double feature: ‘revenge’ & ‘true romance’; 2 alluring love affairs of cinema

The 4th film by Tony Scott is Revenge starring Kevin Costner, Anthony Quinn and Madeline Stowe about Michael Cochran (Costner) a retired Navy Pilot who travels to Mexico to visit a long-time friend, Tibby Mendez (Quinn). An intense desire for lust and love ignite between Cochran and Mendez’s stunning and sensual wife, Mireya (Stowe). Cochran and Mireya give in to their longing for each other but only with the price of putting their lives in jeopardy. It isn’t long until Mendez discovers the affair and raids their getaway house, leaving them both for dead.  “I consider Revenge to be Tony Scott’s masterpiece.” Said Quentin Tarantino. “When Tony directed my first script, ‘True Romance’, I’d tell everybody proudly, ‘The man who made REVENGE is making my movie.’” Revenge is a heartbreaking and thought-provoking film. It’s a true testament to the mastery of storytelling and its picturesque cinematography by Jeffrey Kimball has a polished landscape style that’s reminiscent of classical Hollywood cinema like Lawrence of Arabia by implementing magnificently wide camera angles to capture great depth and detail in every frame. Jeffrey Kimball would work with Tony Scott four times (Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop II, Revenge, True Romance) throughout their respective careers. The director’s cut is breathtaking as it draws the viewer closer to our protagonist and his quest for vengeance in addition to his acceptance of misconduct and transgression from having an affair with his close friend’s wife. In exchange, though Tibby Mendez had great love for his wife, being that he is a ruthless Mexican lord who operates above of the law, it’s painful and profound to see the consequences he offers for his wife’s actions. The themes of obsession, sex and violence in Revenge were in line with Tony Scott’s debut film, The Hunger.

After the triumph that came with Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs (1991), a variety of A-list thespians wanted a piece of Tony Scott’s True Romance, a script Tony acquired with his producing partner Samuel Hadida, which was written by Quentin Tarantino. Though True Romance didn’t make a boom a box office, it developed a cult audience and now, almost thirty years later, it’s certainly on every cinephile’s top list of favorite films. Though written by Quentin Tarantino, where the characters speak his style of language, the world painted around the language that’s spoken is a world imagined by Tony Scott, thus making True Romance, without a shadow of doubt, a Tony Scott film. This is what’s known in the cinephile community as ‘The True Romance Debate’. The debate consists of arguing who’s film it is; Tony Scott or Quentin Tarantino? Film is obviously a collaborative effort and not a one-man-show. However, this notion may not be obvious to those that side with Tarantino, that, had Q.T. directed it, it would have had an entirely different cast of actors, a different music composer, and it would have been non-linear in its editing. Clarence Worley (Christian Slater) would have died in Tarantino’s original ending. Tony Scott loved these characters more than Q.T., he made sure that Clarence and Alabama (Patricia Arquette) got away with their scheme to elope to Mexico together, along with a suitcase filled with cash.

Tony Scott stayed true to something Q.T. was unaware he wasn’t living up to: the film’s title. The film’s title is not ironic because Tony Scott made sure these two lovers succeeded in their mission. Had Tarantino directed the film, Clarence would have died and Alabama would have drove to Mexico by herself in loneliness – that’s not a true romance. Imagine that, the dialogue master, movie connoisseur and auteur in Quentin Tarantino, being convinced and persuaded to change the ending of his screenplay, by the big daddy on the block, sir Tony Scott. To those who side with Q.T., you wouldn’t have been able to enjoy Hans Zimmer’s score or Jeffrey Kimball’s cinematography from Scott’s Romance. It would behoove one to believe that it would have had a different cast and would have looked like a completely different film. It’s all about the directing and the decisions one makes in terms of hiring department heads and casting lead roles to serve the vision you’ve created based upon the words written on the page. You can take any given screenplay, and hand it to two different directors on two different productions, two different budgets, then tell them to go into production on two different sets and shoot their respective movies. Will they not both come back with two utterly different looking films, starring different actors, but, reciting the same lines?

Not only is the debate hypothetical, but pure nonsense.

The point is that True Romance is another rare film, not only within Tony Scott’s filmography but of cinematic history. Quentin Tarantino is a master screenwriter, there have been only two other instances where his scripts have been blessed upon the lap of other directors; Robert Rodriguez’s From Dusk Till Dawn and Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers. The best of three landed with the great Tony Scott, who crafted a heroic, thrilling and passionate film about two lovers offered a fateful chance for the hope of a future together in paradise after they inadvertently come across narcotics that belong to the mafia which inspires them to travel to Hollywood and sell the illegal merchandise with intentions of eloping. “People ask me if I’ll ever do a romantic film.” Said Quentin Tarantino. “I tell them, ‘Well, I did, it was True Romance.’ The title is not ironic, this is true romance.’” And we thank Tony Scott for making the romance true, by directing a contemporary classic.

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