Action / Thriller
Natural Born Killers
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Dir: Oliver Stone
Star: Woody Harrelson, Juliette Lewis, Robert Downey Jr., Tom Sizemore.
Cert / Year: 18 - R / 1994
Format: DVD R2
'

Unhygenic meat delivery boy Mickey (Woody Harrelson), meets abused teenager Mallory (Juliette Lewis). They fall in love, and run off in her father's car, Mickey gets arrested and banged in prison for "grand theft auto" where he is told that Mallory's father is moving her and the rest of the family away so he can never see her again. At his earliest opportunity, Mickey escapes from prison, finds and "rescues" Mallory from the clutches of her lecherous father (Rodney Dangerfield) before promptly killing the family. Mickey & Mallory, then go on the run, get "married" before embarking upon a murderous killing spree for the hell of it and to get their kicks as they soon achieve celebrity status thanks to the sensationalist media their exploits are given by sleazy TV reporter Wayne Gale (Robert Downey Jr.).

One of the most controversial and critically acclaimed films of the 90's. There can't be many people who haven't heard of Natural Born Killers. This is certainly a ballsy film and it carries an interesting perspective and message that could easily be seen as a social commentary on modern society and the place of the media within it.

Underneath all of the over indulgant, psychadelic and arty rubbish is a very good film desperate to get out. Based upon the story by Quentin Tarantino, NBK is loosely based on the infamous exploits of Charles Starkweather and Caril Fugate who embarked upon a killing spree that shocked America in 1958. There are elements of Bonnie & Clyde and the classic, Badlands thrown in for good measure as Tarantino had obviously raided his old video collection for inspiration here. Whether it is a good or bad thing, the script underwent numerous rewrites, and according to Tarantino, the film bears little resemblence to his "original" concept. The underlying message depicting the sensationalist media as the source of general wrong doing and psychological corruption for the masses in America, remains a subtle sub text to the film and is well portrayed. It is amusing to note that the obviously sensitive and terribly defensive media gave this film quite a hard time and it's loudest criticism. Even before release, the film had been branded all the derogatory names under the sun, as the media urged various readers and viewers alike, not to see this film.... Can't imagine why...... maybe it is too close to home for them to handle.

Much of Oliver Stone's surreal and bizarre musings seem like the drug induced rollercoaster ride as a frenetic assault of styles, formats and techniques are thrown hap-hazardly into the mix which appears as mixed up as the film. Poor editing cuts, chops and hurls the film around on an inexplicable whim and appears visually quite messy. NBK struggles to find it's feet and a particular style. Much of the violence and fight work is protracted, over the top and for the majority of the film it looks terribly false and "camp" would also be an accurate word. You half expect word bubbles to appear on screen proclaiming "Biff", "Ka-Pow" or "Thwock". Frenetic bouts of surrealism dogg the film until much later on where it appears that Stone settles into his style and is free from interference, which makes much of the prison set pieces excellent. Like Platoon, Stone doesn't shy away from the violence, but here it has a false and virtually comedic feel which does demean much of what could have been acclomplished with this piece. Stone is capable of some excellent work, and when you escape the 60's drug den feel of much of this film it is very well directed and holds together well, but it is left to string together some pretentious, over indulgant ramblings and musing leaving an often disjointed feel to the film. This could have been much better, had these appetites not been indulged.

Admittedly I had trouble picturing Woody Harrelson as a homicidal killer, as it is hard to get away from the image of him as "Woody" the slow witted and likeable bar tender in Cheers. That said, Harrelson provides a very convincing and rivetting performance making it difficult to imagine anyone else playing the part of Mickey. Juliette Lewis is her usual waif like, foul mouthed teen looker. Many of her scenes suffer as she is unconvincing and lacks the physicality to successfully pull this off well, despite a good chemistry between her and Harrelson. Giving her a gun and a script with a swear word in almost every sentence not to mention a sleazy demeanour does not make her a menacing character. A good performance by Robert Downey Jr. as he gives one of his better performances (Must have been "clean" at that point) even if he does vocalise an annoying Australian drawl. Some good supporting performances by Tommy Lee Jones as the prison warden, Rodney Dangerfield as Mallory's sickening father and Tom Sizemore as the lecherous and questionable cop Scagnetti, make this worth watching even if the film does get a little bogged down in it's own arty, farty clap trap.

Despite the hype and controversy, this is NOT the cinematic outrage you have been led to believe it is. Yes, this is a frank and meaty film and there is plenty of gun play and over the top surrealised violence with an abundant smattering of profane language. The pacing stops and starts again and has difficulty maintaining a set level as the film tends to waffle here and there and is accompanied by a mixed up "romantic angle" coupled with a dual child abuse sub text. Overrall it is a clever but very messy and convoluted film, making it hard going for the viewer. Not as bad and not as good as it could have / should have been.

Quotes

Psychiatrist: Mickey and Mallory know the difference between right and wrong....... They just don't give a damn.

Rating: 2 out of 5

DVD
Picture 16.9 Anamorphic Good transfer - even if it is a bit trippy
Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 Very cool
"Chaos Rising - The Storm Around Natural Born Killers" - cool Making Of documentary
Additional scenes including Denis Leary's cameo and the infamous courtroom scene featuring Ashley Judd
Alternate Ending
Audio commentary from director Oliver Stone
Oliver Stone on the original soundtrack
Stills gallery
Trailer
Verdict A very good presentation with some cool extras. The uncut directors format makes more sense and contains a few extra and additional scenes. You also get an 8 page collectable booklet.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Reviewed by Logan Back Top Home