The best scene in True Romance doesn’t contain any of the main characters. It’s a verbal standoff between a Sicilian Don, played by Christopher Walken, and a security guard, played by Dennis Hopper. Don Vicenzo Coccotti is looking for the drugs that Clifford’s son and his newly wedded wife has, but Clifford isn’t going to tell him. Realising that there’s no escape from the situation, Clifford throws all his chips on the table and does the worst thing you could possibly do to a member of the Sicilian mafia – make fun of their lineage.
Though directed by Tony Scott, the true artist behind the movie is Quentin Tarantino, who wrote the film’s script. The scene is classic Tarantino, full of memorable dialogue, often funny, but with a subtext of rage bubbling underneath. Though the whole debate about whether white filmmakers and/or writers have any right to use the “N” word is an interesting one, the use of it here is by no means gratuitous. The scene’s intensity, built up over ten minutes, climaxes to a point where Clifford wants to hurt Coccotti as much as possible before his inevitable shooting. Like it or not, Clifford is the sort of person to use that kind of language, and Tarantino is honest about that. Besides, it somehow would not have reflected the scene’s bizarre gallows humour as well if he had kept saying ‘person of colour’ instead.
Though Tarantino is responsible for the groundwork of what makes the scene great, you can’t underestimate what Walken and Hopper add. Christopher Walken is the king of delivering weird, funny dialogue in a totally deadpan manner – it’s no surprise that another of Tarantino’s funniest scenes, the ‘watch monologue’ from Pulp Fiction, is carried by Walken as well. Nevertheless, the jewel in the crown is Dennis Hopper’s delivery of Tarantino’s infamous speech about the history of the Sicilians (which incidentally is all completely untrue), claims about Coccotti’s ancestors, which gloriously culminates in one of the best lines of the movie:
“Now, if that’s a fact, tell me, am I lying? Cause you, you’re part eggplant.”
It was apparently Hopper’s decision to add in the word ‘eggplant’, which signs off one of the most gripping moments Tarantino’s ever written, and sets up the carnage that ensues afterwards. True Romance is all about devotion, and of course central to it is the amazing lengths to which Clarence and Alabama would do anything for each other. However, this scene, which might at first appear sophomoric and excessively violence, is a poignant moment showing the lengths at which a father will go to protect his son and daughter-in-law.
True Romance is released as part of Warner Brothers’ Iconic Moments Collection on September 5th.