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Ghost Canyon

'Natural Born Killers (Director's Cut)'
(Woody Harrelson, Juliette Lewis, et al / 2-Disc DVD / NR / (1994) 2009 / Warner Bros.)

Overview: Oliver Stone would like to have the last word on America's media culture of voyeurism and violence, but whatever he's trying to say in this grisly, unconventional movie comes across terribly garbled. Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis play traveling serial killers who become television celebrities when a Geraldo-like personality (Robert Downey Jr.) turns their madness into the biggest story in the country. Stone extensively rewrote an original script by Quentin Tarantino, and he employs a mosaic of different film stocks, video, and pop pastiches to create a sense of blurred lines between visual phenomena.

DVD Verdict: Mickey (Harrelson) and Mallory (Lewis) like to kill things. Animal, people, whatever, you name it: they don't want it to live; pure and simple. Mallory's incestuous abusive father (Dangerfield): DEAD; Mallory's subordinate mother: DEAD; anyone that has tried to pick up on Mallory since she learned kung fu: DEAD; and then there are the others that they killed just because.

Sound pointless? It is.

'Natural Born Killers' claims to be a film that follows the rise and rise of the media using a journalistic fear of death as its base. It isn't. Natural Born Killers does not claim to be a deep and probing insight into the psyche of a serial killer. It isn't. 'Natural Born Killers' could have been a mildly entertaining action movie without any pseudo-philosophical mumbling. It isn't. While watching the film it became more and more perplexing as to just what Oliver Stone was hoping to achieve in making this. Failing as both informative high art and low brow entertainment the film has no discernible audience.

The America travelled by Mickey and Mallory during the film's first half is populated by hollow shells and vague ideas of characters that are neither likeable nor believable, inducing no sense of sympathy or loss when they are inevitably killed. The only character possessing any backstory whatsoever is Mallory and it is one rife with abuse and familial dysfunction, however, it is not presented in order to give depth to or flesh out her character, but rather it is a vain and failed attempt to justify her later actions as a mass murderer, characterising Mickey as a valiant hero when he murders her parents.

In a speech delivered by Mickey to an annoying TV personality (Downey Jr.) he claims that "Murder is pure" citing its abundance in the natural world, justifying his urge to kill as coming from the animal within. In a black comedy, this sort of skewed morality would be humorous, however the level of reverence that 'Natural Born Killers' gives to this type of verbal diarrhoea is utterly ridiculous. The film is not funny or at all insightful.

In an obviously self-conscious irony, Mickey and Mallory are portrayed as the sanest people in the film. The fast talking prison warden (Jones) and the psychotic detective that put Mickey and Mallory into prison are equally as psychotic as the killers themselves. The fact that the media can make profits from broadcasting the easily discarded views of the criminally insane is not one that was lost on me, however Natural Born Killers does not take place in the real world; it takes place in a fantasy land purely of Oliver Stone's devising.

In the real world a ridiculous quote about the pureness of murder would be refuted and stomped upon by the anchorman to assert the moral superiority of both himself and the middle-classes that he represents. In Natural Born Killers this quote is enough to convince the anchorman and the entire nation not only of the killer's righteousness but of their need to support them by picketing outside court appearances with "WE (HEART) MICKEY AND MALLORY" signs and personally aid them in a prison break respectively.

What absolute bulls**t!

For all of its slick direction and competent use of popular contemporary music I felt like I should have liked 'Natural Born Killers' a lot more than I did. Ultimately, however, the film is just mindless. It seeks to lampoon America's obsession with the psychotic and the ability of the media to create that which it skews however this is not done with any form of subtlety. The film instead provides a veritable bludgeon over the head through a few horrifically out of place monologues and a comic-book style of directing that compensates for, more than it aids the storytelling.

It is pure style over substance. Failed symbolism and a surreal atmosphere do not even come close to compensating for 'Natural Born Killers' many glaring flaws. [HC] This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Disc 1:
Introduction by Oliver Stone (New Intro HD)
Commentary by director Oliver Stone (from original SD release)

Disc 2:
NBK Evolution: How Would It All Go Down Now? – New documentary providing a look at how the film might be different if today’s technology advancements were available (in HD)
Chaos Rising The Storm Around Natural Born Killers - Shocking ‘making-of’ documentary about the storm of controversy surrounding the film( from original SD release)
Deleted scenes with optional commentary by Oliver Stone (from original SD release) - The Desert, Steven Wright, The Courtroom, The Hun Brothers, The Drive-In, and Denis Leary
Alternate Ending with introduction by Oliver Stone (from original SD release)
Charlie Rose Interview – Charlie Rose interviews Oliver Stone on the making of this violent film (from the HD DVD release in SD)
NBK Director’s Cut Trailer