Sunday, 27 February 2011

Natural Born Killers

Year: 1994
Director: Oliver Stone
Screenplay: Oliver Stone, Dave Veloz and Richard Rutowski, from a story by Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Woody Harrelson, Juliette Lewis, Robert Downey, Jr., Tom Sizemore, Tommy Lee Jones, Rodney Dangerfield
Running Time: 119 minutes, and a 123 minute Director's Cut
Genre: Crime, thriller, action, satire, dark comedy

Opinions: Mickey Knox (Harrelson) and Mallory Knox (Lewis) are a married pair of serial killers who leave a swathe of murder and devastation over the southern USA. They are chased by unbalanced celebrity cop Jack Scagnetti (Sizemore), who has a personal mission against serial killers, and sleazy Australian television personality Wayne Gale (Downey, Jr.), host and producer of popular true-crime show American Maniacs, alongside almost every law enforcement agency in the USA.
While seeking treatment for a rattlesnake bite, Mickey and Mallory are arrested, after a three week crime spree that has left fifty-two people dead. A year later they are in prison, and the warden, Dwight McClusky (Jones), enlists Scagnetti to help transport the two to a mental hospital with the understanding that they will be killed on the way. However, Mickey has plans of his own and agrees to a live TV interview with Gale as tensions in the prison approach boiling point.

Opinions: This film, based loosely on an original screenplay by Quentin Tarantino, was hugely controversial on its orignally release for its arguable glamorising of the violence. The movie utilises almost every cinematic technique in the book, the film stock changes seemingly at random, moves from colour to black-and-white, tinted images, weird camera angles, animation, on-screen captions, stock footage, distorted images, clips from TV shows and movies, a frenzied editing style and weird back-projection. Some scenes detailing Mallory's abusive family life are even shot in the style of an old TV sitcom. This is combined with a frenetic and eclectic soundtrack which blends in everything from classical to country to hard rock.
Woody Harrelson is genuinely terrifying as the charismatic but murderous Mickey, and he gets strong support from Juliette Lewis as the frenzied Mallory, both of whom manage to be genuinely touching in their romantic scenes. Tom Sizemore also works well as the sinister cop on their trail. However both Robert Downey, Jr. and Tommy Lee Jones are completely over the top as the TV journalist and prison warden respectively. Which does largely fit in with Stone's excessive style.
The movie is an attack on the way that the media ostensibly condemns criminals while at the same time glamorising them, which is not a particularly new point, and it's treatment here is not in any way subtle, but is effective.
The film is still shocking and disturbing though more for it's style than for anything really in the content. It has aged surprisingly well, and remains a striking and memorable viewing experience.

Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis pose for the camera in Natural Born Killers

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