Oliver Stone has directed a number of fine films, many of which you could call “prestige pictures,” that have included “Platoon,” “Born on the Fourth of July,” “JFK,” “Nixon,” and “Wall Street. He has earned three Oscars over the course of his incredibly successful career (out of 11 total nominations), two for directing the first two films on the previous list and one for writing the screenplay for the prison drama “Midnight Express.” It’s true that we’ve seen his judgment slip lately when it comes to picking films, choosing to make a completely unnecessary sequel to “Wall Street” and, more infamously, his much maligned epic “Alexander,” which he has tried to repair a number of times over the years with little success. However, there has been no other time in his career where his judgment has not only slipped, but appeared to be utterly absent, than when he decided to make a little film called “Natural Born Killers.”
The film follows two mass murderers, Mickey (Woody Harrelson) and Mallory (Juliette Lewis), as they go on a killing spree, beginning with Mallory’s parents. Their misadventures have them shooting up a restaurant and having a psychedelic experience in the middle of the desert where they encounter a rattlesnake that nearly brings their spree to an end, but the police catch up to them when they try to obtain some antidote from a pharmacy, landing them directly in jail. Mickey subsequently grants an interview to an eager TV host (Robert Downey Jr.) who specializes in killers just like him, but right in the middle of the interview, a riot breaks out, causing chaos to ensue throughout the prison, chaos that Mickey and Mallory are only too happy to add to.
“Natural Born Killers” is one of the most incompetently directed films that I’ve ever had the displeasure of seeing. It’s ugly, over-stylized, and seems to have been made for those suffering from A.D.D. Of course, there’s supposedly a reason behind Stone’s madness, and that’s to drill home the point that the media loves to glorify and sensationalize violence, but this is a point that every viewer will have already known since a very early age. This begs the question of why Stone felt the need to make a two-hour film, one that is nearly unwatchable, in an attempt to get this point across. Another possibility is that he simply made it to be as stylish as he could be.
The man had already won three Oscars and created an amazing body of work, so perhaps this was him throwing in the towel and making whatever he felt like, no matter what the result.
On the other hand, if he was serious about making a movie with a message, why present it in the most distracting, obnoxious way possible? Either way, the film remains a stain on an otherwise impressive filmography, one that is sure to baffle those who study his work. It contains some fine performances, particularly from Harrelson and Lewis, but everything around them is a complete meandering mess from the opening scene to the very last frame. At the very least, you don’t have to worry too much about thinking back on it, for it’s guaranteed to be forgotten almost instantly the moment it’s over.
“Natural Born Killers” comes to Blu-ray in a 1.85:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of mostly excellent quality. The parts of the film that aren’t shot in an over-the-top manner are crisp and clear, giving you a decent experience for at least that part of the film. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is top notch, giving you all sound elements at great levels and in perfect clarity. Overall, I suppose you could say the film has been given the best possible treatment that it could get, even if it is hard to tell at certain points.
Commentary and Introduction by Oliver Stone
Natural Born Killers: Method in the Madness
Chaos Rising: The Storm Around Natural Born Killers
NBK Evolution: How Would It All Go Down Now?
Charlie Rose Interview of Oliver Stone
Deleted Scenes with Introduction by Oliver Stone
Alternate Ending with Introduction by Oliver Stone
There are a lot of offerings on the disc, but unfortunately only a couple of them are really worth exploring. “Method in the Madness” is an interesting look at the making of the film that features interviews with Stone, editor Hank Corwin, and technical advisor Dale Dye. Likewise, the portion of Stone’s Charlie Rose interview included here is intriguing. As for the other extras, the commentary that Stone delivers is unfortunately just as bland as his film and the deleted scenes/alternate ending only serve to remind you that we are lucky that the film wasn’t longer than it was. The remaining featurettes (“Chaos Rising” and “NBK Evolution”) have some interesting parts, but aren’t particularly worth sitting through.
It can easily be said that “Natural Born Killers” ranks among the worst films in Oliver Stone’s filmography. It’s an incompetently-made attempt at drilling home an incredibly simplistic point that anyone can learn from turning on the news. Whatever reason Stone had for making it, luckily he has moved past it and has continued on in his career, which has even resulted in him making a good film every now and again. We can only hope that he’ll never have the urge to attempt something this disastrous ever again.