‘Natural Born Killers’ gets you Stone’d on violence

Natural Born Killers (1994)

Directed by Oliver Stone

5/10  R

Like Woody Harrelson’s character Mickey Knox, I also sometimes wonder why Hollywood keeps “makin’ all these stupid fuckin’ movies”…including 1994’s Natural Born Killers. The film stars Harrelson, Juliette Lewis, and Robert Downey Jr., is directed by Oliver Stone (Wall Street, Platoon), and written by the master of all things violent and irrelevant, Quentin Tarantino. To say the least, NBK is probably an acquired taste, like the key lime pie in the film’s opening scenes.

As far as plot goes, the story was written by Quentin Tarantino…so there really isn’t one. Two killers, and lovers, Mickey (Harrelson, Transsiberian) and Mallory (Lewis, From Dusk Till Dawn) Knox, are killers. They have killed 52 people in 3 weeks…quite a feat, especially considering they always leave one bystander alive to tell the tale. Eventually, however, they meet their match, when a detective, Jack Scagnetti (Tom Sizemore, Saving Private Ryan) threatens to harm Mallory. “Love kills the demon”…or something like that. They go to jail (where the warden is Tommy Lee Jones) but you know these crazy mother-killers (no really, Mallory shot her own mom) won’t be contained by steel bars…or will they?

I’ll break this movie into two distinct parts: jail and pre-jail. Before the killers are apprehended (which takes place almost exactly half-way through the film), the movie was filled with blood, violence, sex, and weird fake sitcom clips. Also, whenever the couple drives, or whenever they are indoors with a window or door open, the landscape outside is indescribably weird and unnecessary. Mallory pops a squat in an open field, while holding a conversation with her boyfriend. Media clips show the love the pair receives from fans, calling them “way cooler” than Charlie Manson (I don’t know about that).

While in jail, the couple doesn’t see the world through windows, or doors, nor do they drive, nor do they piss in fields, so the movie takes a tremendous swing toward bearability (n. The ability to bear, or tolerate, something. Apparently is not a real word). Robert Downey Jr.’s character, investigative reporter Wayne Gale, gets much more screen time, and subsequently, more time to show off his Australian accent. To be honest, Harrelson and Lewis are perfect fits for psychotic mass-murderers. They exude an aura of creepiness, and really seem like they love killing. It’s inspiring (hopefully not as inspiring as Taxi Driver was to John Hinckley Jr.). Therefore, the 5/10 I gave the movie was a combination of the 6.5 I would have given the second half and the 3.5 I would have given the first.

After W., which was unimpressive, this is only the second movie of Stone’s I have seen. I never really liked Juliette Lewis (though I love What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and Whip It) and I try to avoid Tarantino movies like HIV (in my defense, I didn’t know he wrote the story until after the movie started). Despite these facts, the movie wasn’t terrible. But would I watch it again? Nope.

Natural Born Killers is on Blu-ray and DVD.

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4 thoughts on “‘Natural Born Killers’ gets you Stone’d on violence

  1. Good review, I definitely felt torn about this movie while I was watching it. I respect directors who take risks in their film making in style and subject matter, but between the depravity of the violence, the un-likability of pretty much every character and the disorienting drug-trip-like cinematography I just couldn’t bring myself to like this movie.

    I recognize that Stone has said again and again that it was intended as a satire of our culture’s obsession with violence but rather than critiquing this issue it almost feels like he’s buying into it at times and romanticizing that sort of senseless violence.

    Also just curious, have you seen Requiem for a Dream? I noticed a lot of similarities between NBK and that film and I’m wondering if I’m alone in that department, lol.

    Anyways feel free to check out my review and happy blogging 🙂

    http://rorschachreviews.com/2012/07/10/ghost-of-movies-past-natural-born-killers/

    1. I agree, any sort of cultural commentary it intended didn’t work for me. It’s a love-it-or-hate-it film, but I hate it.
      And I do see similarities in Requiem, but I like that a lot better. It tends to be more realistic and iintense. I love Darren Aronofsky, I’ve seen every single movie he’s ever been associated with (not a huge feat, he’s only been around for a decade or so) but Requiem is in the middle of even that pack. And I’ll be sure to check out your blog! Thanks for reading!

  2. i love this movie.
    “their are chords in the hearts of the most reckless that can not be touched with out emotion. for even with the utterly lost to whom life and death are equally jests their are maters of which no jest can be made.~E. A.Poe
    mickey and Mallory are the utterly lost and when you climb out of your Ivory towers you will realize that more and more people every day relate more with them than with this facade of a society we have constructed.

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