True Romance

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Details At A Glance

Category Action Theatrical Trailer(s) Yes, 1 - 1.78:1, Dolby Digital 2.0
Rating Other Trailer(s) Yes, 3 - Dolby Digital Greek, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown
Year Released 1993 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 116:04 Minutes Other Extras Untitled Featurette
Filmographies - Cast
Menu Audio
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 4 Director Tony Scott
Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Christian Slater 
Patricia Arquette 
Dennis Hopper 
Val Kilmer 
Gary Oldman 
Brad Pitt 
Christopher Walken
Case Brackley
RRP $34.95 Music Hans Zimmer

Pan & Scan/Full Frame None MPEG 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Dolby Digital 2.0
16x9 Enhancement
Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 384 Kb/s)
English (MPEG 2.0 Silent, 64 Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking Yes
Subtitles None Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    Clarence Worley (Christian Slater) is a rather lonesome guy who works in a comic book shop, and he spends his birthday watching kung-fu movies at the local theatre. His boss decides to do something nice, and hires a prostitute to go find Clarence (not too hard a task since he spends all his time in that theatre) and show him a good time. The prostitute that is sent out for this purpose, however, has only been on the job for four days, and this is a fact that the girl in question, Alabama Whitman (Patricia Arquette) shares with Clarence after falling in love with him. Funnily enough, they quickly marry, but then there is the small matter of Alabama's pimp, a rather slimy, ugly sod by the name of Drexl Spivey (Gary Oldman). Clarence decides to let him know that Alabama is off the market, so to speak. The confrontation gets bloody, however, and Drexl's career in the pimp business is soon quite dramatically shortened, while Clarence retrieves a suitcase that he believes contains Alabama's possessions. Upon opening and inspecting the case, however, he finds that it actually contains half a million dollars worth of cocaine. Naturally enough, the people who supplied Drexl with this cocaine want it back, and in this case the supplier in this distribution deal is a rather nasty mob boss named Vincenzo Coccotti (Christopher Walken), who manages to track Clarence down because Clarence, being the complete dill that he is, left his driver's license at the scene of his battle with Drexl. Clarence goes and meets with his dad, Clifford (Dennis Hopper), and so does Vincenzo, in a rather nasty scene that I will get into later for certain reasons.

    There's really very little else to this film except for a string of cameos that are so brief that you'll easily miss them if you blink (I know that I certainly did). Both Brad Pitt and Samuel L. Jackson spend less than five minutes a piece in this film, and it wouldn't surprise me to learn that Bronson Pinchot only agreed to appear in this film as a bumbling drug dealer because his career has gone nowhere since he appeared in Perfect Strangers (not that this is particularly surprising or unwarranted). To be perfectly honest with you, this film stretches credulity to the absolute limit, almost as much as the recent film version of Mission: Impossible, in fact. Sadly, the film also really lacks some genuinely likeable characters, as the masturbatory nature of the dialogue that is rather common to all films penned by Quentin Tarantino is in full force from pretty much all of the characters. Watching this film reminds me of why I have such a major aversion to anything that the man writes or has any involvement with.

Transfer Quality


    This transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, complete with 16x9 enhancement, which begs the question of why this transfer looks so damned awful. It cannot be blamed on the source material, because it looked a hell of a lot better than this on VHS. I believe the major problem is that Roadshow Home Entertainment attempted to cram far too much information onto a single layer, at the expense of the video's clarity. One of the biggest problems with the transfer is that the film itself runs for one hundred and sixteen minutes, which necessitates a low transfer rate to fit the entire feature onto the one layer in the first place. The sharpness of this transfer is pretty much non-existent, although this is one problem that mostly has a fair amount to do with the cinematography. There was a hell of a lot more sharpness and detail during Alabama's confrontation with a hitman about midway through the film, however, during the VHS version. Shadow detail was consistently average, and low-level noise was well-masked by the ever present film grain.

    Colour saturation was dull and muted from the beginning to the end, giving the film a certain kind of fifty-year-old look that is quite tiring to look at, and I can certainly recall much more youthful looking hues in the film when I saw it on VHS video. MPEG artefacts were minor, but the necessarily low bit-rate resulted in some slight macro-blocking in the background of some shots. Film-to-video artefacts were minor, with some aliasing making its presence felt from time to time. Film artefacts, however, were quite prevalent, with all sorts of black and white marks making their presence known throughout the picture.

    This brings me to one major problem with Village Roadshow's presentation of the film: the complete and utter absence of subtitles, even when they were part and parcel of the original theatrical exhibition. After Clifford's conversation with Vincenzo, two of Vincenzo's men make a couple of utterances at each other in Sicilian, and they were subtitled during the original theatrical exhibition. While they have nothing particularly clever to say, this is an artistic butchery that should not be tolerated.


    There is only one track containing any actual audio on this DVD: English in Dolby Digital 2.0 with surround encoding, which I believe to be the way the film was originally presented. It would have been nice to see another audio track in Italian or Spanish, but this is a minor quibble compared to the other problems with this disc. The other track is a silent MPEG 2.0 track, which is a waste of vital space on the disc that could have been used to slightly improve the abysmal video quality. The dialogue was quite clear and easy to understand throughout the film, even when Gary Oldman carries the schtick of some ugly white man who wants to be black. Audio sync was not a problem at any point in the film on my equipment, but there was a few examples of some rather sloppy ADR work here and there.

    The was some score music by Hans Zimmer, and it is a somewhat quirky effort when it actually becomes noticeable, which is not often. A consistent theme runs throughout the film which is heavily reliant on percussion, while some known classical pieces are also used. Overall, this score music is well-suited to the film it is for, and thus leaves little lasting impression with me.

    Although this is a surround-encoded mix, the mix is generally very front and centre, with little use made of the surrounds at all. While the soundtrack is generally very supportive of the film, it is also quite limited in terms of presence. The action sequences cry out for a more immersive sound than the Dolby Digital 2.0 mix can really give. The subwoofer was not used at all, even during the many bass-heavy action sequences.


    Given that the total time these extras, combined with the film itself, take up is getting close to two and a half hours, I have to concede that sometimes less is definitely more.


    The menu contains some stills from the film, as well as some rather crummy graphics that have little thematic relevance to the film. All the menus are 16x9 enhanced, and most of them are accompanied by audio that sounds like a MIDI sequence.

Theatrical Trailer

    The trailer is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, with 16x9 enhancement and Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded audio. A great number of the shots used to comprise it look better here than they do in this presentation of the film, the most notable example being shots from Alabama's confrontation in a hotel room with a mob gunman, which looked horizontally stretched and badly faded during the film itself.

Theatrical Trailers - Jackie Brown and Pulp Fiction

    These two trailers are presented under a menu that is labelled "More Tarantino", which I think pretty much says it all. Both of them are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 with 16x9 enhancement and Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded audio. Both of them are also presented with an abundance of film artefacts.


    Filmographies for the principal cast are included with some small biographical details. The manner in which the film listings are presented makes for a somewhat annoying reading experience.


    No, Ian, you're not the only one who finds this stuff of a rather limited appeal.

R4 vs R1

    There are three main versions of this DVD available; the Region 4 version, the Region 1 version and a UK Region 2 version. Both the Region 1 version and the Region 4 version are deficient in one area or another. The Region 1 version is not 16x9 enhanced. The Region 4 version, as described in this review, suffers from poor image quality. The Region 2 version, on the other hand, reportedly has much better image quality, and better audio to boot.
Region 1
Region 2
Region 4
Additional Pan & Scan version of the movie
No Pan & Scan version of the movie
No Pan & Scan version of the movie
Not 16x9 enhanced
16x9 enhanced
16x9 enhanced
English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded soundtrack
English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack
English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded soundtrack
No additional extras
No extras
Trailers for Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown

    It would certainly appear that the Region 2 version of this disc is the version of choice, as it has 16x9 enhancement, Dolby Digital 5.1 sound, and a reportedly much better-looking video transfer due to the space freed up on the disc due to the absence of the lame extras. Although I still haven't confirmed that the Region 2 version has RSDL formatting, which would have made the transfer even more superior, it is definitely superior to the Region 1 and Region 4 counterparts.


    True Romance is a film of very limited value, presented on a distinctly average DVD.

    The video quality is terrible, and inferior to current-generation VHS in one of the most energetic moments of the film.

    The audio quality is good enough to just barely save the disc from the Hall Of Shame.

    The extras are detrimental to the film itself, and thus should not have been included.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Dean McIntosh (my bio sucks... read it anyway)
April 11, 2000.

Review Equipment
DVD Toshiba SD-2109, using S-video output
Display Samsung CS-823AMF (80 cm), 16:9 mode/4:3 mode, using composite and S-video inputs
Audio Decoder Built In (Amplifier)
Amplification Sony STR-DE835
Speakers Panasonic S-J1500D Front Speakers, Sharp CP-303A Back Speakers, Philips FB206WC Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Subwoofer