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After viewing this film many, many times since I first saw it I came to
the conclusion that this film basically put on screen my feelings as to
why I disliked and still continue to dislike the 90's/Post-Millenium
American Pseudo-Culture. At first I did not understand it (the
metaphors and such) but having viewed it countless times over the past
few years I have developed an understanding of this truly remarkable
Critics over the years have panned this film as a 'glorification of meaningless violence', when in fact the film itself is basically the 90's equivalent to Kubrick's 'Dr. Strangelove', where it turns the paranoia of a nation into satire and then deconstruct it in the best way possible. Everybody who is reading this review right now has probably seen the film anyway so I won't reiterate the plot, but what I will do is try and help explain the concept of the film since it's quite obvious that there are a few people out there who don't understand this film.
The 90's - A decade after the Reagan years and a time for the next generation to settle down and basque in the trails of excess that the previous decade left behind. What are we left with in Western Civilization? Media sensationalism and the counter-culture of people who watch car crashes.
Oliver Stone very much plays on the idea of 'serial-killer-turns-media-story-turns-pop-icon' which has been quite evident in the cases of people such as Charles Manson and Richard Ramirez. What Oliver Stone manages to do is portray the negative in the 90's, particularly American pseudo-culture in the 90's. You have Rodney King, O.J Simpson, Tonya Harding, Waco, The Menendez Brothers... and all these things are linked by a single medium, 90's television. The sensationalism of the media saturates most of Western Civilization today, and we live in a world where it's more important to see celebrities on the front of magazines or right-wing televangelists telling us that we need to give them money than it is to focus on the real issues that exist in this world. 'Natural Born Killers' relates to this. What 'Natural Born Killers' plays on is the question - 'why did we, the people, turn on to CNN and watch a white bronco cruising through the streets of Los Angeles one day in 1994?'. In turn, 'Natural Born Killers' plays on the culture-question - 'why do people stop to see car crashes?'. It also asks the question - 'Is that guy on television crazy because he's killed 90+ people or am I crazy for watching a white bronco cruise through the streets of Los Angeles?'. So there are 3 questions that 'Natural Born Killers' raises without a lot of people really understanding them. What the film does - instead of answering these questions - is let the viewer decide for himself or herself whether the serial killer on television is crazy for killing people or we are crazy for actually watching a serial killer talk on television.
So why do the critics despise this film? The critics despise this film because what they see on the film is themselves in Wayne Gale. Robert Downey Jnr accurately portrays the absolute false hysteria and false machismo of tabloid figures such as Geraldo Riviera and Oprah Windfrey et al, in his characterisation of Wayne Gale. He plays the archetypal media figurehead that lives in newsrooms, talking into mobile phones, smoking cigarettes, drinking coffee, watching television and living deceitful private lives. Another reason why the critics hate this film is because of the subversive message that it portrays in the script. The writers grew up in the 50's and 60's when the paranoia of Cold War was still in their faces everywhere they went. After the Cold War was over these same people started asking themselves, "well, who is the enemy now?". Some of them started realising that the enemy wasn't 10,000 miles away hiding in a mountain, the problem was not attached to a very large metal object that goes 'boom!', but rather the fact that the real enemy is in the corporations and media, the real power of a nation doesn't rely in the leader but the television. 'Natural Born Killers' subversively explains this, that THEY are the problem, and many members of the mainstream media didn't like because they were what the film was about.
Why do the general public despise this film? Because the same people who hate this film are the same people who the film-makers were laughing at when they made it. When the character of Mickey is on the television giving his interview, and the film cuts to a simple black and white image from a stock house of a typical American family sitting around the television, the same people who hate this film are the typical American family sitting around watching the interview, glued to the television like mindless zombies.
Overall - this film is brilliant and it tells it exactly how it is.
...people really need to take another look at "Natural Born
The plot: Mickey and Mallory Knox (Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis in roles that are a little too convincing) are a husband/wife pair of serial killers whose vicious crime spree across the country has made them into media superstars.
This movie is a barrage of frightening and surreal images, and is damn near hypnotic to watch.
I can see where the controversy surrounding this film comes from but what I don't understand is where the hate is coming from.
1994's "Natural Born Killers" has to be one of the best movies of the 90s - its sole purpose on this planet is to showcase America's fascination with violence.
But lets try to understand the hate. This movie is here for one reason and I think that we can all agree on that reason. Oliver Stone is a competent and accomplished filmmaker and most of the hate seems to be directed towards him. Stone, who is working from a script that has since been virtually disowned by Quentin Tarantino, pretty much took over and shaped the screenplay to his own vision.
I can understand why fans of Tarantino have a right to be p*ssed off, but I find it extremely difficult to believe that they truly hate the finished product, and the same goes for Tarantino. Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge Tarantino fan myself, and I'm sure he didn't appreciate Stone re-writing his script, but he should be proud of what was done with it.
The message, if you can call it that, is that we are obsessed with violence, and Stone exposes our love for it and spits it back in our faces. To quote Marlon Brando - "The horror, the horror." I say to hell with the hypocritical people who find this movie offensive for they are the ones that this movie is truly aimed towards.
Yes, horrific images are displayed in this movie and terrible things happen to people all throughout, but it's giving us we want, and we hate it. The hate surrounding this film is extremely misguided. My high school paper recently did an article about sex and violence on television and one of the supposed outlets of that violence would be our fascination with the war in Iraq and the Jessica Lynch story.
It said that we are much, much more concerned with the sex (I personally don't think today's teenage girls are THAT impressionable, but who knows?), rather than the violence (which apparently seems to be causing a misguided sh!tstorm of controversy, too, and like the sex, I don't think that people are that impressionable), namely the kind that is seen in music videos and such. Though the article refused to go into specifics (but we know who the people being discussed are and I'm sure they do, too), it brings me back to "Natural Born Killers," which I think people need to take another look at.
In this day and age, violence on television is becoming more and more commonplace, and this movie's relevance seems to make its viewing that much more important. Before we go and continue to bash the hell out of it again, people need to come back and take a look around themselves and watch "Natural Born Killers."
"Natural Born Killers" in itself is a picture of the ironic tragedy of the
satire. This movie took the media and American culture head on, challenged
it and spoofed it- as a result, American pop culture kicked it up a notch to
become as outrageous as the parody! On top of that, few understood Stone's
film was a satire and instead accused him of promoting violence. This is a
tragedy because "Natural Born Killers" really is a sharp and funny satire
that helped to usher in the 90s with Tarantino's "Pulp
Yes, it's over the top, yes, it's violent, yes, it's flashy, and most of all, yes, it works! The effect may make you a bit dizzy, it may disturb, and may even offend, but this is a truly great piece of cinema. Like its great predecessors, which it freely homages, "In Cold Blood", "Badlands", and "Bonnie & Clyde", this film is about two killers on the road who are in love. Unlikely movie stars Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis play Mickey and Malory. Through a few frantic and imaginative scenes we see them meet, fall in love, murder Malory's abusive father, and hit the road. These scenes are instantly unforgettable, bearing a wit that may be overt, but is funny enough to accept. Meanwhile our heroes become a media sensation thanks to the TV show "American Maniacs", hosted by Wayne Gale (Robert Downey Jr. with a British accent).
It isn't all glitz and blood splatter. Auteur Stone works with (what remains of) Tarantino's script to make all these characters into real people, and not symbols or cliches. Character motivation is related mostly through flashed images and flashbacks (as in "In Cold Blood"). The editing and superb Richardson camera work relate complex emotional states, as well as the frenzied mood of the violence. Oliver Stone does have the tendency to be peachy and over the top, but his strength in portraying sympathetic humanity over comes his weaknesses.
Under-appreciated actor Tom Sizemore ("True Romance", "Heat") plays detective Jack Scagnetti, the celebrity homicide cop who pursues and eventually captures Mickey and Malory (in what has to be one of the best, most intense arrest scenes in screen history). In the context of this film, he is a villain, but he is a human being just the same. He leads us into the second half of this picture, which has Mickey and Malory behind bars awaiting a big TV interview with Wayne Gale on Superbowl Sunday. Tensions build to one of the best climaxes a crime or prison movie ever had.
Rodney Dangerfield, Russell Means, and Tommy Lee Jones put in highly memorable appearances in supporting roles. On the director's cut DVD we see cut footage of performances from Ashley Judd (her best work) and Dennis Leary. "Natural Born Killers" is many great small parts adding up to an even better whole. All of it is accented and sealed by a very good soundtrack arranged by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails (who contribute the beautiful "A Warm Place"). This is a movie you won't soon forget and will likely enjoy.
I recommend this to fans of Stone, of the movies I mentioned above, of Tarantino (he didn't approve, but as a fan of his, I did), and to anyone who is simply curious about it. It'll blow you away, in the good sense.
"Do you believe in fate?"
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Natural Born Killers
Released just long enough ago to be forgotten by today's standard of speed amnesia, this film by Oliver Stone is worth seeing again. The violence in it was sickening just a few years ago, but such things have quickly gotten normalized in our culture's ongoing desensitization. Ironically, this very process of media desensitization is precisely the topic of this film's satire. NBK has since even been the subject of copycat crime sprees, or so the culprits claimed. This is troubling, because while the film works hard to analyze the dubious process by which violent killers are turned into romantic heroes in the mass media, NBK seems unable to escape from the same orbit, ending with the killers as living happily ever after, justified by the brutality of their backgrounds, and morally superior to the prison officials and popular journalists who pursue them. But as a postmodernist satire of media saturation-violence, from wrestling to sit-coms to real crime dramatizations to obsessive live news interviews, Stone's film is a thought provoking exercise that is stylistically mesmerizing.
As a postscript, several people accused Stone of inciting copycat crimes and called for him to be sued for damages-- which happened. The lawsuit was dismissed. At the least he was negligent, they argued. Interesting to me that the glorification of violence found everywhere in the thriller genre is taken to be safely neutral, while a powerful satire of glorification is condemned as, well, too violent. The last time I checked, this was always defined as "hypocrisy". The major contradiction in media culture now is that on the one hand, Natural Born Killers is reviled for inciting violence, while on the other hand, it is reviled for being _too obviously_ critical of media violence in a simplistic and unsubtle manner. But can we have it both ways? No.
A 2nd postscript on another form of hypocrisy: Quentin Tarantino, the reigning postmodernist "King of Cool" who plays with pastiche of pop culture genres, wrote the script for Stone's Natural Born Killers, but then criticized the way the film was directed. Ironically, Tarantino then copied several formal film techniques and innovations straight out of NBK for his later "Kill Bill" films. -- with the key exception that Tarantino continues the tradition of glamorizing violence. The Tarantino crowd sees itself as properly aesthetic and cool, far above the ham-fisted Stone! Creepy isn't it?
I haven't seen too many Oliver Stone pictures; JFK, Scarface(which he wrote, not directed), and this one. I don't know too much about his directorial style, but if any of his other films are like this one, I'll have to watch more of them. The visual style is amazing. The whole film has sort of a psychedelic visual style, and utilizes constant cuts and constant change in color scheme, often changing between powerful green, blue, red and even black/white. Of course, none of this is random. It's there to project symbolism and keep the mood intense and constantly evolving, and, believe me, it works perfectly. With many references to popular media(television, mainly), demons and the desensitizing effect of television. The effect of half of the imagery being seen through a television screen or hallucinated is amazing. The film is experimental and psychological. As Stone puts it in the documentary, it's a film about two people breaking the rules, so it's only fitting that the film-makers are also breaking the rules. It's chaotic and wild, insane and mentally exhausting. It's a film about pain, violence and giving in to cravings and desires. But it in no way romanticizes the aforementioned three points. Quite the opposite. I believe someone once told me that the film makes killing and violence look appealing. I can't even explain how wrong that is. This truly is an amazing film. If you can sit through this, and you (honestly) think of yourself as perceptive and intelligent, you have to see this movie. It's not just recommended or a good idea to watch, it's mandatory for anyone that 'get' it. The plot is great and well-paced. It's never boring. The acting is great. The characters are well-written, credible and so easy to understand and sympathize with that many will hate the film for it. The whole film is amazing on so many levels. I recommend it to any person who believes himself or herself to be hardened and intelligent enough to sit through it, and, more importantly, understand it. I recommend you get the directors cut, as it keeps everything that the other released version cut off. Highly recommendable. 10/10
This is a big, loud, colorful tragicomic and articulate satire on human
society, media, politics and the most inner desire and organic need of
man to destroy. There has been criticism on the high content of
violence, and has been categorized as instigating, but it's actually
quite obvious that it's just a satiric view of contemporary "personal
success" driven society. All characters are natural born killers, not
only the ones doing the actual killing. They are all shown as predators
with no morals, who will do anything to achieve their goals. The movie
will take you flying, smash your brains and feast your eyes..., it will
feed your senses, it will make you love it and hate it. Combining the
brilliant early writing skills of Tarantino, Oliver Stone's addiction
to violence with the brilliant performance of Woody Harrelson, Juliette
Lewis, and all the supporting cast(Rodney Dangerfield, Robert Downey
Jr, Tom Sizemore and Tommy Lee Jones). Fantastic soundtrack and
graphics. It's THE eye opener. The ultimate 90's movie.
It's a ride!
I remember "Natural Born Killers" making a huge fuss when it was
released because the media and conservative families were in an outrage
over the level of "glorified violence" in the film. To some extent they
were right -- the violence isn't glorified but much of it is
unnecessary. The movie could still be a brilliant satire of society/the
media without going into such graphic detail -- it's been proved in
cinema before that sometimes seeing less is better than gratuity. If
Oliver Stone's movie has one outstanding flaw, it's the lack of
That said, if you can handle the level of violence and take it tongue-in-cheek, "Natural Born Killers" is so bizarre and funny that it's worth the "trip." (Pun intended.) This is a crazy drug odyssey that would have made Hunter S. Thompson look like Ronald Reagan. The film is twisted, outlandish and out of its mind -- Oliver Stone has gone stone-cold crazy and it's awesome.
Despite my reservations about his lack of subtlety, there is a flip side to the coin: It is a story about excess. Stone's film-making has gone somewhat awry over the years (look at the pointless excess of his films after this), but this fits the bill because it IS a story of excess.
Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis play the titular "Natural Born Killers," Mickey and Mallory, a pair of crazy serial killers who both suffered traumatic childhoods and are now rampaging America on a literal killing spree.
After they are finally apprehended, the media has by now turned them into such icons and glorified personalities that the public and media seems to respect them as titans of filth.
This is where the social satire of the film comes into play, essentially saying: We focus more on the killers than the heroes.
I do think it's a bit hypocritical of Oliver Stone to attempt to point this out, as he is a die-hard liberal at his core and, as the controversy surrounding this film's release proved, the conservatives are too conservative to praise killers. It seems to be the liberal media that glorifies violence (to some extent of course) so I thought Stone would be the last person to ever criticize the media.
So yes it does come across as somewhat of a moot point but nevertheless the film is still enjoyable despite its sometimes sickening amount of over-the-top violence (the opening sequence of the Director's Cut is stomach-turning).
The cast is superb - Rodney Dangerfield, Robert Downey Jr., Tommy Lee Jones, Tom Sizemore, Edie McClurg (the rental car agent from "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" and Rooney's assistant in "Ferris Bueller"!) and Denis Leary and Ashley Judd in deleted scenes included in the Director's Cut.
The story was conceived by Quentin Tarantino (and it's very similar to his "True Romance" script -- a sort of modern-day "Bonnie and Clyde Redux") and re-written by Stone (much to the chagrin of QT). I'm not sure which would have made for a better film but, despite its flaws (which are mainly a none-too-subtle message and too much violence), "Natural Born Killers" is a sort of bizarre, outlandish masterpiece of drugged-out cinema. --
Oliver Stone seems to have outdone himself on this one. Not only is
Born Killers a visual masterpiece, but it is probably one of the most
and nonsensical social commentary films I have ever seen. Disappointing,
since it was penned by one of my favorite film directors, Mr. Quentin `Bad
Motherf***er' Tarantino himself. The elements of a good story are there:
Boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love and go on a mass murdering spree
which is lapped up by the media. While there is definitely a strong
statement, the story is too erratic and scattered to be completely
Visually however, Natural Born Killers is stunning. It is intensely colorful, unflinchingly violent and innovative in its cinematography. This movie is not for most, but if you decide to try it out, be warned: It is not for the faint of heart, and not for the weak of stomach. But it is an important film for its visual merits, at the very least.
Natural Born Killers is a disturbing film. It is a great film as well.
Visually it looks great and between all that violence there is a message.
Criticizing the influence of media with another form of media called
With a lot of cuts, strange camera angles, different colors, the kind of music and a lot of symbolism the sick world of mass murderers Mickey (Woody Harrelson) and Mallory (Juliette Lewis) is presented. And the sick world of how people react to their violence. Director Oliver Stone shows it to us with this satire in a great and really disturbing way.
Harrelson and Lewis hit the right tone for Mickey and Mallory. Tom Sizemore as a cop, Robert Downey Jr. as a journalist (representing the whole media) and especially Tommy Lee Jones as the prison warden are great too. Originally written by Quentin Tarantino, although he was not too happy with the result in the end, this is one of the best satires I have seen. May be it is not for everyone, the images are not always that nice, but the meaning must be for everyone.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Unlike the media it lampoons, I don't despise Natural Born Killers
because it's violent; I despise it because it's crap. Honestly, are
there any other films that are quite so heavy-handed, poorly executed
and mind numbingly dull as Stone's turgid 'satire'? I can't think of
many it certainly must rank amongst the worst films of the 90s.
Of all the things I hate about the film, it's Mickey and Mallory themselves that I hate the most, especially as the film loves them. I mean, as much as the film tries to be a clever comment on the violence obsessed media, the film, despite itself, idolises these two losers murders are filmed in slow-motion and different film stocks, and their love is portrayed as honest and true. Compare this with everyone else all the other characters are liars, schemers and scumbags. But while any right thinking individual would have nothing but contempt for all of these characters, Stone allows Mickey and Mallory to come out clean at the other end. What a load of rubbish.
One of the most infuriating scenes in the film is when Mickey and Mallory go and visit an Indian. He talks gibberish for a while and then Mickey appears to go to sleep (I can't blame him; the scene strains for meaning in every frame and fails at every turn). Then while Mickey's sleeping he has a nightmare about being abused as a kid. However, when he wakes up, Mickey kills the Indian. Mallory's response is one of horror, saying, 'You killed life. He fed us.' Let it be noted that this is the only murder that Mickey and Mallory feel really bad about. And the only reason they feel bad about it is because the Indian gave them something. The lesson to be learnt here, so Mickey and Mallory appear to be saying, is that it's fine to kill people and not feel bad about it if they do nothing for you.
But that scene touches on another annoying element in the film childhood abuse. Of course it's a fact that most violent people have been either been abused or have come from a violent upbringing, but the film gives us that and nothing else oh, they were abused, that's why they're the way they are, it all makes sense. What a load of crap.
And all the segments to do with childhood are completely removed for reality. For example, Mallory's childhood is filmed like a sitcom, with laughs in the background as daddy feels his daughter up. But rather than be a clever comment on the corrupting influence of television, the sequence is so over the top that it feels like petulant whining. Boo hoo, daddy felt my bum. Look what he made me into. Again it's a gross oversimplification. And the burning of Mallory's mother is ridiculous. You were abused, too, and you did nothing to save me. Therefore you deserve to be burnt to bits. What the ?
But despite all this, the film still tries to make us feel sorry for Mickey and Mallory. Just take the scene where the two of them get arrested. Mallory gets the crap beaten out of her and Mickey gets tasered before getting beaten up himself. But rather than weep tears at the excessive Rodney King-style police brutality, I could only think that the two deserved more punishment. They deserved a severe beating followed by a bullet in the brain. But alas the film never gave me this satisfaction, thus making it even more painful for me to watch.
However, the film did at least give me the satisfaction of seeing Mallory get maced. That was fun. And it's rather telling that while the film wants us to love the two mass murderers, it's the sleazy journalist, the evil cop and the wicked prison warden who are the most likable. And they're likable because, unlike Mickey and Mallory, they're not full of pious, sanctimonious BS. They're scum and they know it. But Mickey and Mallory are always justifying their actions, always claiming to be pure when they're anything but. It's infuriating.
Also annoying is Stone's filming style. He's obviously snorted too much blow and watched too many music videos, because the film uses different film stocks, skewed angles, stock footage and front and rear projection to nauseating effect. It's a mess. But of course, Stone probably thinks it's making a wonderful comment on the sensory overload that is present in our multi-channel, television obsessed culture. But no, the film has nothing intelligent to say about television, as anyone with half a brain knows that the masses are glued to the idiot box and that crass, ratings-obsessed journalists do nothing but desensitise the people who watch them. (A ridiculous detail in the film is when Mickey and Mallory visit the Indian. 'Too much TV' is projected onto them. It strains for profundity, but it ends up as being a visual trick more suited to a pretentious R.E.M. or Radiohead video.)
However, to briefly defend the film, I will say that Robert Downey Jr. is quite funny in parts (Tommy Lee Jones and Tom Sizemore also provide a couple of chortles, even though they play two-dimensional grotesques). And there's a segment in 'American Maniacs' that gave me a laugh. But what Stone doesn't realise is that the reality is even more ridiculous. Just watch World's Wildest Police Videos with Sheriff John Bunnell. Wayne Gale is tame in comparison, and nowhere near as disturbing or amusing.
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