~ Natural Born Killers is the Blind Spot entry for February. Full listing here. ~
Oliver Stone’s bloodthirsty psychadelic serial killer acid trip came as a surprise for my second installment in the Blind Spot Series.
I was drawn to Natural Born Killers for the same reason as most, a Quentin Tarantino script. But in 1994 Tarantino was yet to become a household name. Lacking the budget and industry sway Tarantino surrendered his involvement to a modest ‘Story by’ credit.
Not knowing too much about Oliver Stone’s directorial style Natural Born Killers came as a bit of a shock. Utilising unconventional camera techniques, brash editing, and spry satire Stone’s altered screenplay views like Bonnie and Clyde vs. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Inspiring books such as Ben Elton’s ‘Popcorn’ and raising public awareness to the glorification of violence in the media Stone holds no reservations for the lighthearted, delivering Tarantino’s irony in a hail of bullets and blood spatter.
Tracking Mickey and Mallory Knox across a sprawling New Mexico landscape the story follows their psycopathic escapades opening with a chaotic and chilling first scene. With their notoriety adequately plastered across the nation like the second coming of Charles Manson, the public fosters a deluded admiration for the passionate killing machines Mickey and Mallory Knox.
Robert Downey Jr. dons an over-stereotyped Australian tongue for the role of crazed media mogul Wayne Gale; the man that will catapult the psychotic killers to cult hero status with his highly tailored yet popularly insensitive TV show, American Maniacs. Reporting and profiling on America’s most manic criminals Gale is naturally drawn to the happy couple as they gallivant across the New Mexico desert leaving a trail of bodies and destruction in their wake.
Hot on their heels we find Detective Jack Scagnetti, a translucent charade of fame and sadism representing the police force’s finest. Intent on catching Mickey and Mallory, tallying them up as another arrest for the Scagnetti ego trip he loses track of their loose sanity and a further dynamic to Natural Born Killers is thrown into the mix.
Divided up into three distinct parts, following the diner massacre, a clear profile of Mickey and Mallory’s psychopathy begins to take shape. Expressing their mania with delightfully wacky cinematography Stone toys with the camera effectively adding to the chaos leaving the viewer’s head swimming in a pool of nightmarish imagery. Opting to tell their back story in old-style American sitcom, canned laughter an’ all, Stone throws a grotesque father, ill-caring mother and unloved brother into Mallory’s life. Crafting a sympathetic reaction from the audience Mallory’s knight in blood stained armour strides through the door.
Mickey, immediately drumming up a rapport with Mallory, that age old cliché of love at first sight is a welcome addition in this backwardly twisted shell of a home, a shell soon exposed to Mickey and Mallory’s tornado of rage. A scene, that in hindsight, Stone hints at with a clever use of imagery during Mickey’s escape from a prison work farm. Scene analysis aside Mickey and Mallory begin their spree with no intention of slowing down. During a series of montage footage we get our first taste of their public image, opening up the floor to the philosophical debate that subtly plays itself out for the remaining ninety minutes.
Beneath the wacky surface of Stone’s direction lies an intricate web of ideas with the media at the crux. An interesting essay found online hits the nail on the head.
“The media reflects its own interests and fears while giving the public what it wants. The public and the media are equally fascinated by death and murder and want to focus on it whenever possible. As a result, through shear repetition, violent events become trivialized and lose their original impact and meaning.“
Going a long way to explain the majority of Stone’s imagery Natural Born Killers capitalises on this uncomfortable argument and delivers a fiesty depiction of the dangers of ignoring this insight into the human psyche. Notably present in Natural Born Killers‘ grisly conclusion it pays to wonder whether Tarantino would have opted for a similar dose of cultural analysis? There are a number of elements that scream archetypal Quentin but NBK is Oliver Stone’s and always will be.
With the ability to shock at a moments notice Stone has crafted, alongside co-screenplay writers David Veloz and Richard Rutowski, a film that doesn’t sit well with all viewers. You won’t find it shining proudly at the front of a cinephile’s DVD collection but it definitely shouldn’t be ignored either.
With more tenacity than Ben Elton could shake a stick at Natural Born Killers soars at the peak of the psychotic crime genre. It knocks back a mushroom and crusies in an open top Dodge Challenger joining you for the uncomfortably desensitised joyride of mass murders and hallucinations.
Worth my Time and happy I chose it for my February film of the month as part of my Blind Spot Series I may return to it at a later date for a retrospective viewing but it certainly isn’t an easy watch once you get down to the nitty gritty.
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~ Happy Viewing ~
The Grand Budapest Hotel is blinding in March.