Friday, 7 November 2014

Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers caused rather a bit of a controversy upon its original 1994 release. Aiming to satirise media representations of violence, the strongly 18-rated serial killer movie ended up accused of inciting ‘copycat’ crimes itself. Returning to it 20 years later with this new Blu-ray release, it’s not difficult to see why it raised so many eyebrows.

Mickey and Mallory Knox (Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis) are a pair of extremely dangerous murderers on a killing spree. But while the couple on the run provide the film’s Badlands-inspired emotional backbone, Stone’s real interest lies in the vast and sensationalised media storm that brews up around Mickey and Mallory – we see interviews with their ‘fans’ across the globe, and the film’s climax sees ratings-seeking journalist Wayne Gale (Robert Downey Jr., on fine egotistical form) broadcasting live from a prison riot Mickey incites, even as the riot descends into horrifying carnage. Important questions are raised about media portrayal of criminals – questions which there are no easy answers to and which are still relevant in 2014.

Stone adds to this theme with his use of hyper-stylised visuals. The violence may be more stylised than a Tarantino flick (indeed, Quentin wrote an early draft of the script) but this is all part of the highly political filmmaker’s argument – it’s telling that the fight scenes, which switch between colour and black & white seemingly at random, are shot in exactly the same style as a “reconstruction” in Gale’s show, the only notable difference being that Mickey and Mallory are played by different actors.

The sheer style and brutality of Natural Born Killers may leave you shocked on first watch, but close examination reveals a darkly satirical film with a thought-provoking central issue, one that’s as relevant in the year of the film’s 20th anniversary as it ever has been.


Post a Comment