And yet, America kept consuming it. Snoop Dogg sold millions of CDs, video games amped up the gore, and children could quote the grisly details of the O.J. Simpson murder trial as if it were written by Dr. Seuss.
Among this bipolar atmosphere of fascination and revulsion, Oliver Stone made Natural Born Killers. Not quite a satire, not quite an exploitation flick, NBK was an epic, frenzied, wildly entertaining meta-movie that skewered the sick symbiosis between violent criminals and the media/Hollywood/celebrity complex. It was met with acclaim by those who got it, and derision by those who didn't.
The mayhem of NBK begins when Mickey (Woody Harrelson), a working-class bumpkin whose spirit has been poisoned by too much TV, rescues his teenage girlfriend Mallory (Juliette Lewis) from her household. The home, a filthy sitcom set complete with incessant laugh track, is lorded over by a darkly abusive and unforgettable Rodney Dangerfield.
Mickey's liberation of Mallory begins an amoral Southwestern road trip of killing, hallucinogens, torture, kidnapping, and more killing. At the end of each spree, they leave one survivor to tell the story to a ravenous press. Their exploding fame, popularity even, drives sadomasochistic super-cop Jack Scagnetti (Tom Sizemore) to hunt the two like a ravenous grizzly stalking prey, while tabloid TV producer Wayne Gale (Robert Downey Jr with a sleazy English accent) tries to get the "get" with the couple as their reputation grows.
This is not a normal movie, even for Oliver Stone. Mickey and Mallory's scattered psyches splatter the screen with rapidly switching media that jumps from sitcom to animation to cheesy movie set to video to grainy black-and-white, often for just seconds at a time. And Stone makes NBK exhilarating by artfully adorning the killing scenes with imaginative photography and rock music, incurring among his audience the uncomfortable effect of simultaneously enjoying and tsk-tsking the violence. Some critics labeled it hypocrisy, but NBK brilliantly leaves the attentive viewer with more questions as to whether they're part of the solution or the problem itself. It's as if Stone is saying, "Of course entertainment is violent and violence is entertaining. Look, I'm doing it right now. So what are you going to do about it?"
Natural Born Killers is neither porno nor sermon; it's both, and it works miraculously.
Run time: 118 mins
In Theaters: Friday 26th August 1994
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures
Production compaines: Warner Bros. Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 47%
Fresh: 16 Rotten: 18
IMDB: 7.3 / 10
Director: Oliver Stone
Starring: Woody Harrelson as Mickey Knox, Juliette Lewis as Mallory Knox, Robert Downey Jr. as Wayne Gale, Tommy Lee Jones as Warden Dwight McClusky, Tom Sizemore as Det. Jack Scagnetti, Rodney Dangerfield as Mallory's Dad, Edie McClurg as Mallory's Mom, Russell Means as Old Indian, Maria Pitillo as Deborah, Sean Stone as Kevin
Also starring: Robert Downey Jr, O-Lan Jones, Ed White, Richard Lineback, Corinna Everson, Dale Dye, Edward Conna, Evan Handler, Sally Jackson, Phil Neilson, Brian Barker, Corinna Laszlo, Balthazar Getty, Jane Hamsher, Don Murphy, Clayton Townsend, Richard Rutowski, Oliver Stone, David Veloz
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