True Romance

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Synopsis

STEALING. CHEATING. KILLING.

WHO SAYS ROMANCE IS DEAD?

In 1993, action movie supremo Tony Scott teamed up with a hot new screenwriter named Quentin Tarantino to bring True Romance to the screen, one of the most beloved and widely-quoted films of the decade.

Elvis-worshipping comic book store employee Clarence Worley (Christian Slater) is minding his own business at a Sonny Chiba triple bill when Alabama Whitman (Patricia Arquette) walks into his life – and from then on, the two are inseparable. Within 24 hours, they’re married and on the run after Clarence is forced to kill Alabama’s possessive, psychopathic pimp. Driving a Cadillac across the country from Detroit to Hollywood, the newlyweds plan to sell off a suitcase full of stolen drugs to fund a new life for themselves... but little do they suspect that the cops and the Mafia are closing in on them. Will they escape and make their dream of a happy ending come true?

Breathtaking action set pieces and unforgettably snappy dialogue combine with a murderers’ row of sensational performances from a stunning ensemble cast in Scott and Tarantino’s blood-soaked, bullet-riddled valentine, finally restored in dazzling 4K with hours of brilliant bonus features.

Picture 9/10

Released last year in the UK and now making its way over to North America, Arrow Video presents their 4K UHD edition for Tony Scott’s True Romance, presenting both the theatrical and director’s cuts in the aspect ratio of about 2.39:1. The two versions are presented via seamless branching on a triple-layer disc with 2160p/24hz ultra high-definition encodes and Dolby Vision. They are both sourced from a recent 4K restoration conducted by Arrow and scanned from the 35mm original camera negative.

Since the release of the 2002 special edition DVD it appears all home video releases have used the same dated high-def master, Warner’s previous Blu-ray included. For what it was it did the job, but the end results were visibly digital and the film was in dire need of a new master. Thankfully Arrow was there to answer the call.

Arrow’s new restoration and end digital presentation are far cleaner and more film-like in comparison to all of those previous presentations. There’s a very grainy texture to the image now that looks far cleaner and more natural, lending the picture that grittier look that I’m sure Scott and director of photography Jeffrey L. Kimball were going for but was nowhere to the same effect in prior releases. The original photography and grainy nature can limit the finer details at times so the image maybe doesn’t come off as sharp or well defined as one may expect for the format, but that film texture is there and it's rendered perfectly.

The restoration work has cleaned up things beautifully, nary a mark or scratch present. HDR10 and Dolby Vision also boost things wonderfully when it comes to rendering the colours once things move down to L.A., not so much in Detroit (though the diner and comic bookstore manage to throw in some sharp blues and reds). There’s a scene where Saul Rubinek’s character is driving along the highway at what appears to be sunset, and I thought the colours in the sky and how the sun hits his face all had a wonderful pop to them.

Highlights look good but things are kept toned down a bit, nothing appearing overly hot yet still inching out some minor details. The darker sequences probably receive the most notable boost, Drexl’s (Gary Oldman) lair being a stand-out, dark overall but with strong pops of red that bleed nicely through the scene. I was also rather impressed with how the scene between Christopher Walken and Dennis Hopper in the latter’s dark trailer comes out, with the light creeping in wherever it can. The shadows look exceptionally good in this scene, and I like how the light reflects off of Hopper’s security jacket. Scott’s smoky interiors, which there are plenty of (with light always leaking in from somewhere) also come out looking cleaner with smoother gradients.

The end results end up being a vast improvement over Warner’s previous releases with the wider dynamic range sealing the deal. It looks great.

[SDR screen grabs have been taken from the source disc and converted to JPG files. They are presented in full resolution and may not properly fit some monitors. While the screen grabs should offer a general idea of quality, they should not be used for reference purposes. Due to technical issues I was unable to take screen grabs from the last 30-minutes of the film.]

Audio 9/10

Arrow includes the film’s original stereo audio presented in lossless PCM along with the 5.1 surround soundtrack presented in DTS-HD MA. I only listened to the 5.1 surround soundtrack.

Dialogue is clean and clear, never edgy (even when people are yelling) and the score by Hans Zimmer (that plays off of Badland’s score) is crisp and clear with incredible fidelity, allowing you to make out each xylophone and marimba strike. The film’s primarily rock soundtrack blasts beautifully through the surrounds but it’s the more action-packed sequences that take full advantage of the home theater set-up, from the shoot-out in Drexl’s lair to the film’s final stand-off. Even the scene that takes place on a Six Flags roller coaster pushes sounds through all directions. It’s incredibly dynamic and rich.

Extras /10

Arrow throws together an impressive package for the film, even managing to include both the theatrical and director’s cuts of the film, the theatrical one not available in North America since it was first released on VHS (and if I recall correctly only Blockbusters stocked them). They also end up porting over most of the material found on Warner’s previous special editions while also creating their own. As with the previous special editions things start off with the three audio commentaries recorded for the 2002 special edition DVD: one featuring director Tony Scott, another featuring writer Quentin Tarantino, and the other featuring actors Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette. The Arquette/Slater one has always been a disappointment for me and revisiting it hasn’t changed my thoughts much: despite the two having great chemistry together I can’t say I found the track particularly engaging. They do offer interesting insights into their characters and share a few stories around the production, but I found there to be a lot of dead space with the two just chiming in as though they've been elbowed to say something.

The other two tracks prove to be substantially better. Scott’s is very technical, which isn’t a surprise as most of his tracks are, and he talks about his decisions and the development of his style, which did begin to shift more experimental at this point. He also talks about Tarantino’s script and how he left it mostly intact, the most significant change being the ending, a topic covered elsewhere. What I most enjoyed, though, is Scott’s discussions around vibing with Tarantino and the script. He admits that while he enjoyed the script he didn’t quite “get it” at first, but by talking to Tarantino and being exposed to the films that influenced the script he came to realize that the movie is, at heart, more a fantasy than something that should be taken seriously. Tarantino also introduced him to John Woo and other filmmakers, which almost certainly influenced this film as well, and that’s also why there are clips from stuff like A Better Tomorrow II.

Tarantino was never on-set so his track doesn’t have much to offer around the production itself yet he still manages to build off of Scott’s track by explaining his own vision for the film that he had initially intended to direct, and how the story and film ultimately shifted as it gets filtered through Scott’s sensibilities. He shares some acute observations in this area, adding an academic angle that ends up being a bit of a surprise. Tarantino also talks about first writing the script and the long struggle he faced in selling it after he couldn’t raise the funds to direct it himself. This also leads to him talking about Reservoir Dogs with some comments on his script for Natural Born Killers. Tarantino’s commentaries can be a bit much admittedly but this is probably one of his better tracks since he comes off more focused compared to some of his other ones

If three audio commentaries aren’t enough Arrow adds a brand new one featuring critic Tim Lucas. The track, in its own way, ends up being a bit of a summarization of the other three tracks with the added benefit of being from an outside party three decades removed from the film’s production, so Lucas can look at it better in the context of both Scott’s and Tarantino’s respective careers (their paths would cross again briefly with Crimson Tide). The biggest benefit of this fourth track is that it sounds as though Lucas is referencing an earlier version of the script that allows him to build off of Tarantino’s track when it comes to what was changed from paper to screen. He also talks about the film as a fantasy from the perspective of a young man who grew up on movies, the action of the characters all feeling to reflect things they would have seen onscreen. There are brief examinations of the careers of the film’s now incredibly impressive cast and how those careers changed following this film, and Lucas even briefly gets into why the two cuts of the film exist. It is well put together and has information not found elsewhere but listening to it after the other three does make it feel a little unnecessary.

All of the commentaries are only available with the director’s cut.

Arrow also ports over the select-scene commentaries originally recorded for the special edition DVD featuring Dennis Hopper (11-minutes), Val Kilmer (4-minutes), Brad Pitt (6-minutes) and Michael Rappaport (34-minutes), before adding newly recorded ones featuring Saul Rubinek (7-minutes) and Bronson Pinchot (16-minutes). As expected the edited segments only play over the participant’s respective scenes, so this leads to both Kilmer’s and Pitt’s being disappointingly short. Kilmer mentions (as it's noted elsewhere) that he was made up to look like Elvis and it was only later that it was decided for his face not be shown (which he was fine with) and Pitt talks about how he was up for a bigger role but turned it down because he didn’t understand the script at the time. He had enough interest, though, to play a smaller part and it sounds as though he was given free reign with it.

Rappaport ends up being the most excited of the group, clearly aware of the boost this film gave to him. He also relates his character (a struggling actor looking for his big break) to his own experiences at the time and he talks about how he ended up a little lost during filming because he was so focused on his own part. Hopper’s contribution ends up being a bit disappointing since there is, despite being only 11-minutes, a surprising amount of dead space, an issue that has come up in other tracks I've listened to featuring him. Still, he talks about working with Walken on their scene together and recounts concerns he had over a prop gun to be used in a scene only for Scott to end up demonstrating on himself to show how safe it was and for that demonstration to not go well (Scott confirms the story in his commentary).

The new recordings featuring Rubinek and Pinchot end up being the best ones even though they’re more standard phone interviews than “commentaries”; the two are clearly not watching the film. Rubinek’s ends up being funny because it sounds as though he got the role because Scott thought he was doing a spot-on impersonation of producer Joel Silver, whom Rubinek was not at all familiar with. Pinchot’s piece ends up being the most endearing one, the actor excitedly talking about what he was able to contribute to the film, like the vomit (which is also shown in one of the production featurettes elsewhere). Pinchot also talks about the casting process where he suspects Scott was maybe a little annoyed with him since Pinchot had refused to return for Beverly Hills Cop II, which Scott had directed. Despite that he found the experience working with him rewarding and he mentions how devastated he was when he learned of Scott’s death. This ends up being the best new contribution and based on the original listing of supplements (for the 2021 UK edition) it looks like it was added last minute. It was well worth it.

Arrow also includes a handful of new interviews with members of the crew, including costume designer Susan Becker (10-minutes), co-editor Michael Tronick (11-minutes), and co-composers Mark Mancina and John Van Tongeren (11-minutes). Becker’s is interesting as she talks about creating the characters through their outfits, which includes Pitt’s Floyd (though she contradicts Pitt’s comments around his Rasta Cap from his select-scene commentary) and the two co-composers go over the collaboration with Hans Zimmer and mentions what sequences they contributed to. Of the three I was probably most fond of Tronick’s interview since his ends up being far more technical in nature, the co-editor explaining how Scott would make sure he got the coverage he needed, even doing the second unit work, and the difficulty they had run into in getting an R rating with the MPAA. For video they were then able to come back to it and deliver the director’s cut.

Larry Taylor then supplies a 7-minute appreciation/profile of Tony Scott and how his style evolved after this film. He ends up calling Man on Fire the most Tony Scott film. He admires True Romance’s energy and feels it might have been ahead of its time, maybe doing better financially if it had come out after Pulp Fiction. I’m not all too sure about that but then the film did seem to gain more recognition after that film was released, more than likely due to the Tarantino connection.

Also ported over from previous editions are 11 deleted and extended scenes running 29-minutes in total and accompanied by an optional commentary featuring Scott. There is an additional scene with Walken and another scene featuring the film’s two young lovers before things take off, but most of the material here ends up falling under the “extended” category, most of the excisions appearing to be slight trims. Scott more or less confirms this, saying the trims simply helped with the pacing and keeping the energy up (though admits there are things he wishes he kept in).

Accompanying that is the film’s alternate ending, which is brought up many times in the commentaries. It’s also presented here with separate optional commentaries featuring Scott and Tarantino. Tarantino’s script had a different outcome for the film’s two central characters and Tarantino was dead-set on that being the ending. Scott, on the other hand, didn’t feel it was right. It ended up becoming a point of contention between the two and Scott decided to shoot both endings and decide from there. In the optional commentary Tarantino agrees that for this film Scott’s ending does work better. And I must agree with that sentiment after seeing Tarantino’s ending. I see where Tarantino was originally coming from but as pointed out throughout the features Scott’s take on the script places the story in a fantasy movie world and Tarantino’s harsher ending ends up feeling out of place. If he had directed it, as he mentions, it probably would have fit.

The rest of the material is all archival in nature, most of it also appearing on previous releases. There are four featurettes including two U.S. featurettes running over five-and-a-half minutes each, an international featurette running 8-minutes, and then 15-minutes’ worth of behind-the-scenes footage. The behind-the-scenes footage is just that and features footage from the Hopper/Walken sequence and then scenes around the roller coaster later in the film. That footage also includes the application of “vomit” to Bronson Pinchot’s sweater (made from bran muffin apparently). The other featurettes then include quick interviews with some of the cast members while also offering a brief synopsis of the film. The international one has a bit more depth and includes Slater and Gary Oldman talking in a little more detail about their characters.

Arrow also includes what looks to be the raw interview footage featuring Scott, Slater, Arquette, Hopper and Oldman, running about 13-minutes altogether. Some of this footage does appear in the featurettes but there’s additional footage here that includes both Hopper and Oldman talking about this up-and-comer named Tarantino, Hopper seeming specially smitten.

Closing the disc are galleries that feature over 70 production photos along with stills of posters and video art from around the world, alongside a collection of trailers that include the U.S. and international spots, the latter of which ends up being more graphic. A U.S. television spot is also included.

As noted before the disc also includes both the theatrical and director’s cuts of the film. The differences come down mostly to violence but there are also a couple of different edits including a notable difference during the final showdown and involving Chris Penn’s character. As noted in the section around the picture presentation, the quality of the two presentations is the same.

This limited edition then includes a few postcards and a reversible fold-out poster featuring the new artwork on one side and an original poster on the other. There is also a 59-page booklet that starts out with a great appreciation for the film written by writer/screenwriter Kim Morgan addressing the film’s energy, its sense of self-awareness (even if Tarantino wasn’t aware of it himself at the time), and its performances. Morgan also offers her own small bit of appreciation for Tony Scott and his work, but Nicholas Clement provides a lengthier one in the following essay, which mourns the talent lost and looks at his work as a whole, even addressing how his style could divide critics. Following that essay is a reprinting of a 2008 Maxim article chronicling the making of the film through interviews with key members of the cast and crew from Scott and Tarantino to most of the cast, including James Gandolfini, who was especially excited to be able to watch Hopper and Walken work. The booklet then ends with another appreciation for Scott, this time written by director Edgar Wright who opens by recounting going to see what would turn out to be the director’s last film, Unstoppable, with Tarantino.

I was impressed with the older supplements when they originally appeared on Warner’s two-disc special edition and I’m still pleased with them here. Arrow then adds some excellent new material (the Pinchot audio interview being the stand-out) that rounds out what is the best collection of material yet for the film.

Closing

Arrow improves upon the already impressive previous editions for the film by adding a few excellent new features and delivering a sharp new 4K presentation for the film.

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4K UHD Blu-ray
1 Disc | UHD-100
2.40:1 ratio
English 2.0 PCM Stereo
English 5.1 DTS-HD MA Surround
Subtitles: English
Region None
 
 Limited Edition packaging with reversible sleeve featuring newly commissioned artwork by Sara Deck   60-page perfect-bound collectors’ booklet featuring new writing on the film by Kim Morgan and Nicholas Clement, a 2008 Maxim oral history featuring interviews with cast and crew, and Edgar Wright’s 2012 eulogy for Tony Scott   Double-sided poster featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Sara Deck   Six double-sided, postcard-sized lobby card reproductions   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 commentary 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   New interview with Daniel Storm, co-founder of the annual True Romance Fest and owner of the original Cadillac   Deleted scenes with optional commentary by Tony Scott   Alternate ending with optional commentaries by Tony Scott and Quentin Tarantino   2 US Featurettes   International Featurette   1993 Behind-the-Scenes Featurette   Interviews from 1993 with director Tony Scott and actors Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, Dennis Hopper and Gary Oldman   Image Galleries   Theatrical Trailer   International Theatrical Trailer   TV Spots