Thursday, August 6, 2009
Natural Born Killers (1994)
By Eric Jessen 8/5/09
Natural Born Killers is a religious experience for psychopaths and an angry rant against the TV generation. It's a twisted sitcom, a demented Robert Crumb cartoon, a pulp novel, a trashy newspaper and an acid trip. Oliver Stone's direction - hand held restless, gyrating camera, jumping quick cuts, black and white and color, tilted weird angles, fish-eye distorted curvy lenses, hip music, a river of blood, guns blazing, - is like a Quentin Tarantino movie on crack (I wasn't surprised to learn Tarantino wrote the story but not the script). It's every horrifying, gut wrenching, sex and violence exploitation scene stylized and put to Dr. Dre's smoothest beats and the banging of Nine Inch Nails. It's an unbelievable experience. It's a relentless assault on the eyes, like a thousand punches to the face, enough titillating elements to make you want to hurl. I felt myself sinking, lower and lower, feeling more and more empty as my senses were endlessly rampaged. It's a truly unnerving, dehumanizing feeling.
In Natural Born Killers Oliver Stone satirizes our world of the OJ Simpson trial and Ted Bundy. He pronounces every warped TV junkie child of Generation X a demon born for destruction, sick and deranged from watching Discovery Channel animal humping, ratings obsessed news, wars, and Kung Fu, westerns, and action movies (especially the ending of The Wild Bunch). Everyone is a killer or a corpse, crying inside, popping “E” and smoking weed, high on slam bang TV, blurting music lyrics, sitcom platitudes and reciting movie lines. Charles Manson is our “king.” It's a horrible scary wild hell.
Natural Born Killers is a million crazy things thrown into one. But at its heart it's a 1990's, shot gun wielding, frenzied, insane, perverted Bonnie and Clyde. We follow Mickey (Woody Harrelson) and Marley Knox (Juliette Lewis) as they go on a killing spree across rural America, devastating diners, grocery stores and gas stations, having sex in motels and their truck. They murder everyone in sight but always leave one person alive to tell their tale, making them a big hit, on the cover of Time, a favorite among rebellious teens.
Their journey of love, death and TV is strange and fascinating. The imagery is as mesmerizing as disorienting and haunting. Oliver Stone ventures into the depths of total mid 90's, self awareness. But in the end I was left with many questions and little to think about. Oliver Stone extensively ponders the TV zombie's mind and the result is tired hypothesis. The Knox duo carve their demonic, grim reaper, Javier Bardem from No Country for Old Men, place in the world mimicking TV slaughters because......... Marley was molested by her father (Rodney Dangerfield), Mickey's father committed suicide, “killing is pure” and no one is innocent, they're too jaded to care. The world is “hell” because........everyone has seen too many boobs, sex, blood, and sodomy on TV, not to mention, the media only cares about ratings.
Natural Born Killers is a unique masterpiece of style, unforgettable and impossible to ignore. But it contemplates and generalizes, searching the mind and finding clichés and emptiness.