and Michael Rapaport
- Brand new select scene commentaries by stars Bronson Pinchot and Saul Rubinek
- New interview with costume designer Susan Becker
- New interview with co-editor Michael Tronick
- New interview with co-composers Mark Mancina and John Van Tongeren
- New interview with Larry Taylor, author of Tony Scott: A Filmmaker on Fire
- Deleted scenes with optional commentary by Tony Scott
- Alternate ending with optional commentaries by Tony Scott and Quentin Tarantino
- Electronic press kit featurettes, behind-the-scenes footage, and interviews with Tony Scott, Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, Dennis Hopper, and Gary Oldman
- Trailers and TV spots
- Image galleries
The archival audio commentary by director Tony Scott. The archival track is as good as it was recorded twenty years ago. Scott’s track covers the technical and artistic approaches he takes to just about everything. Relistening to the tack one can see how proud the director is of the work and with good reason.
The archival audio commentary by writer Quentin Tarantino. The screenwriter discusses the film, his personal touches inherent within, where the Walken vs Hopper scene came about, his thoughts on Tony Scott’s version of True Romance, thoughts on how he would have approached the film if it was a Tarantino film, why Tarantino doesn’t do commentary tracks for his own work but will for others and scripts he’s written, and much more. The writer/director is always a lively commentator on tracks and this is no different. If one has not listened to this track, one is definitely missing out on a truly great track.
The archival audio commentary by stars Christian Slater & Patricia Arquette. The stars recorded separately and edited together is still a winning track. The duo’s track discusses how they got their roles, their approach to action, approaching sex scenes, Arquette’s most infamous scene with James Gandolfini, working with Scott, working with each other and the cast, and much more. As actor tracks go this is by far a top-tier track as both actors are engaged and discussing interesting and informative information about the production.
The newly recorded audio commentary by critic Tim Lucas opens with a discuss his approach in a more critical/appreciative tone. Some of the details include the opening music that was to be an Elvis tune but was different, the various filming locations – something done throughout, a misquoted quote attributed to Elvis, a side conversation about Street Fighter which plays at the beginning of film, the comic book that Clarence references which is an actual Nick Fury and his Howling Commandos issue, the way the relationship between Clarence and Alabama evolve in the film and how its tied to cinematic history, Gary Oldman’s portrayal of Drexl, the specific army jacket that Clarence wears and its cinematic significance, Scott’s first choices for both Alabama and Clarence, the work of cinematographer Jeffery Kimball, the Drexl vs Clarence scene, the career of Tony Scott and his work before and after True Romance, the casting of Robert DeNiro in a role that eventually was deleted, the work of Christian Slater and his career pre-True Romance and post-True Romance, the infamous face-off between Hopper and Walken, the work Michael Rappaport pre-True Romance and post-True Romance, the work of Saul Rubinek pre-True Romance and post-True Romance, the rise of James Gandolfini post-True Romance and how this film helped get him his iconic role in The Sopranos, the work of Patricia Arquette pre-True Romance and post-True Romance, the work of Tom Sizemore pre-True Romance and post-True Romance, the of Chris Penn pre-True Romance and post-True Romance, the origns of the screenplay by Roger Avary and Quentin Tarantino, the reviews and release of the film, the finale and the MPAA troubles with various pieces of violence, the alternate ending, and much more. Lucas provides a deeply researched and informative track that covers all the bases one would want (and more) to know about the production and the cast and crew that made the film.
Select scene commentaries
Dennis Hopper (11:17) – recorded in 2002 for the first special edition DVD release. Hopper discusses working with Scott, the script by Tarantino, his infamous scene with Christopher Walken, and more.
Val Kilmer (4:08) – recorded in 2002 for the first special edition DVD release. Kilmer discusses how he came aboard as a favor for Scott, how he approached the role of Elvis and more.
Brad Pitt (5:47) – recorded in 2002 for the first special edition DVD release. Pitt discusses how he was up for Clarence, how he got the role of Floyd, and more.
Michael Rapaport (34:40) – recorded in 2002 for the first special edition DVD release. Rappaport discusses his getting the role in the film, working with Scott, his thoughts on the script and Tarantino, and much more.
Bronson Pinchot (15:57) – the new commentary track recorded in 2021 with Pinchot begins with him discussing how he got the role because of him not being in Beverly Hills Cop II. Some of the details from the track include a hilarious gift he was given, the costuming, how the vomit was achieved and a hilarious anecdote, a hilarious Madonna story, and much more. Note: The track was recorded via a phone call.
Saul Rubinek (6:51) – the new commentary track recorded in 2021 with Rubinek. Some of the details include being cast in True Romance, how he had not met Joel Silver until after True Romance was already infamous for his performance and how Silver reacted, the costume design, working with Tony Scott, and more. Note: The track was recorded via a phone call.
You’re so Cool (9:57) – is an all-new interview with costume designer Susan Becker begins with how she got the job and working with Tony Scott. Some of the details discuss how Scott wanted an “LA look”, costuming Alabama and the other characters, the quickness of pulling together Val Kilmer’s Elvis costume, and more. Note: the interview was recorded via Zoom so the quality is lacking – the video not the content.
Relentless Romance (11:13) – is an all-new interview with co-editor Michael Tronick opens with how Tony Scott approached editing and his use of multiple cameras. Some of the details include how he came on later after the first actual cut was done by Christian Wagner, working with Tony Scott in the editing room, how this was the last film that he actually edited on Film, and working with Scott on Days of Thunder, the troubles with the ratings board, and much more. Note: the interview was recorded via Zoom so the quality is lacking – the video not the content.
Amid the Chaos of the Day (11:36) – is an all-new interview with co-composers Mark Mancina and John Van Tongeren that begins with their admission of their rock music origins and lack of formal training. Some of the details include how met and began to work with Hans Zimmer (the credited composer of the film), how Zimmer worked, how the collaboration in the Zimmer-verse began to evolve, working on Days of Thunder with Zimmer, their work on True Romance including specific scenes, how Zimmer gave credit, and Mancina getting bigger projects like Speed, and much more. Note: the interview was not “filmed” but recorded.
A Hunger For Mayhem (6:44) – is an all-new interview with Larry Taylor, author of Tony Scott: A Filmmaker on Fire opening discussing the context of where Tony Scott was at the time he made True Romance. Some of the other details include how Tarantino began a huge script that eventually became Reservoir Dogs, Natural Born Killers, Pulp Fiction, and True Romance, the Tony Scott trademark visual style and Tarantino’s writing, the importance of True Romance in Scott’s career, what he considers “the most Tony Scott film”, and much more.
Deleted/Extended scenes [optional commentary by Tony Scott]
Note: the scenes can be played all at once including with Tony Scott’s commentary by selecting the PLAY ALL function.
At the Movies (3:32) – an extended version of Clarence and Alabama meeting in the theater featuring a famous (not at the time) cameo.
Heroes for Sale (2:09) – an extended version of the Comic Book Store scene.
He Really loved Her (1:23) – a deleted scene where Clarence and Alabama talk about Janis Joplin.
Coming Clean (5:13) – an extended version of the scene where Alabama tells Clarence that she’s a sex worker.
Drexl Does Business (3:36) – an extended version of the drug deal/double cross Drexl.
An Amazing Girl (1:35) – an extended version of Clarence and Alabama first getting into LA talking with Dick Ritchie.
No Cheers (4:36) – an extended version of showing and planning the cocaine meet-up with Dick.
Vincenzo’s Vendetta (1:47) – a deleted scene with Walken’s Don Vincenzo
“We Know What We’re Doing” (2:21) extended scene of Elliot having his wire put on.
Playing “What If?” (2:04) – an extended version of Clarence and Alabama arriving at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
Elliot’s Motivation (1:17) – an extended version of Elliot in the Lobby of the Beverly Hills Hotel.
Alternate ending with optional commentaries by Tony Scott and Quentin Tarantino (6:23) – the ending ends as it does in the script with the fate of Clarence and Alabama with a not-so-happily-ever-after. The commentary tracks by Scott and Tarantino discuss the reasons why it was written the way it was, why Scott changed it after shooting it, and both writer and director’s feelings about the alternate ending and the one that’s in the film.
Electronic press kit featurettes
US Featurette 1 (5:39) – from the time of release this EPK-style featurette goes over the characters and story of the film.
US Featurette 2 (5:41) – the second EPK-style featurette going over similar grounds as the first but with some additional footage and interviews.
International Featurette (7:48) – another EPK-style featurette going over similar grounds from the US Featurette with some slightly different interviews.
Behind-the-Scenes (15:21) – This is the goldmine, all it is is b-roll footage of Tony Scott and actors working on the film without comment or context. The b-roll footage covers the Drexel vs Clarence scene, the Walken vs Hopper scene, the rollercoaster scene, and the final shoot-out. This is definitely one that everyone will want to see as it’s a fascinating look at Scott directing the various actors.
Interviews with Tony Scott (4:19) – title cards prompt the few questions/context for the soundbite-size interview at the time in 1993 including thoughts on Quentin Tarantino, the film’s “unusual story”, his passion for the film, the script, and what attracted him to it and more.
Interviews with Christian Slater (1:52) – title cards prompt the few questions/context for the soundbite-size interview at the time in 1993 including thoughts on the role, the story, and Quentin Tarantino.
Interviews with Patricia Arquette (2:00) – title cards prompt the few questions/context for the soundbite-size interview at the time in 1993 including thoughts on her character and Quentin Tarantino.
Interviews with Dennis Hopper (1:48) – title cards prompt the few questions/context for the soundbite-size interview at the time in 1993 including thoughts on Quentin Tarantino.
Interviews with Gary Oldman (3:00) – title cards prompt the few questions/context for the soundbite-size interview at the time in 1993 including thoughts on Quentin Tarantino.
Trailers and TV spots
US Theatrical Trailer (2:17)
US TV Spots (1:04) – two 30-second TV spots.
International Trailer (2:27)
Production Stills – 72 various stills from the production, behind-the-scenes, and ad shoots.
Poster & Video Art – 17 various posters, VHS, LD, DVD, and Blu-Ray cover art.
The Final Thought
True Romance is one of the gems of early 1990s cinema. Arrow Video has given it the 4K UHD package it deserves. Highest Possible Recommendations!!!
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