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When Tony Scott’s suicide news broke out, he was well known as the director of Top Gun and several Denzel Washington movies, plus brother and creative partner of the more critically respected Ridley. The more in-depth pieces featured Scott’s love for vehicles, speed, and editing pace that could make a mockery of narrative cohesion.
He left a Hollywood resume checkered and full of total disasters and stupidity – a resume that would leave directors of probably more frightened. He swung from Eurotrash vampire concupiscence appearing as a luxury perfume ad (The Hunger) to brilliant pectoral jingoism (Top Gun) to crazy Southland surrealism (Domino) to overrated action comedy (Beverly Hills Cop II) to wildly computer-age supervision paranoia (Enemy of the State).
Scott’s movies contained extremely huge and gifted casts, a love for the smoky backdrop and waving curtains, and quite simple script shorn of all but the most fundamental, intense dialogue. Most lines were best said through grinded teeth while pressing the accelerator.
One exception of this template was 1993’s True Romance full movie. Written by Quentin Tarantino and his old pal Roger Avary, it was quickly caught by Scott in that ideal afterglow following the 1992 explosion Reservoir Dogs. It introduced Clarence (Christian Slater), an Elvis-worshipping comic-book nerd who goes on the run with the sweetheart hooker Alabama (Patricia Arquette) after killing her pimp (Gary Oldman.)
Everything winds up in a mess and John Woo-esque shootout with mobsters, movie producers, and the FBI. With its flashy cinematography and stars-stuffed cast who wanted to be on the next big thing, this was a turning point for Scott, Tarantino and Hollywood.
For Scott, True Romance full movie’s half-gritty and half-tongue-in-cheek attitude was a sign that he could produce a narrative more complex than the increasingly dunderheaded pap he’d been grinding out (The Last Boy Scout, Days of Thunder). For Tarantino, getting this screenplay produced by the likes of Scott showed that he could be a major player, and not just an indie darling. (According to Scott read both this story and Reservoir Dogs and wanted to direct them both; a then-nobody but amazingly experienced Tarantino said: “You can only do one”.What Hollywood gained was a dose of fresh blood, a grindhouse mash-up that was a slap in the face to all the “safe, generic, coffee-table dog shit” that Clarence regards quality moviemaking. (Unless we forget, the Academy Awards were still in the Merchant Ivory business back then).
Of course, it stayed at the box office and then found a second life afterwards on VHS and DVD. Most of the viewers then and perhaps now didn’t know what to do with Clarence’s sugar-hopped genre obsessions and how they bled into the running-from-the-Mob narrative. Elvis (Val Kilmer) pops up at times to have Clarence’s spine up. Ultraviolent Sonny Chiba and John Woo scene is involved like flashes from Clarence’s fevered mind, where he can play out all his vengeful childhood Charles Bronson fantasies.
Over all of it is included the dark fantasy spine of Badlands, both Alabama’s drowsy Sissy Spacek narration and the ringing of “Tubular Bells”. In other words, exactly the type that you would expect word-wise and smart-ass movie-mad video-store clerks like Tarantino and Avary to yield.
It was an ambitious experiment, and one that Tarantino wouldn’t himself have been able to succeed so wonderfully at the time. Scott applies tons of his visual clichés but also uses a darker, more painterly aspect to his shot that makes everything curiously and bloody stunning.
He is also able to add in sly performances from each of his actors, even Bronson Pinchot in a should-be thankless role as a producer’s minion. As in much of Tarantino’s early work, the fun is in the minor notes, the wildly politically incorrect dialogue that spins off from the central action but bring the story’s real juice. In one deservedly epic exchange about the ethnic ancestry of Sicilians, Dennis Hopper and Christopher Walken brilliantly harmonize each other line by line until the tension practically rises. (You would have to wait until the opening sequences of Inglorious Basterds to see another Tarantino conversation so tense with anticipation and threat.)
The affirmation that Scot gives every scene in this cameo-full movie indicates how good he could be with the right script, and how far Tarantino had to go as a moviemaker. With Pulp Fiction in 1994 and Jackie Brown in 1997, Tarantino proved that he could create crackling dialogue and craft smart and clever genre pieces. But as a director, it would take him until 2003 with the vividly-filmed Kill Bill: Vol. 1 before he could prove himself to be faithfully a moviemaker, and not just a writer who also directed.
For his part, Scott moved on to some more exciting work. Though True Romance like Spy Game and Man on Fire were not close to what he had succeeded with True Romance full movie , they had far more flair than his previous projects and were also much more innovative than what his fellow blockbuster directors were making through the 1990s and 2000s.
Scott’s style also prefigured, with less depth of field, the hysterical chaos of post-9/11 work from directors like Paul Greengrass and also the nonsense of punchy poor violence and self-referential humor that today appears almost obligatory and sometimes burdensomely. With True Romance full movie , Scott came close to receiving that sublimely destructive mainstream pulp mixture which took Tarantino more years to master.