Natural Born Killers

Natural Born Killers (1994)

Directed By: Oliver Stone

118 Minutes

1 Golden Globe Nomination (Best Director – Oliver Stone)

The plot is simple. Mickey and Mallory Knox (Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis) are serial killers who get  massive attention and a fan base from the media. Directed by Oliver Stone and based on what once resembled a Quentin Tarantino screenplay. Robert Downey Jr., Tom Sizemore, Rodney Dangerfield, and Tommy Lee Jones co star.

I love Quentin Tarantino, but all film buffs and guys in there 20’s do. Everything he does in done to perfection. His dialogue is sharp, witty, fun, and you get lost in listening. He also has perfect casting, exciting suspense, and violent scenes that please our inner dinosaur. I’ve seen and loved all the films he has directed. So I figured, it’s time to check out the movies he wrote but did not direct. I haven’t seen True Romance yet, but I loved From Dusk Till Dawn. After seeing that, it was time to check out Oliver Stone’s take on a Tarantino screenplay. While I feel Robert Rodriguez Movies are hit and miss, I haven’t seen anything Oliver Stone had done. He seems like someone who’s films I would like though. I’ve seen positive review after positive review. So, it was quite a surprise when I didn’t like it.

First, I want to make sure people don’t group me with the usual type of people who hate this movie. I’m not one of those people who feel that ‘oh this movie is the devil’s work, it’ll make people imitate the violence and such yadda yadda yadda’. No, I love violence in films whether it’s done dramatically and flows with the story such as in Goodfellas; or if the violence is just for pure entertainment such as in Desperado.

What bothers me about this film is the way it was shot.  The movie feels like it’s made by guy who wants really hard to be David Lynch or Kubrick. And that’s what bugs me, Oliver Stone is a big and well respected director who had several major films already under his belt. The film throws way too much stuff at you at a non stop pace. It’ll be black and white for 5 seconds, then completely green, the camera is at those sideways angle, then make quick flashes to blood covered faces,  become cartoon, and all these other random film techniques. It’s like when a film student first gets a camera and he plays around by switching it to sepia tone, then nightvision, then infrared. All these film techniques feel random and are distracting. All they did for me was make me feel dizzy. I get annoyed when films use the ‘shaky cam’ through the good majority of the film. This film is like the ‘shaky cam’ got drunk and pissed all over me when I tried to watch the movie. I don’t know why filmmakers always feel the need to constantly move the camera around during a simple scenes of people talking or something. It’s okay for the camera to move during an action scene, but in a scene of people talking; do we really need to keep moving the camera around making us nauseous and distracting us from what they are saying.  Watch a Hitchcock movie, observe how the a film is scene is shot. He storyboarded it all in his head. He didn’t see everything at strange angles and shaking like a waiter carrying a heavy tray. Can’t we just sit back and enjoy what’s in the shot.

Quentin Tarantino himself stopped watching after 10-15 minutes. I watched it all the way to the end, because I wanted to see if the movie ever picked up. Nope, it’s all dizzying nonsense all the way through. I get it. People want to try new things we haven’t seen before;  but none of it works. Wes Anderson, Michel Gondry, and Tim Burton are all directors who play around with their films and create wonderfully playful scenes. They try new things that add to the film rather than distract. There is no sense of grace. There is no sense of fun. It feels like Stone felt ‘hey I bet if I did this, they’d all get headaches’.

But let’s now get to the worst part of all of this. Underneath all the schizo dizzying nonsense, there was a good movie in here. The dialogue while nothing compared to Pulp Fiction still has that Tarantino pizzazz. The acting all pretty good, nothing phenomenal. Still you can see the actors all have enthusiasm for the movie. That all however to me is what makes the bad parts all the worse. The way this movie is filmed makes it practically unwatchable and that’s a crime because the movie would have worked otherwise. In Reservoir Dogs, you feel like you are at that table listening in on that conversation at the beginning of the movie and you hang on to every word. In this movie, I don’t feel that I’m directly invited to the conversation. I feel like I’m at the cool kid’s table at lunch, and two people are discussing something interesting while 5 other people fling skittles at me while making farting noises and poking me with a ruler.

Also, the ending reminded me heavily of the ending of Inglorious Basterds. I won’t spoil too much. However, they have similar scenarios and you could have fun comparing the two. One can be seen as how to put a final nail in a coffin, and one can be seen as putting a stamp on a letter you are rather proud of. In short, this is the most disappointed I have ever been by a film. However, despite this being in my top 10 most hated movies list, you may enjoy it. Everyone else does it seems, but that might just be that Tarantino fans are afraid of even admitting a piece of dog poop that Quentin stepped in is a piece of shit.

I’d Recommed Instead:

– From Dusk Till Dawn

– Pulp Fiction

– Wild At Heart

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  1. Lisa M. Headrick says:

    “The movie feels like it’s been made by a guy who wants really hard to be David Lynch or Kubrick.”

    This review feels like it has been made by a guy who wants to be Roger Ebert but produces a review that accomplishes the same effect that he complains about: “schizo dizzying nonsense.” The sidebars “feel random and are distracting”. The Reviewer does not provide evidence from the film to support his ramblings—which really do not support a unified topic—and grossly overgeneralized comments. This review might make the reader exclaim what has been written in the review: “Can’t we just sit back and enjoy what’s in the shot[?]”

    The reader’s purpose in reading a review is to discuss Natural Born Killers. The reader is probably not interested in the Reviewer’s reminiscing about his exploits in the school lunchroom, or that he has not seen True Romance yet but loves From Dusk to Dawn. Why are we as readers subjected to a detailed discussion about Hitchcock allegedly keeping a storyboard in his head? That has nothing at all to do with NBK.

    The Reviewer misses the point of the choices made by the director to create a certain mood: a disorienting and dizzying effect. Micky and Mallory Knox are drug addicts on a killing spree. The changes in the random film techniques—including the use of the shaky cam—help the viewer come into a state of mind where they can get inside the character’s heads. “This film is like the ‘shaky cam’ got drunk and pissed all over me when I tried to watch the movie.” Good. The technique works then. “This film throws way too much stuff at you at a nonstop pace” because good art is supposed to imitate real life. Micky and Mallory are on the edge and that’s probably how they would feel.

    The Reviewer notes how he loves violence in films if it’s dramatic, flowing with the plot, or just gratuitous. He claims that Quentin Tarantino always has “violent scenes that please our inner dinosaur.” Again, the Reviewer misses the point. The movie is not gory like a B-movie slasher flick that’s about violence. Natural Born Killers is about the way media makes criminals into celebrities. Of course a movie about serial killers has to have some violence. The violence is not only relevant to the story. A big effort is made to explain why Micky and Malory turned out like they did. The first kills are because Malory has been a victim of molestation by her father and her mother did nothing to stop it. The killing of Marlory’s parents is actually portrayed in a comical way.

    The Reviewer makes gross overgeneralizations that couldn’t be proven beyond a matter of opinion even if an effort had been made to support the claim. Regarding Quentin Tarantino, “Everything he does [in] done to perfection.” That goes without explaining.

    “There is no sense of grace. There is no sense of fun. It feels like Stone felt ‘hey I bet if I did this, they’d all get headaches.” I don’t think that is an accurate statement regarding the film. Arguably it does apply to the quality of the review. Excuse me while I get some aspirin.

  2. Lisa M. Headrick says:

    P.S. Where did you get the idea that “Quentin Tarantino himself stopped watching the movie after 10-15 minutes”? It’s very important to name the source of that information since you mentioned it.

  3. Feel free to get another aspirin before reading this.

    Pulled from the F.A.Q. on imdb – “More recently, while promoting Grindhouse on a talk radio show in 2007, Tarantino stated that when he sat down to watch the film, he was enjoying it until the “terrible Mallory Knox sitcom thing.” He also went on to say that he has never watched the film beyond that part. When asked if he would ever direct his own Natural Born Killers, Tarantino said that he’d come to terms with Stone’s version and that he would just let it be.”

    Also, I must say it is odd that you make wanting to be like Roger Ebert a bad thing. The site itself has a bullet point that says “Build a name for yourself and be the next Roger Ebert!”

    Also the lunch table line was a metaphor explaining my connection to the film’s dialogue. Although, if you’d like, you could complain about how smug I am instead.

    As far as mentioning Hitchcock; I was referring to films that are beautifully shot and feel planned out as opposed to a random idea because it might look cool.

    Also, I understood the whole media making them into celebrities. Granted, I got that from following the story. I would have gotten that regardless of the dizzying film techniques. I also got the whole in the head of drug induced madness; but that’s done so much better in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

    I did hardly mention the plot, you got me there. But, I figured the film wanted to distract me as much from the story as possible with all its nonsense. To me, the film techniques feel like the main focus here. This style turned me off of the film and made more of an impact on my viewing experience.

    Still, that’s my opinion of the film. I figured there should be at least one negative review of the movie lost in the countless love letters to it.

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