Natural Born Killers (***1/2)

(1994) dir. Oliver Stone – Woody Harrelson, Juliette Lewis, Robert Downey, Jr., Tommy Lee Jones, & Tom Sizemore

Synopsis: ‘Natural Born Killers’ presents the story of Mickey (Woody) and Mallory (Juliette), lovers and killers, enamored of their frenetic and blood-spattered lives; of M&M, media pets; of M&M, mass-murderers loved and reviled by the public; and so forth. Pursued figuratively by newsman Wayne Gale (Robert Downy Jr) and literally by cop/writer Jack Scagnetti (Tom Sizemore), the duo leaves a trail of blood, horror, etc., which you the audience experience through schizophrenic camerawork, the movie itself a mash-up of filming styles, camera shots, and colored filters.

Review: Action. Sex. Violence. Glamour and showmanship. Music. (Lots and lots of music, actually.) More violence. Surefire ingredients of a movie hit. But not. Natural Born Killers is difficult to explain; there’s not much to say about it, other than that it’s an exercise in excess. It works as a harsh critique of modern media culture (among other things), but as a movie fails to cohere completely. Part of the way it makes its point is through disorientation, which does help to make the point, but alienates the viewer too much: by constantly reminding you that you’re watching a movie (and suspending any possible suspension of disbelief), you’re made less sympathetic to the movie as a story. As a film, it’s well-made, and it’s entertaining for the most part—but it certainly doesn’t become a great movie in the process.

Rating: [•••½] out of [•••••]

Etc.: As a side-note, the NBK DVD has one of the first “alternate endings” I’ve seen that’s actually worth its salt as an alternate ending, i.e., substantially and chillingly different than the ending you’re treated to by the movie itself.