Picks and Pans Review: True Romance

updated 09/13/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/13/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette

One thing you can say for Arquette (Rosanna's kid sister): She's an actress of rock-solid conviction. Consider one of her first scenes here. Having spent the night with Slater, she crawls onto the ledge of his apartment building. When Slater finds her out there and asks what's wrong, she sobbingly confesses that she's a call girl (not a prostitute, she stresses) who was a birthday gift from Slater's boss at the Detroit comic-book store where he works. And, what's more, she has fallen madly in love with him. Somehow you don't doubt it for a second, nor the fact that, fueled by love, this ditzy young woman could end up causing so much trouble. The smitten Slater murders her drug-dealing pimp, Gary Oldman (imagine Dracula in dreadlocks), then flees to Los Angeles with Arquette and a suitcase full of the pimp's cocaine.

Slater, whose undeniable sex appeal is dampened by a clamminess suggesting time spent rolling in moldy leaves, lacks Arquette's ardor. At the very least, that means this movie will never live up to its title. But director Tony Scott and screenwriter Quentin Tarantino (who wrote and directed the nasty, nasty Reservoir Dogs) have more on their minds than a misbegotten romance. We're talking violent thrills and dark, sarcastic comedy shaken up into one provocative cocktail. Typical is an over-the-top episode that has Arquette battling a hit man in her hotel room. To itemize the brutalities contained in this scene: fist punched in face; Elvis bust and toilet lid smashed over head; body pitched through shower glass; shampoo smeared in eyes; corkscrew plunged into foot. Oh, and head set on fire. But none of this is as visceral as it could—or should—be. Scott is an enervatingly slick director, with a tendency toward distracting, music-video prettiness.

The supporting cast, however, is a first-rate eccentrics' gallery: Besides Oldman, it boasts Dennis Hopper as Slater's dad, Christopher Walken as a mobster and Brad Pitt as a grungy slacker who mostly lounges around, stoned. At one point he gets high using a bottle of honey as a bong.

Nice try, all. (R)

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