NATURAL BORN KILLERS (BLU-RAY)
Reviewed by: JimmyO
Robert Downey Jr.
What's it about
Two young lovers go on a vicious murder spree after killing her abusive parents. But the deeper they descend into darkness, the harder it is to hold on to each other in their own devilish world. Satire and insanity collide along the way.
Is it good movie?
“The extreme always makes an impression.” It was a line for the wonderful film about teen angst, you know the one, that dark little satire starring Christian Slater and Winona Ryder called Heathers. But what better way to describe the 1994 Oliver Stone film, Natural Born Killers? It is truly an extreme and beyond over-the-top satire on how the media creates heroes, even when they are far from heroic. This film generated a lot of mixed feelings, including disgust, hatred and even a little fear. The person I went to see it with back in the day despised it. I disagreed. I enjoyed the ride the first time around, and was even more moved when Stone released the Director’s Cut. And now, you can see this bit of extreme filmmaking on Blu-ray, and it looks better than I thought it ever could.
The thing about Natural Born Killers that fascinated me was the many uses of music, image and all sorts of odd theatrics. This is an amazing soundtrack featuring such artist as varied as Patsy Cline, Nine Inch Nails and Leonard Cohen. And visually, it is all over the place. From the ridiculously disturbing “I Love Mallory” sitcom with Rodney Dangerfield and Edie McClurg to the crazed and bloody prison escape, there are so many avenues that are traveled in this violent and surreal satire. While the names Mickey and Mallory Knox inspired some pretty creative words of hate, they also had a few fans thrilled by the fantastical visual tricks used throughout. This cinematic insanity is just as crazed and turbulent as the two love struck killers that inhabit it. Yet buried inside the madness is a strange and passionate love story, as deranged as it may be, there is passion here.
It is no surprise that the idea for NBK sprouted from the mind of Quentin Tarantino but this quickly came to be Mr. Stone’s vision, pure and simple. While some found this tale of murder and romance as chaotic and overly stylized, I found it to be hypnotic and strangely brilliant. Surely it is some sort of experiment, but it sure is an exciting one. With Juliette Lewis and Woody Harrelson portraying the young lovers with such zeal, chewing every bit of scenery along the way, it plays like a really f*cked up "Romeo and Juliet". But it works. While it feels more like an inspiration for Rob Zombie’s The Devil’s Rejects as opposed to being inspired by Bonnie and Clyde, the adventures of Mickey and Mallory holds up as a cult classic, even today.
If you are a fan of Stone, or even if you aren’t, he has made it very clear that this film is a statement on the power of media. But it also takes a jab at the American family, power, greed and corruption. One of the most contemptible characters in the film is trash talk show host Wayne Gale, portrayed with audacity and an Australian dialect by Robert Downey Jr.. He is loathsome and vile, yet he is America’s connection to the twisted world of the Knox couple. In fact, almost every single person in this film is awful, with all sorts of warped ideas of right and wrong. Is this morality tale a bit nihilistic? Sure it is. But it is so insistent on what it has to say, that I couldn’t help but dive right in to this social nightmare.
Video / Audio
Video: Natural Born Killers has never looked this good. With a 1.85:1 widescreen transfer, in 1080p High Definition, it is absolutely a must have on Blu-ray.
Audio: The Dolby TrueHD and the Dolby Digital 5.1 all sounds marvelous. Especially for a movie with a fantastic soundtrack like this.
I loved the Special Features included on this disc. And it all starts with a fun “Intro” from Mr. Stone. And then, it soon shows you how the film became the story that it did with a terrific Commentary with Oliver Stone. This is a terrific listen, and it explains quite a bit as to what the man wanted to accomplish with the insanity (and I mean that in a good way).
With NBK Evolution: How Would It All Go Down Now? (21:58), we get a look at how things would have been for Mickey and Mallory today. In a world where everybody can be a star, thanks to reality TV and YouTube, you never know what heights their popularity would go to. As sad and depraved as it is, we really do seem to elevate some of these folks into heroes. This is a new featurette for fans of the film and is definitely worth checking out.
As for Chaos Rising: The Storm Around Natural Born Killers (26:30), this has previously been available, but it is still a terrific featurette. While it is for the most part, a talking head type of deal, it is still very entertaining to look back at the controversy that came with NBK.
The Charlie Rose Interview with Oliver Stone (11:38) is a must watch. Oliver Stone tackles some tough questions and comes out looking pretty good. This is a fascinating conversation between Rose and Stone.
The Deleted Scenes include “The Desert”, “Steven Wright”, “The Courtroom”, “The Hun Brothers”, “The Drive-In”, “Denis Leary” and an alternate ending. I was completely on board for the extended desert scene. I also really enjoyed the alternate ending, although to make it work, they really would have had to flesh out Arliss Howard’s role more than they did. All the deleted scenes include an introduction from Oliver, I recommend watching the scene and the intro for clarification.
And finally, finishing up the disc is the Trailer to the film. Fun times if you want to see the original preview. And don’t forget the 44-page booklet filling your mind with anything and everything NBK.
Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers is a wild and strange journey if you are willing to take it. Let’s ride along with Mickey and Mallory Knox on their dark and savage murder spree. Visually and musically, it is a terrific achievement that holds up quite well. The performances are all over the top but it feels just right. For some strange reason, even when you are horrified by the brutal twosome, there is something undeniably fascinating about this crazy in love couple. One of Stone’s most invigorating and just plain addictively bizarre films.