When it came to the films of the late ‘80s into the ‘00s, there was nothing like a Tony Scott film. He took us on the highway to the danger zone (Top Gun (1986)), he brought the boys back together (Beverly Hills Cop II (1987)), he took us to Daytona International Speedway (Days of Thunder (1990)), and he introduced us to Joe Hallenbeck (The Last Boy Scout (1991)). He did all this and more, taking audiences on thrill rides that produced some of the most quoted and most appreciated films in cinema. One such beloved entry in his filmography is 1993’s True Romance, written by Quentin Tarantino (Reservoir Dogs) and starring the all-star cast headlined by Christian Slater (Kuffs) and Patricia Arquette (Boyhood). In its nearly-30 years since release, there have been multiple home editions, but, thanks to Arrow Video, home audiences can enjoy this Tony Scott classic in 4K UHD with Dolby Vision and the original uncompressed stereo audio or DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround audio (not to mention new packaging and bonus materials).
Every year Clarence Worley (Slater) goes to the movies on his birthday. This year he goes alone, but that changes when similarly alone Alabama (Arquette) arrives at the theater mid-film and decides to sit by Clarence. The two make a connection that seems too good to be true and it turns out it is, when Alabama admits that she was paid to “accidentally” meet Clarence. Unphased by this, the two get married and Clarence decides to go visit her pimp, Drexl (Gary Oldman), to let him know Alabama is done and get the rest of her belongings. Things go sideways and bullets fly, forcing Clarence to leave in a hurry, not realizing that he’s grabbed a suitcase full of cocaine. Knowing that they need get out of town, they leave Detroit for Los Angeles, the only place they can think of where they might be able to sell the drugs, unaware that the Detroit Mafia is on their trail and they want their drugs back.
More often than not, I prefer films which Tarantino has written over the ones he’s directed. True Romance and From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) are both entertaining films whose stories are told without being hampered by a certain specific Tarantino flair. Frankly, knowing now that Tarantino is a fan of crime fiction writer Elmore Leonard (Jackie Brown is an adaption of Rum Punch), the conclusion of True Romance feels yanked right out from Leonard’s works wherein all the characters converge in one spot and are removed from the chess board in one tension filled sequence that always has a touch of humorous irony. There’s also the odd sweetness that runs from start to finish in True Romance, something which may be mostly due to Scott’s vision of the film, something which runs counter to a lot of Tarantino’s tales which tend to shred love by their end. Scott, however, knows how to shape a story into an adventure that’s visually appealing, performatively engaging, and clever in the narrative execution. Though there are other Scott films I prefer (Man on Fire (2004) may be my favorite), all of them, especially True Romance, entertain from start to finish. Of the parts that don’t age well, it goes back to the script and the racial slurs that run throughout, something that’s fairly common in even the most recent Tarantino film. It’s not so much that they feel unnecessary (Scott obviously felt they were important enough to leave in), it’s that they’re excessive to the point of discomfort. In a way, there’s a sense that if a character uses any form of a racial slur, it’s meant to shortcut that they are a bad person and are not long for this world. Sadly, that seems to be more like a coincidence tied to the low mortality ratings of a Tarantino-written script than any intentionality on Scott’s part. Have to hand it to Scott, though. Even with the rough parts of the script, the film is laced with some of the highest-caliber actors in even the smallest roles so that the characters dazzle no matter what they do.
If you are a True Romance enthusiast, be advised that Arrow Video is releasing four editions of the film on home video. There’s a Blu-ray edition, 4K UHD edition, dual format 4K UHD Steelbook edition, and dual format deluxe 4K UHD Steelbook edition. The differences start with different cover art and the case, but end just about there, based on the production notes on the MVD Entertainment Group webpages for each respective release. Obviously the Blu-ray edition doesn’t include the 4K UHD with Dolby Vision version of the film, but the totality of bonus features, access to both the theatrical and director’s cuts, and the rest appear to be identical. For the 4K UHD sets, the deluxe steelbook appears to include a double-sided poster, postcards, a poster for fictional film Coming Home in a Body Bag, and more. The limited edition only includes a few of the same materials as the deluxe. This is all key to know depending on how much you love True Romance and how much you’re willing to spend for the additional goodies as the more exclusive the edition, the more you get in collectibles, but the price goes just a bit higher, too.
Speaking of what’s included, be advised that the majority of the on-disc materials included in the home release are originally from prior home release editions. So if you already own True Romance on Blu-ray, make sure to check your copy against the special features of this edition. While the 4K UHD is beautiful, suggesting a properly cared-for restoration process, for some, this may not be enough to shell out just for an upgrade. Not to just repackage an old release, this Arrow Video edition includes new artwork on the cover (reversible for the non-steelbook editions), as well as four brand-new interviews: costume designer Susan Becker, co-editor Michael Tronick, co-composers Mark Mancina and John Van Tongeren, and with Larry Taylor, author of Tony Scott: A Filmmaker on Fire. The prior releases covered insights from Scott, Tarantino, Slater, and Arquette, so these new additions enable audiences to gain understanding on technical aspects of making the film from a different perspective. Personally, it’s a little sad that Scott is no longer with us, he died in August 2012, so any new information has to come from elsewhere, specifically the individual who wrote the book on Scott.
This is the part of the review where I would discuss the technical specs of the restoration, as well as provide some insight into the packaging. Unfortunately, the review copy I was sent is a promo disc and not a full retail copy, so I can’t shed any light on the sterility of the packaging, offer thoughts on the package design, or explain the process used for the restoration as none of it is available to me. What I can tell you is that the 4K UHD with Dolby Vision (HDR10 compatible) restoration is a marked improvement from the 1080p edition. A great example of this is in the shoot-out sequence at the end of the film. In the 4K edition, the exploded cocaine powder in the air looks like a soft haze without overtaking any of the objects or individuals in the same scene. The strobing projector light is also a tad sharper, resulting in a cleaner flash each time in appears. If you compare this scene against the “Original Ending” bonus feature, the haze from the cocaine powder is thicker and harder to discern objects through and the strobing light is dimmer. The 4K UHD with Dolby Vision doesn’t so much make the film look like it’s an entirely different one (example: The Shawshank Redemption) as it does nicely balance moments of extreme color (notably the sunsets and skylines with the specific touch of frequent Tony Scott-collaborated cinematographer Jeffrey L. Kimball (Top Gun; Beverly Hills Cop II)) and maintain a more healthy realistic tone with individuals. Personally, the scene where the 4K UHD really shines is the interrogation scenes between Christopher Walken’s consigliere Vincent Coccotti and Dennis Hopper’s Clifford Worley, Clarence’s father. There’s a beautiful balance of light and dark in the dimly lit room with the white smoke of a cigarette hanging in the air that makes something beautiful out of a dangerously staged scene. The response to the audio is a little different in that the dialogue comes through clear and crisp from the center speaker with left and right audio nicely balanced, but there seems little sent to the surround speakers beyond some ambient noise. Because of this, there’s rarely a sense of deep immersion. To be frank, this isn’t the kind of film which really needs the audio to be immersive, but it’s at least worth noting.
True Romance remains a sweet, if not strange, romantic action comedy from one of the best directors in modern cinema, written by one of cinema’s highest rated screenwriters, and featuring a cast that’s wall-to-wall incredible (I miss James Gandolfini a lot). If you’re a fan of any of the cast or crew or if you just love the movie, snagging this edition isn’t a matter of if but when. So make sure you get the version that’s right for you and your budget.
True Romance Special Features:
- New 4K restorations of both the Theatrical Cut and the Director’s Cut from the original camera negatives by Arrow Films
- 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
- 4K (2160p) UHD Blu-ray presentation in Dolby Vision (HDR10 compatible) of both cuts
- Original uncompressed stereo audio and DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround audio
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
- *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
- 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
- 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
Available on 4K UHD, Blu-ray, and Limited-Edition Steelbook Editions June 28th, 2022.
For more information, head to Arrow Video.
To purchase a copy, head to MVD Entertainment.