Natural Born Killers


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Natural Born Killers
"The film is gratuitous and gross, treating the audience as cretins."

Forget the hype. Natural Born Killers is an indulgent film about senseless people on a splatter spree. Whatever remains of Quentin Tarantino's original story doesn't make itself heard. This is Oliver Stone, high on the concept that tabloid media creates monsters.

The plot concerns Mickey (Woody Harrelson) and Mallory (Juliette Lewis), murderers-on-the-move, and their adventures in the wild wide outback of a white trash reservation. They are so messed up they can't tell whether they are living in a video game, a TV sitcom or an animated horror comic. "The past is behind us," Mickey says. "The road to hell lies ahead." They talk like that. Can you believe it?

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All barriers are down. These gypsy gunslingers kill anything that breathes, always leaving one alive to tell the tale. They drive a recognisable car, have an endless supply of ammo, become so famous they're on the covers of Time and Newsweek and yet the cops can't catch them. The sleaze rat presenter (Robert Downey Jr) of a reality TV crime show follows their roadkills with salivating delight and quite soon their popularity outstrips that of O J Simpson.

It has been suggested that the movie is a cry for help in a world gone mad, or a swipe at the Press for glorifying mayhem, using violence to attack violence. This rings false. The film is gratuitous and gross, treating the audience as cretins. With the use of a flash edit technique, crosscutting at speed from colour to black-and-white, video to celluloid, virtual reality to terror flick out-takes, Stone makes a statement about America's mind f***ed society that doesn't need two hours of kaleidoscopic brutality to get its message across.

The media-made-them argument is blown to pieces by Downey's performance, employing an accent that emanates from a Sydney luvvies bar. Tommy Lee Jones, as the partially deranged redneck prison governor, creates a genuine caricature of reactionary misrule. Lewis, who has been here before (Kalifornia, Romeo Is Bleeding), abandons herself to Mallory's instincts, like a sweet devil angel, and Harrelson, by sheer force of will, wrestles a life into Mickey that is light years away from film star posturing.

One of the brain-blasted, stobe-slashed images is of a juggernaut crushing a scorpion. The juggernaut is Stone. The scorpion is Tarantino. It makes a nasty mess.

Reviewed on: 29 Nov 2002
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Natural Born Killers packshot
Two psychopathic murderers become glorified by the media.
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Director: Oliver Stone

Writer: David Veloz, Richard Rutowski, Oliver Stone, based on a story by Quentin Tarantino

Starring: Woody Harrelson, Juliette Lewis, Robert Downey Jr, Tommy Lee Jones, Tom Sizemore, Rodney Dangerfield, Yared Harris

Year: 1994

Runtime: 117 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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