Controversial in its time Oliver Stone’s 1994 film “Natural Born Killers” was at the center of the long heated debate of whether media violence influences actual violence, especially in young people. Similar to rock music and horror movie outrage in the 80s. It’s just one of those issues that will never go away.
This film is an all out assault on the senses, an acid trip down desert roads and small towns. A sharply satirical look at the early 90’s when the “Talk Show” was king and tabloid journalism went to unimaginable lengths. While inspired by the true story of Bonnie and Clyde and the Arthur Penn film, “Natural Born Killers” is pure fiction. Here we have Mickey and Mallory Knox, a love crazed couple on a vicious killing spree and becoming tabloid and talk show mega stars in the process. The film is shot completely in dutch angles giving every moment a jagged and uneasy feeling. The editing is a cocaine fueled chop shop with almost 3,000 cuts. Cutting in black and white footage, animation, different film stocks, you name it it’s in there.
Mickey, “the big bad wolf," is played by Woody Harrelson and is a revelation when compared to his previous persona of the meek country boy Woody Boyd in the popular T.V. show “Cheers”. Mallory is played by the little known actress Juliette Lewis. While looking like a young Patti Smith, she matches Harrelson’s crazy intensity. A pre-drug rehab Robert Downy Jr. plays Wayne Gale, a self righteous Geraldo Rivera like television journalist who will do anything to get the story, no matter how many people he hurts along the way. On the hunt for Mickey and Mallory is an equally twisted Detective Jack Scagnetti (Tom Sizemore), while being and author himself he falls for the media hype surrounding the couple. Comedian Rodney Dangerfield also goes against type as Mallory’s abusive father, while brief his scenes are pretty amazing.
At about the mid point of the film Mickey and Mallory run into a Native American man who can see them for who they are. He is the only selfless and kind character in the whole film. Around the fire he puts them into a nightmarish trance where they relive the abuse inflicted upon them by their parents. Mickey is jolted awake only to shoot the native man as a reflex. As they leave this is the only time he feels real regret for what they’ve done. Outside they become surround by an army of rattle snakes and are bitten numerous times. Life on the run is about to come to an end in the parking of a pharmacy where they try to get the “snake juice”. Separated and taken to prison they come under the eye of Warden Wurlitzer, played by Tommy Lee Jones. Just like all the other characters, the warden is an extremely intense looking dude like he is 2 seconds from massive heart attack. However the warden allows Wayne Gale a special post Super Bowl live interview with Mickey himself. This is the just the moment needed to light a fuse and bring down the whole establishment. While trying to figure out why Mickey is the way he is we come to a tipping point. “I guess I’m just a Natural Born Killer” (Hey, that’s the title of the film) after those words a prison riot erupts and an orgy of anger, violence and mayhem is released. Mickey and Mallory escape and our heroes/mass murderers are free and their newest super fan Wayne Gale is along for the ride. Until they make an example of him being the worst kind of person. The epitome of what is wrong with modern society. He begs for him life and that he needs to survive to tell their tale. They point to the running camera and his life is ended.
Does this film glamorize violence and manipulate young minds into deviant life choice? Does music? Does the daily news?