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Tarantino is Review: ‘Natural Born Killers’

Posted on the 24 January 2013 by House Of Geekery @houseofgeekery

natural born killers posterAnother example of a Tarantino script being handled by another director…even if something got lost along the way.

Director: Oliver Stone

Cast: Woody Harrelson, Juliette Lewis, Robert Downey Jr., Tom Sizemore, Tommy Lee Jones

Synopsis: Two madly in love serial killers leave a trail of bodies across the country before eventually being arrested. During their trail and imprisonment the glorification of the killers in the media have made them superstars.

Review: Whenever I re-watch NBK it leaves me with the sense of a lost opportunity. Tarantino’s script was sharp, scathing and satirical whilst Stone’s interpretation is…stupid. I wish I could find a better word for it but his direction is completely fucking barmy and there’s no good reason for it. Even after watching the making of the film, hearing the directors remarks and read other comments on the movie I’m still downright perplexed by the way this material has been handled.

Natural Born Killers

First and foremost is the visual style of the film. Actually, style may not be the right term for it as that implies forethought or some consistent theme or approach is evident. ‘Clusterfuck’ might be a better term. Stone vomits crooked camera angles, random color filters, slow-motion, text, projected backgrounds, stock footage and other nonsense over the viewer but none of it has any meaning. An argument might have been made for it expressing the point of view of the psychotic characters if it had been restricted to their scenes of the movie but it is applied to the entire film. Even the fictional show ‘America’s Most Wanted’ is shown this way which outright detracts from the ‘message’ that the media glorifies killers because it doesn’t supply a realistic depiction of the media. The same applies to the violence – to contrast the way Mickey and Mallory are portrayed in the media the viewer needs to see the real side of them. Their actions should be brutal, bloody and realistic, not shown through a spinning camera and a bright green filter while cartoon characters dance in the background. Whatever was intended to be said about the nature of American media is completely mishandled.

Natural Born Killers

Likewise the use of the characters is very poor. Mickey and Mallory’s actions get explained away by showing that they had abusive childhoods. Not only are they provided with something to make them sympathetic and understandable but it’s down in a highly distasteful and offensive manner by putting it in the form of a sitcom. We also see most of the story from the perspective of these two, putting the viewer on side with them when we should be given their actions and their depiction in the media on even footing. It’s little wonder that the two became pop-culture icons, which is ironic given what the movie is trying to say about the media. Much more screen time should have been given to Robert Downey Jr.’s media personality Wayne Gale as the filter through which they are presented to the public. In fact, I’d go as far to say that the movie should’ve been primarily about him, not Mickey and Mallory Knox.

Natural Born Killers

The few saving graces of the movie is what little of the original script makes it through the visual and audio fail and the performances. Jones and Sizemore overplay their roles in the little screen time they have but Harrelson and Lewis are perfectly cast as the Knox’s. Still, their performance would’ve been more striking if shown in a more realistic, less cartooning manner. A dual performance, playing the realistic and shocking Knox’s and their TV superstar Knox’s would’ve been much more interesting. Downey Jr. is also a great part of the movie but needs much more screen time.

Ultimately it feels like Stone was trying to create the effect of an acid trip after having one described to him and used whatever script was on his desk that day. He hasn’t tried to satirize the media beyond ‘the media likes violence’ and instead tried to make something that’s shocking and weird. A lost opportunity.

Score: THREE outta TEN

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