BLU-RAY REVIEW: NATURAL BORN KILLERS / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: OLIVER STONE / SCREENPLAY: DAVID VELOZ, RICHARD RUTOWSKI, OLIVER STONE, QUENTIN TARANTINO / STARRING: WOODY HARRELSON, JULIETTE LEWIS, ROBERT DOWNEY JR, TOMMY LEE JONES, TOM SIZEMORE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers caused rather a bit of a controversy upon its original 1994 release. Aiming to satirise media representations of violence, the strongly 18-rated serial killer movie ended up accused of inciting ‘copycat’ crimes itself. Returning to it 20 years later with this new Blu-ray release, it’s not difficult to see why it raised so many eyebrows.
The film opens with Mickey (Harrelson) and Mallory Knox (Lewis) visiting a diner. In a matter of minutes, Mallory’s sparring with a lecherous customer, and the couple then massacre just about everyone else in the room. As this pair of extremely dangerous murderers carry on their spree, they come into conflict with glory-seeking cop Jack Scagnetti (Sizemore), ratings-seeking journalist Wayne Bale (Downey Jr., on delightfully egotistical form) and eventually end up captive to psychotic prison warden Dwight McCluskey (Jones, as terrifyingly OTT as his Two-Face).
While the couple on the run provide the film’s Badlands-inspired emotional backbone, Stone’s real interest lies in the vast and sensationalised media storm that brews up around Mickey and Mallory – we see interviews with their ‘fans’ across the globe, and the film’s climax sees Gale broadcasting live from a prison riot Mickey incites, even as the riot descends into horrifying carnage. Important questions are raised about media portrayal of criminals – questions which there are no easy answers to and which are still relevant in 2014.
Stone adds to this theme with his use of hyper-stylised visuals. The violence may be more stylised than a Tarantino flick (indeed, Quentin wrote an early draft of the script) but this is all part of the highly political filmmaker’s argument – it’s telling that the fight scenes, which switch between colour and black & white seemingly at random, are shot in exactly the same style as a “reconstruction” in Gale’s show, the only notable difference being that Mickey and Mallory are played by different actors. Television intrusively permeates throughout the killers’ journey – various violent shows are shown through window frames in the backs of shots, and flashbacks to Mallory’s traumatic upbringing are presented in the style of a quirky 1970s sitcom, with comedian Rodney Dangerfield cast very much against type as her abusive father.
The sheer style and brutality of Natural Born Killers may leave you shocked on first watch, but close examination reveals a darkly satirical film with a thought-provoking central issue, one that’s as relevant in the year of the film’s 20th anniversary as it ever has been – which, along with the great range of extras, is a very good reason to pick up this new release.
Special Features: New ‘How would it all go down now?’ featurette / Commentary and new introduction / Documentary / Deleted scenes / Interview with Oliver Stone / Alternate ending / Trailer
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