Posted by: ckckred | January 31, 2013

Natural Born Killers

Oliver Stone's widely controversial splatter fest

Oliver Stone’s widely controversial splatter fest

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.


  1. Oliver Stone really extract sthe chemistry between the two characters…great film!

    • Sure is. This is one of my favorites by Stone. Thanks for commenting.

  2. Such a nutty movie, but one that takes you for a total ride and never lets you go until the final credit has rolled-off the screen. Nice review.

    • Thanks! Oliver Stone really directs this film in a way only a few others could achieve. It’s violent but I couldn’t look away.

  3. I really liked the movie. It’s a pity we’ll never know what Tarantino would have turned his script into =( Originally NBK and True Romance were supposed to be one movie, I also wonder how that would have turned out.

    • I heard Tarantino was actually really shocked when he saw it. I didn’t know NBK and True Romance were supposed to be one movie. Thanks for commenting.

  4. Good stuff man, great movie!!

    • Thanks! It really is. I know the violence might turn off some people but it really is a fantastic film.

  5. Never seen this, but I’ve always thought it sounded a lot like Badlands.

    • It does have a Badlands feel to it as well as Bonnie and Clyde. I highly recommend this one, though it is very violent. Thanks for commenting.

  6. Glad to hear you came around to it. It really is a movie that everyone should see, and one day I plan to write about it in depth. Fantastic flick, but as you mention, VERY difficult to watch the first time out!

    • Thanks! I think I first saw this one when I was fifteen which is too young of an age to really appreciate the film. I can see that the violence could turn off some people but Stone’s commentary is really fascinating.

  7. I only saw NBK once a long time ago and thought it was good, not great. Being much older, it sounds like–based on your review–I should give it another shot.

    I looked up Stone’s filmography because I couldn’t recall anything he’s done in awhile. It looks like 1986-1996 was his decade.

    I unfortunately watched Alexander (The Final Cut) maybe 6 months ago. It probably still would have been a lousy movie if someone other than Colin Farrell (e.g. Russell Crowe) was cast as Alexander. (It does make me think a director should take a chance on the aging Val Kilmer the way Aronofsky did with Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler.)

    • NBK is one I definitely would recommend seeing again. Stone’s best films really do come from the first decade of his career. After that his films loses his edge. Yeah, Alexander was pretty awful. Thanks for commenting.

    • Really agree with you there on your point about Aronofsky ala Rourke/Kilmer. Kilmer desperately needs a Wrestler about as bad as Bridges needed a Crazy Heart…would love to Sam Jackson get off the crazy train, De Niro an age appropriate character study with threads of Raging Bull and Deer Hunter and don’t get me started on re-imagining, Stalone somewhere between Rocky, Cop Land and Rambo but only a smidgen…Or just give Val another Wonderland for Jimmy’s sake!

  8. “Stone amps up the violence at even levels that Tarantino wouldn’t have taken it.”

    I think this is hard to claim looking at Django!

    • Tarantino said he was shocked when he saw NBK.

      • But when was that though, back in 1994?

      • That is funny considering the story of Wes Craven leaving a screening of Reservoir Dogs during the ear-cutting scene. I read the talking through the ear bit was improvised by Madsen.

        I think the music “Stuck in the Middle With You” playing during the ultra-violent ear-cutting scene had to be Tarantino’s nod to Clockwork Orange’s infamous “Singing in the Rain” scene (also consider Madsen danced too). Mixing music with violence in such a way heightens the effects of the violence tenfold.

        Really, at the time, I thought the bathroom chainsaw scene in Scarface was shocking as hell! Still the first thing I remember about that film.

  9. One of Stone’s best efforts for sure. I have not seen this in several years but your review has me itching for a rewatch.

    • Yeah, this is definitely one of Stone’s best. I feel like watching it again right now. It’s an incredible film that really stays with you. Thanks for commenting.

      • got to wait till my boy is asleep to watch this one for sure. 🙂

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