Few films have gained the notoriety of Natural Born Killers, which is undoubtedly one of the most controversial films of all time. Oliver Stone’s widely talked about film comes up in the media every so often, most recently in the Newtown shootings. It remains one of the most polarizing, shockingly violent films ever made.
The first time I saw the movie, I was attending a film program and walked out the first few minutes. It was too violent for me to handle and it took me years to get over seeing gore in films. But I watched the movie at a too young of an age to handle or to grasp the meaning of the film. Natural Born Killers is not an easy watch. Despite that I can typically stomach most violence in films, it’s still easy to wince at the scenes. The original script was written by Quentin Tarantino before Stone wrote it and Stone amps up the violence at even levels that Tarantino wouldn’t have taken it.
NBK‘s story is sort of a mash-up between Bonnie and Clyde and A Clockwork Orange. The film is about a pair a pair of killers named Mickey and Mallory Knox (Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis), who go on a mass murder spree across the country. They don’t hide their crimes but embrace them and set off a explosion in the media. The general public loves the two Knoxes, who have fan clubs, t-shirts, and so much more you’d expect them to be huge celebrities. Wayne Gale (Robert Downey Jr.), a tabloid journalist, loves the two for what they’ve done.
The plot description may sound completely absurd but keep in mind Natural Born Killers debuted just after the OJ Simpson case. The movie replicates the hysteria behind the real life event or so be it. Many of NBK‘s critics, I suspect, haven’t seen the movie or maybe even looked at the title. NBK is not a celebration of the two killers but a criticism on the media, that its exploits the popularity of the duo and it is no better than them.
Stone plays with the movie and directs it with the style of such directors like Stanley Kubrick or David Lynch. There are scenes of violence combined with satire and humor. One such example is a flashback of Mallory’s childhood, where she is abused by her father, played by Rodney Dangerfield. The scene is filmed in the style of a sitcom with a laugh track. In a sense, Stone shows how manipulative it can be, how the audience is meant to laugh at such disturbing acts. The style is sickening but yet engrossing. The violence is hard to watch but soon you can’t look away from the film.
The director’s cut of the film is unrated, but would most likely earn an NC-17 rating in theaters. But this is a film that really demands to be seen. It’s a widely misunderstood picture that’s still as gripping as when it came out.