Woody Harrelson, Juliette Lewis, Robert Downey Jr.
Oliver Stone, Quentin Tarantino
Is "Natural Born Killers" an indictment of our current society that is so completely fascinated with crime, criminals and everything that waxes dramatic? Or, is it simply a glossy, stylized romp through random acts of violence?
Oliver Stone's "Natural Born Killers" takes the life of two of society's rejects, Mickey and Mallory, and allows them to fall in love and embark on a nationwide killing spree that becomes fodder for the press, an obsession for law enforcement and, ultimately, they become folk heroes to the common man across America.
The film, which on the surface appears to be incredibly and over-the-top violent, is actually far less violent than many films with a lesser rating. While we see shootings and killings, the vision is seldom graphic in nature. These events are much more about attitude and atmosphere than they are the violence itself.
The word "intoxication" is the word I think of most when I think of the film "Natural Born Killers." Mickey (Woody Harrelson) and Mallory (Juliette Lewis) become intoxicated by killing and the fame it brings...Reporter Wayne Gale (Robert Downey, Jr.) becomes intoxicated by the story, the ratings, the spotlight...Warden McClusky (Tommy Lee Jones) is intoxicated by his power and justice.
The script, by Stone and Quentin Tarantino, vividly brings to life this intoxication in scenes that often resemble television shows and other times take on such a psychedelic feeling that it almost feels like we're in the middle of one of those lava lamps where you look through the hole and you see different visions every time you look in it.
"Natural Born Killers", for me, is a visionary film because it sees the truth of our society and where we are headed. We are living in a world where celebrity allows you to get away with most anything, such as in the O.J. Simpson trial, and where even the most heinous criminal becomes an overnight celebrity. In "Natural Born Killers," Stone and Tarantino are, to me, clearly say that we can't just blame the criminals for the deterioration of our society...it's all of us who buy into the drama, the glamour and the excitement that allows the cycle to perpetuate.
Stellar performances, a powerful, insightful script, groundbreaking camerawork and the unique vision of Oliver Stone combine to make "Natural Born Killers" a bold, visionary film that may shock, may offend, may alienate...but, in the end, it is a film you will remember.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic