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NATURAL BORN KILLERS

Without question, director Oliver Stone’s NATURAL BORN KILLERS ($25) is a brutal movie. Not only is this movie a brutal indictment of sensationalistic media, it is also brutally violent and brutally funny. NATURAL BORN KILLERS stars Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis as Mickey and Mallory, two crazed killers on a crime spree through America, who are turned into international media darlings by a sleazy tabloid TV show, which is hosted by an even sleazier Wayne Gale (Robert Downey Jr.). Although every cop in America is on the lookout for Mickey and Mallory, NATURAL BORN KILLERS adds an unbalanced lawman by the name of Jack Scagnetti (Tom Sizemore) to the mix. Of course, Scagnetti manages to be on hand when Mickey and Mallory are finally brought to justice. However, if you think the movie is over when Mickey and Mallory get locked away in prison- you are dead wrong.

Due to the level of that violence NATURAL BORN KILLERS depicts, this is a movie that is steeped in controversy and has met with some protests. Because of the controversy surrounding the film, Warner Home Video wouldn't release the director's cut of NATURAL BORN KILLERS and licensed this version of the movie out to a third party- this is something that Warner has never done with any other movie. While I think that NATURAL BORN KILLERS is a great motion picture, I couldn't possibly recommend this film to everyone. Individuals who are easily offended shouldn't see NATURAL BORN KILLERS, nor should teenage media zombies, because they would most assuredly misinterpret the anti-violent message of the movie.

Violence aside, NATURAL BORN KILLERS is one of the most visually disconcerting movies that I have ever seen. Stone plays mix and match with various film stocks, including Super 8, as well as shooting sequences on video, plus he shifts between color and black and white at the drop of a hat. There are times where no two shots within a scene seem to match, but the overall effect is astonishing. Despite Oliver Stone's visual bravado, I don't think NATURAL BORN KILLERS would have succeeded at all, had it not been for the film's rock solid performances. Woody Harrelson is like watching a ticking time bomb- looks completely harmless, until it explodes. Robert Downey Jr. practically steals the movie with his performance as the slimy, egotistical "journalist." Tom Sizemore is almost as scary as Harrelson, in the scenes where his lawman goes over the edge. Tommy Lee Jones turns in a hilarious scene stealing performance as the prison warden, who looks like he should be selling used cars. Finally, there is Rodney Dangerfield, who absolutely amazing in a dramatic role that works brilliantly against his established comic persona. The cast of NATURAL BORN KILLERS also includes O-Lan Jones, Edie McClurg, Balthazar Getty, Russell Means and Steven Wright.

Warner Home Video has issued the theatrical cut of NATURAL BORN KILLERS on DVD in a wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. NATURAL BORN KILLERS is framed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is very impressive, especially when one considers the nature of this particular motion picture. One could almost consider NATURAL BORN KILLERS to be a multimedia experiment, so the image isn't consistent all the way through. However, the image looks quite good throughout, with the transfer providing a sharp, stable image. Certainly 35mm looks better than Super 8 or video footage that was transferred to film, but each format manages to shine during the presentation. Depending on the circumstance, film grain can be very apparent or totally absent. Colors tend to appear strong and appealing. Blood reds and eerie greens, which appear extensively are completely solid and are reproduced without chroma noise or smearing. Blacks are generally deep and accurate, especially during black and white sequences. Clean dual layer authoring nicely hides all traces of digital compression artifacts.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack is aggressively mixed and sometimes can be a jarring as the film's visuals. Sound effects sometimes leap out at the viewer and are sometimes more modestly deployed and pan around the soundstage more naturally. The surround channels are well represented in the mix, sometimes calling more attention to themselves than the forward soundstage. This uneasy sound design works well within the context of NATURAL BORN KILLERS. Dialogue reproduction is clean and maintains full intelligibility, even though there are times when the track seems to be awash in sound. The bass channel is highly potent and sometimes downright explosive. A French Dolby Surround soundtrack is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles.

Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which provide access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a few supplements. Director Oliver Stone is featured on a running audio commentary that is at times a bit sparse and not as informative as some might like. I think a second party on the track would have helped, especially in asking questions about the controversy the film stirred up. Chaos Rising is a documentary on NATURAL BORN KILLERS that runs slightly more than 25 minutes and includes interviews, as well as addressing the film's controversial nature. Six deleted scenes are included on the DVD and each features an introduction by director Stone. Also on hand, is an alternate ending that also has its own director's introduction. The DVD also includes an excerpt from The Charlie Rose Show in which Oliver Stone is the featured guest talking about NATURAL BORN KILLERS. A theatrical trailer and cast/crew filmographies fill out the supplements.

NATURAL BORN KILLERS isn't a movie for every audience. If you are prepared for the subject matter, NATURAL BORN KILLERS is a powerful motion picture experience. Warner's DVD edition of the theatrical version looks and sounds great, so if you are interested, this is a disc worth checking out.

 
NATURAL BORN KILLERS 


Natural Born Killers - Oliver Stone...

ENHANCED FOR 16:9 TELEVISIONS 


DVD reviews are Copyright 2001 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.


 

 

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