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Natural Born Killers

Years ago I saw NATURAL BORN KILLERS, and I hated it. But that was years ago. Like Woody Harrelson says in the opening scene about the last time he ate key lime pie, I was a different person then. I’ve mellowed over the years. I’m more open to crazy shit and mega-acting. I’m not as strident about certain things. I’m ready to appreciate it as a weird crime movie, maybe, even if it still comes off as a ridiculously heavy-handed message movie about the most obvious fucking message in the world (have you noticed how the media exploits violence?). So let’s give it the same respect we give the pie. Let’s give it its day in court.

Of course, I got no clue why somebody would be skeptical about key lime pie. Maybe that’s the best clue into Mickey Knox’s derangement. Quentin Tarantino sure liked writing about pie when he was young. He wrote the original script this was based on but would only accept a “story by” credit after it was heavily re-written by Oliver Stone, Stone’s buddy Richard Rutowski and David PERMANENT MIDNIGHT Veloz.

The movie stars Harrelson and Juliette Lewis as Mickey and Mallory, two dumb hicks who fall in love, murder the girl’s parents, go on a road trip killing people and laughing about it, talk about how much they’re in love, argue, then get caught halfway through. At that point it’s about them later on in prison when tabloid TV journalist Wayne Gale (Robert Downey Jr.) comes to interview them for his show American Maniacs. (Somehow they’re in the same prison.) Then they get loose and take him with them. Mild satire. Spastic clips of ’90s rock and Leonard Cohen. Footage from NIGHT OF THE LEPUS, lots of talk and imagery about demons. The end.

When I first saw this movie I found its visual style annoying. It keeps cutting between different film stocks and black and white with no rhyme or reason to it, just kinda trying to look like a collage. There are some little animated clips where Mickey is a hulking monster, I guess this is his self-image of how powerful he is while murdering people, so it makes sense. There are lots of quick cuts to random images and alot of times if they’re driving in the car or there’s a window on their hotel room or something instead of doing rear projection of an exterior Stone uses stock footage of nature or explosions or old movies. An aggressively artificial type of look. Remember how in THE DOORS Jim Morrison made that horrible experimental film in film school? I thought that was supposed to be funny but I guess not, that became Oliver Stone’s style by the time of this movie.

In 2012 I still don’t dig the style but I think I have more respect for it. Although now it’s been imitated enough in stuff like the CRANK movies and DOMINO to seem pretty tame, at the time it was very ballsy to shoot an expensive studio movie by a big name director in that sort of “fuck you, I’m doing it this way because fuck you” type of style. At least in NATURAL BORN KILLERS it was supposed to tie in to the substance of the movie because it was what we probly called a “channel surfing aesthetic” back then so it created an impressionistic portrait of a schizophrenic, media saturated society. Or some shit.

But if you’re not impressed by the style there’s not alot left to latch onto, and that’s a big problem. Both Harrelson and Lewis are good in it, getting into the roles with the ol’ wild abandon, but I’m not sure what’s supposed to be interesting about these characters. Obviously they’re not sympathetic. They do horrible things, don’t have much of a noticeable human side and are not really funny or charismatic or of average intelligence. To me they don’t have a seductive glamour or anything like that, but they’re probly supposed to. Harrelson’s hairdo and LEON sunglasses sure did not turn out to be a timeless look or one that is evocative of the time period in a good way. They’re not really scary, because they don’t feel like real people you would know or run into or hear about, and there’s nothing really grounded about the story since it’s all based on being like a movie and not reality, so everything takes place in old timey diners or psychedelic deserts or places like that, and most of the time while they’re on the run it seems like everybody knows who they are and nobody’s trying to catch them.

You know, it’s the kind of world where they get bit by snakes and go to a giant super market sized drug store looking for “snake bite juice” but there’s a big empty shelf with a sign that says “snake bite juice sold out” so then they have to go into the pharmacy and threaten the guy with guns so they can get their snake bit juice (which I guess isn’t actually sold out?) Then it cuts to clips of butterflies, ants, wild dogs, that kind of stuff. Because, the media.

Tom Sizemore plays a sleazy supercop who’s actually a psychotic pervert. I’m not sure what his character is supposed to add. Maybe the idea is that he’s a celebrity cop because he’s as fucked in the head as the celebrity killers? Then why does his psychosis have to be secret? He keeps his sicko side a secret, and is a celebrity because of his phony image as a good cop.

Some of the other supporting characters fare a little better. Tommy Lee Jones is kinda funny as the cartoonish warden. I mean, his hair style is funny, and he picks his nose and ears alot. And Robert Downey Jr. gives an early all-out comedic performance as Wayne Gale, the Aussie Geraldo Rivera.

I always thought the creepiest part of the movie was the I Love Mallory segment early on. Mallory’s backstory is depicted in the format of a sitcom, where Rodney Dangerfield is her abusive dad and Edie McClurg is her timid mom who doesn’t do anything about it. Dad jokes about raping her and there’s a laugh track. According to the book Killer Instinct: How Two Young Producers Took on Hollywood and Made the Most Controversial Film of the Decade by Jane Hamsher (more on that book later) this part was added in by Veloz. In a later interview Tarantino said he hated that scene so much he walked out and hasn’t seen the rest of the movie.

Well, it’s better than the rest of the movie in my opinion, but I can see how it doesn’t fit the story as a whole. By giving Mallory this horrible background it seems to be telling us that she’s a victim, she got this way because her dad raped her, the only way she knew to escape that horror was to throw her passion at this guy Mickey and run away with him. Fine, but also they see their lives as TV and movies, and later they seem to be this mythical force, haunted by demons and protected by a guardian angel. They’re supposed to have been created by the media. When Gale thinks they won’t kill him Mickey points out that the monster killed Dr. Frankenstein. As if to say You created us, Mr. Tabloid TV. But also an abusive childhood. But mostly you though, forget the childhood thing, it’s TV, I swear.

When the couple winds up snake-bitten and hallucinating in the desert home of a wise Native American elder (in my opinion Stone came up with this part) the movie has a head-slapping combination of too-on-the-nose and too-film-school. Stone actually projects the words “demon” and “too much tv” onto Mickey and Mallory. I don’t think I caught until this time that the projected words were supposed to be the subtitles of what the Native American man is saying. Cool idea actually, too bad they ruined it by making it so corny.

The media satire part is kinda interesting as a time capsule because everything is so different now. American Maniacs seems to be based on those bombastic shows back then like A Current Affair, maybe mixed with America’s Most Wanted – a couple shows that were on the early Fox network or syndicated. This movie would shit its pants if it knew about a future with hundreds of cable channels, multiple 24 hour news networks struggling to fill time and hook viewers, Iran-Contra felons used as experts, TMZ, rotten.com, Youtube celebrities, the guy fucked to death by the horse, hundreds of “reality tv” shows making celebrities out of freaks and relatives of has-beens and people from sex tapes, which are also a thing now…

They got a clip of Leave It To Beaver in the opening scene. Back in the ’80s (and I guess still by the time of this movie) people were always trying to subvert the ’50s sitcom, trying to prove hey man, reality is fucked up, it doesn’t fit into your clean cut Father Knows Best image of the world, man. But that just doesn’t seem relevant anymore. Nobody even thinks about that, we’ve moved so far beyond it.

Consider that at the end of the movie there’s a clip of O.J. Simpson, because those murders happened a month and a half before the movie came out. So they didn’t even know he was gonna get off! Stone could never have imagined that years later one of the lawyers who got him off would be dead, but his daughter would be videotaped giving a blowjob to the R&B singer Brandy’s brother, so she would be paid a million dollars for that video and it would launch her and her sisters as celebrities with their own TV series, fragrance, clothing lines, clothing boutique, movie and TV appearances, music video, endorsement deals, and a wax figure at Madame Tussauds. Mickey and Mallory didn’t get that shit, and they had a talent.

So I’ve seen this movie either two or three times now. I read a Tarantino draft of the script years ago, and I’m reading it again now as further research. I just read the making-of book for the second time. But I’m still torn about what Stone is trying to do with this movie. I don’t think he really believes that violent entertainment is the Dr. Frankenstein that creates Mickeys and Mallories, because 1) that would be stupid and 2) he correctly argued against that concept when a couple different murder sprees were blamed on this very movie.

Obviously the movie does say that the media (particularly shows like the fictional American Maniacs) exploit murders for the sake of sensationalism, and turn killers into celebrities. The movie makes fun of these serial killers having “fans” waiting outside of the courthouse. And maybe my favorite satirical touch is that one of the few (the only?) onscreen titles is an ominous “SUPER BOWL SUNDAY” toward the climax. The potential Nielsen ratings are more important than the date.

But also I think Stone thinks Mickey and Mallory are cool. In Tarantino’s script – and I think maybe in the movie, but I forget – a kid interviewed on the streets of London says,”They’re like rebels without a cause, except they have a cause. Only nobody knows what it is.” That’s how the characters come across in the movie, except it seems like the director has bought into their bullshit.

In the script there’s a movie-within-the-movie about Mickey and Mallory called THRILL KILLERS. In interviews, director Neil Pope explains his subject like this:

It is my belief that Mickey and
Mallory Knox are a cultural
phenomena that could only exist
in our sexually-repressed society.
A flower that could only bloom
amidst a grotesque fast food
culture.  And what I tried to do
with Thrill Killers was trace the
root of the problem all the way
down the vine to the original
bad seed.  Yet amidst the violence
and murder and carnage, you’ve got
the structure of a Wagnerian love

Pope is supposed to be a jackass, but I believe Stone’s vision of NATURAL BORN KILLERS is pretty much the same. Tarantino’s Mickey and Mallory were filtered through tabloid TV sensationalism for the first half of the movie, Stone flipped it so that that’s only one short segment later in the movie, and it’s him that’s glamorizing their story throughout. He cut out the comedic parts, like the courtroom scene and the mutilated twin bodybuilders (seen in the deleted scenes). He added the “Dr. Frankenstein” line. He even added the “trace the root of the problem all the way down the vine to the original bad seed” of Rodney Dangerfield. I think he wants us to be touched by Mickey and Mallory’s mad love for each other, and get away at the end, and root for them to… kill their television, or something? I don’t really know.

Maybe they’re not supposed to be people. They have yin-yang tattoos, which must signify that their evil is a balancing force in the universe or some shit. Maybe they’re a symbol. Some kind of mythical Media Made Flesh to strike vengeance on their father, Geraldo Rivera. I don’t know. It’s unclear to me.

But I think that’s because it’s unclear to Stone too. According to Killer Instinct, when Stone first met with the producers and told them he’d read the script and wanted to direct it, he explained his interest like this: “Everyone expects me to be the guy with the message. I just want to do something that’s completely nihilistic.”

So he took a story that implies ideas and satire and a message, and turned it into some blood splatters and some trippy shit flying around so you can go “whooooahhhh.” CRANK in NETWORK’s clothing. I guess have fun until you grow out of it, kids. That’s about all he had planned for that one.


This entry was posted on Monday, August 6th, 2012 at 11:32 am and is filed under Crime, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

91 Responses to “Natural Born Killers”

  1. I had the same problems with the film as you do. I’ve never liked it. Sure, it’s very competently made on several levels, but just not my thing.

    A lot of my friends LOVED this movie. They loved it because the whole thing was just so cool. Mickey and Mallory were cool. The visuals were cool. The whole attitude of the film was cool, because it did everything you are not supposed to do. It was just so rebellious, I guess. And my friends, who were smart, did understand that it was a satire. But they also completely embraced how cool it was.

    I thought it was dull. And to me it wasn’t clever enough to be cool. And the MTV-inspired visuals really annoyed me. One of those few movies where I completely disagreed with all of my movie-going friends.

  2. Caught this on TV the other night, but not all of it. It started at the prison and I turned it off after Mickey and Mallory escaped. It was too boring for me to continue. I think the first half was more entertaining, and I do like the stylistic choices used to convey the schizoid type-A personalities of Mickey and Mallory. It was creative, and that’s what was so fun about it. The prison sequence seemed to lose the “fun” factor and became a serious meditation on TV culture. I wasn’t amused, I wasn’t intellectually stimulated, I was just bored.

  3. Okay, hold on a second. I remember reading the review of that Bob Wildcat Goldthwait (as he’s called by Bill Paxton) film and being amazed Vern liked it, and thinking, “But Oliver Stone and Quentin Tarantino already made this movie in 1994 or whatever!” And I’m still mystified. NATURAL BORN KILLERS is judged inferior to a Bobcat Goldthwait film? Huh?

    A couple of points:

    -The Tarantino draft Vern qoutes from, when read now, feels amazingly reminiscent of the KILL BILL films and GRINDHOUSE. It seems to be the first example of what Tarantino calls his “movie movie” universe. And about 75% of it survived into the final film, despite all of Quentin’s complaints about how much they rewrote it. NBK and TRUE ROMANCE and FROM DUSK TIL DAWN have always felt to me like Tarantino movies directed by other people, who might overlay their particular cinematic styles over his writing, but the auturist voice is still Tarantino’s loud and clear.

    -It’s a kind of unofficial sequel to TALK RADIO.

    -Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Downey Jr. ARE standouts.

    -It remains sort of a unique bizarro high point in American, maybe world cinema. You have to go to things like FLAMING CREATURES or ASHIK KERIB or HAUSU or LUCIFER RISING to find comparable films in terms of form and content. (And to be fair, the same criticisms have been leveled at all of those at well, that they’re meaningless exercises in cinematic excess.)

    -I suspect that what both Stone and Tarantino were implying was what people have been saying since the 1920s at the least: “The pure products of America go crazy.”

    -Anyway, I remain puzzled that U TURN–widely considered Stone’s absolute worst movie–and the Bobcat flick got better reviews then this. I dunno, I always thought it really DID accurately capture something of the tone of modern American life, or at least how we Americans imagine it.

    I will add that I am extremely happy to see Vern embarking on an Oliver Stone series. I eagerly look forward to reviews of NIXON, ALEXANDER and THE HAND, and suggest including Stone’s screenwriting work too, such as YEAR OF THE DRAGON and CONAN THE BARBARIAN.

  4. I’m totally with Tuukka. I like most of Oliver’s stuff, but there are a few films which haven’t aged as well with me (THE DOORS) or never clicked at all (this and U-TURN). Romanticizing homicidal maniacs has never sat well with me, on film or in general (which still goes on, that fuckface in Colorado has a little female following on Twitter). At least with a film like SE7EN (sorry, Vern), you have something approaching a real-world view on such violence through Morgan Freeman’s character. Fincher of course went a million miles deeper into this with ZODIAC, making it possibly the best serial killer film in part because the one suspected of doing it is some sad sack factory worker who uses a wooden dildo to please himself.

  5. Knox Harrington

    August 6th, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    I think that Natural Born Killers has a very difficult foothold in film history. At the time of its release it was maybe a little too manic for most. And now, years later, it’s seems rather dated when compared to the numerous copycats that followed in its wake.

    Not an easy position for a film to be in, especially for one that seems to rely on its style more than its content to get its point across.

    I still don’t really have anything against it, though. In fact, I find it quite entertaining.

  6. The idolization of Mickey and Mallory is just as puzzling to me as it is to Vern. Sure, they are rebellious, and “bad”, and young, and fairly good-looking. But neither character is smart, or charismatic to me. Charisma of course is a very subjective thing… But I’m really missing out on the coolness. They seemed like two dumb white trash psychopaths to me.

    For me, a psychopath needs to be intelligent to be charismatic. And class helps too. Mickey and Mallory are like the anti-Hannibal Lecter’s.

  7. Knox Harrington

    August 6th, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    Kinda like asking why some people watched Jerry Springer.

  8. It’s possible Oliver used BADLANDS as inspiration, if he wanted to try and make these characters charismatic and cool. Martin Sheen’s character wasn’t exactly the brightest bulb in the box, but he definitely had charisma. The soft-spoken kind with the brewing intensity underneath that reminded so many people then of James Dean. If that’s true, it definitely didn’t work (it’s actually a better metaphor for TRUE ROMANCE, which I’d love to see Vern review as a possible counterpoint to this).

  9. I see the court opted to review everything but the audio evidence, which I find a glaring omission in the appeals verdict. I bought Trent Reznor’s zig-zagging soundtrack of film clips, Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, ambient drones, Nine Inch Nails’ “Burn”, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and Snoop Dogg a number of years before I actually saw the movie, and it made a big difference. Divorced from any kind of visual, the sound clips coalesced into a (slightly) more narrative tale that you were free to add your own imaginary pictures to, whether frenetic or not. No “I Love Mallory”, no distracting death row speech from Mickey, a more arresting portrayal of M&M’s effect on the media whores following them, more coherent juxtapositions than were in the movie…overall, a more comprehensible experience.

    But the soundtrack was acquitted a long time ago, I suppose; it’s the visuals that were on trial. And the film still seems like a big missed opportunity, something that has too much to say intellectually and not enough emotionally. I like, for example, the irony that M&M are broken up over the death of the Native American, whereas the dozens they’ve murdered previously are meaningless to them, but it’s something I only noticed because of the soundtrack, not because of the hyperactive cutting, glaring red tint, and odd angles of the scene itself. Stone sort of got in his own way in taking on this subject, I think; political subjects benefited from his zippy, post-modern treatment because the events surrounding JFK and NIXON (and even W., although that seemed a “calmer” movie, edit-wise) tended to unfold at a more gradual pace in real life, but something you can pick up or put down at will in your own life (THE DOORS, the news media) don’t respond as well to somebody pickingupputtingdownpickingupputtingdownflashylightscloseuppickupputdownanimationing them in Stone’s way.

  10. The film feels pretty dated and quaint, like all those supermarket tabloids themselves. Like you said in the review, Vern, the world has moved on. And I think into even more bizarre and fucked up territory… and nobody really bats an eye. I mean, dude shot a movie theater full of people only what feels like a few moments ago, and it’s already out of the news cycle. Gone. Forgotten. Entire countries fall and we’re there to watch it live online, minute by minute. And once that’s done, we brush it aside even before the dust settles. Next big thing, please!

    Mickey and Mallory and NATURAL BORN KILLERS ain’t got shit on that. I wonder if when watching the film now, Oliver Stone feels like he’s flipping through his high school papers with daggers and blood and shit scribbled in the margins. Thinking he was really edgy and badass at the time, but it all comes across kind of funny and immature now.

    And was NATURAL BORN KILLERS really that controversial at the time either? I remember there were the media “hype” but it all felt pretty manufactured even then. And when I saw a worn VHS tape of it when I was something like 16, 17 – the age I should have been most impressionable to controversial crazy shit – I don’t recall the film having any impact. I don’t recall it being particularly violent or edgy or with something revolutionary to say to me. It just came across as a collage of odd shit. And by odd, I don’t mean controversial or far out… just odd to be odd. We have a sitcom segment about child abuse, aren’t we ke-ray-zeee!?

    Maybe I need to see it again as it has been years when I last saw it, but I think it was a complete misfire. When you’re going for nihilism without any real substance – and then your nihilistic shit gets left behind and outgunned by the real world – you end up with a whole lot of nothing.

  11. I love this film and think it is Oliver Stones best, next to U-turn and The Doors.

    I can`t really apply any clever subtext to the movie, or some important message or anything that reedeems it`s pulpy content. It´s a bad acid trip, funny as hell, savagely violent and unlike any other blockbuster I´ve ever seen.

    I do think that it`s more clever than people give it credit for. Mickey and Mallery are really cool, not as characters, but in the context of the movie. I had a girlfriend who actually decided to become a murderer after watching the movie. She even bought a gun before realizing that her project was totally insane and is very ashamed of it now, but the movie really connected with her and she thought that Mickey and Mallery was the coolest characters ever (for a while).

    Anyway, without being to pretentious or stuff, but the whole point of the movie (imo) is to make it´s two raping, murdering rednecks seem COOL by presenting them as cool characters. The characters themselves are stupid and irritating, but with music, editing and juxtaposition, Oliver Stone makes these two assholes APPEAR cool. Very clever, imo. Cause, that`s what the media does. Oliver Stone doesn`t only critizise how the media make celebrities out of despicable jerks, he demonstrates it by doing it himself.

    I hope I make sense, but I would compare NBK to 2 of my other favorite movies; Straw Dogs and Starship Troopers. Starship Troopers make you root for the protagonists and after the movie you kinda realize that you are a facist and have been cheering for a bunch of nazis for two hours. And then you feel ashamed.
    I guess my point is that NBK points out the power of the media by making you cheering for a couple of sadistic rapists. I know I did the first time I watched the movie and afterwards I was all “huh, what´s wrong with me?”.

    In conclusion, NBK is one of the best films of the nineties and the best demonstration of the power of the media since.. i dunno.. forever, I guess.

  12. I’m actually pretty OK with this film having only a vague gesture at actual meaning. As aggressively overproduced as it is, it’s also a completely immersive nightmare experience. You feel exhausted by the end of it. It’s a film meant to be experienced rather than examined for meaning.

    That said, I think it misses to point to say that the movie implies that the media *causes* violence. I think it’s nihilistic in the sense that it attempts to depict a parody of living in a media landscape with everything about life exaggerated to cartoonish proportions. Violent, stupid, crass personalities are an easy sell — and we should know, we’re watching a movie about one. To that end, I don’t think NBK is a movie about these people in particular, but more like what they look like to a sedentary home viewer, numb to everything but unbelievable excess in every base instinct. Deep? Probably not, but at least a unique and uniquely imagined perspective. I’m glad it exists, although I guess it’s kinda hard not to blame it for CRANK and DOMINO.

  13. Thanks for the comments, keep em coming, and I’ll respond to some specific points later. For now I want to provide an important programming note/warning: I kinda fell down the rabbit hole researching this one, so I’ll be following this up with posts about that Killer Instinct book, the Tarantino script and a couple other tangentally related things. I will try to get into some more Oliver Stone stuff at some point in the future though.

  14. caruso_stalker217

    August 6th, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    I really hated this movie when I watched it several years ago. I’m due for a re-watch and maybe I won’t hate it as much, but the only parts I liked were when Mickey and Mallory got bit by the snakes and when the cops did a Rodney King on Mickey. And I only liked those scenes because I hated the characters and I found it funny when they were in pain.

  15. Boy, I haven’t seen this in at least ten years, probably more. I’ll have to rewatch to see how it fares in today’s media climate, especially now that I am part of THE MEDIA.

  16. I saw this at a particularly zeitgeisty point in my life (the beginning of my nihilistic, I hate everyone in the world except my girlfriend period), so no matter how stupid I realize it may be, I still love the shit out of it. I do think it would have been so much better if they had gone with the alternate ending where (ALTERNATE UNIVERSE SPOILER) instead of getting away, Mickey and Mallory were killed by Owen. Not only does it give you a sense of justice at the end, it feels much more in line with a Tarantino story. Despite being super violent, Tarantino tends to be very moralistic (Jules rejects the evil path and lives while Vincent stays the course and is machinegunned in the shitter). TRUE ROMANCE would have benefited from using its similar alternate ending, too.

  17. “In the script there’s a movie-within-the-movie about Mickey and Mallory called THRILL KILLERS. In interviews, director Neil Pope explains his subject… Pope is supposed to be a jackass, but I believe Stone’s vision of NATURAL BORN KILLERS is pretty much the same”

    That bit made me appreciate this movie a little more. Maybe Stone took out the film-within-a-film in favor of just making Thrill Kill. Wouldn’t that just say it all?

  18. several years back I tried watching this on tv and funnily enough it was not long after the I Love Mallory scene that I changed the channel, this movie just struck me as a very tasteless and rubbed me the wrong way

    but who knows, maybe I’ll give it another chance one day, I doubt it though…

    “making it possibly the best serial killer film in part because the one suspected of doing it is some sad sack factory worker who uses a wooden dildo to please himself.”


  19. I remember when it first came out I was actually going to see it cause it looked weird and cool. Then some lady that came out of the theater was all about “I dunno about the whole movie but the killing was good” and I decided to see CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER instead. I did catch this movie on cable but I could never sit through the whole thing. Like Vern said it wears it’s message on it’s sleeve too smugly.

    I actually thought the creepy sitcom bit was one of the more interesting thing as cliche a trope as it may be (white trash from dysfunctional home). I applaud them for at least trying to go for a bit of subversion and call out all the bad morals and domestic abuse that got played for laughs in sitcoms like THE HONEYMOONERS on a metatextual level.

    But the movie is too unfocused everything does feel random for the sake of trying to come across as ambitious. This definitely could’ve used a little reigning in. I get that it’s satire on the media and you want to show all aspects (“channels”) of it by flipping around but it probably wasn’t the wisest choice. At least I could see that I’m not the only one that couldn’t really sit through the whole thing cause I really didn’t know that about Tarantino.

  20. The first time I saw this, I absolutely loved it with all my heart, probably just because it was full of all the shit I loved when I was a teenager: pointless violence and sex, self-important rock music, and the nineties version of “cool.” I must have watched it three or four times back then.

    Of course, I hate the fucking thing, now. It’s Stone with his backwards baseball cap on, a middle aged man trying to be hip with the kids. On top of which, it’s just so incompetently made. Ugly and boring and stupid. Man, I hate that movie.

  21. I agree with Darwin, I think the film itself is depicting a sleazy, oversaturated, perversely commercialized vision of vapid sadistic violence. It’s not commenting on the effects of violent media, but rather presenting a parody of that exact experience. And a pretty good, repulsive but seductive parody, too. Seen that way, I think it feels a little less smug and hypocritical. Almost Verhovian in that it shows us exactly what it is, but never outright tells us so lots of people just saw what they expected to see.

    or maybe not. I do think you guys are underestimating Stone if you think he made the movie look the way he did simply to try to look cool and edgy. Stone is drawn to extreme emotional states, but he is disciplined enough to know how to hold back in the name of good storytelling. He knows you’re going to be distracted by all his filmschool gimmicks here. But I think that’s sort of the point.

  22. For all its ham-handedness, pretentiousness, datedness, and complete lack of anything approaching a point, I think NBK was and remains what it was first and foremost designed to be: a really good movie to get high to.

  23. It’s been a while since I’ve seen it. I’m that in light of the last decade of cinema, which was largely characterized by hyper-movie-istic movies like those of Darren Aronofsky etc, the film seems unbelievably dated.

    But I really liked it. I never understood that Mick and Mallory were supposed to be cool. I thought the whole joke of the movie was that the media is selling shock value and most people are dumb enough to buy. Like Majestyk I always felt that the film self-awaredly proposes to be an example of it, rather than falling prey to it as Vern alleges. I mean we all know that the laugh track in the I Love Mallory bit is sarcastic, right? As a yout’ I was pretty disturbed by MnM, the fact that they have no motivation to kill you but do it anyway, etc.

    Ebert criticized The Raid for being all action and not having any deep underlying subtext. Of course The Raid is celebrated ’round these parts for not wasting our goddam time, and getting down to brass tacks with exquisitely realized action. In an ideal world NBK would be the The Raid of hyper-stylistic-excess. All cinematic balls-to-the-wallisms and no complexity to weigh it down. Unfortunately I suspect that the hyperstyle of it has aged exactly as poorly as many have charged.

    Surprised nobody’s mentioned, by way of comparison, A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, which is a similar sort of uberfilm (pervasively violent psycho protagonist; even a little of the ol’ mixed media) but is more subtextually rewarding and emotionally impactful. Just don’t jump down my throat and act like I’m suggesting a similar level of competency between the two films cause I never said that.

  24. That second sentence should read “I’m not surprised…”

    BTW I don’t think it’s universally agreed upon that U-Turn is garbage.

    “Savages sees Stone returning to ground he already plowed in Salvador, his screenplay for Scarface, and arguably his best film in hindsight, the filthy U-Turn.” -Walter Chaw

  25. I liked the Leonard Cohen song in this, I remember. The visual style came across as self indulgent crap. But its been like 15 years since I saw it,so….

  26. JD:

    “You have to go to things like FLAMING CREATURES or ASHIK KERIB or HAUSU or LUCIFER RISING to find comparable films in terms of form and content.”

    How is it possible that you saw FLAMING CREATURES??

    I’m particularly interested in HAUSU off your list…

  27. NBK’s main problem is that it’s supposed to be satire – from a director who doesn’t have a sense of humor.

  28. pegsman

    Satire is not always supposed to be comedy. Is Starship Troopers funny? I don`t think so, but I would certainly call it satire. I did laugh all the way through NBK when I watched it the first time, but a lot of the humour is from the form and the overthetopness of the style, not the content or the performances. The crying policeman with his bareclaw still cracks me up.

    I do agree that the movie is somewhat dated, but that doesn`t bother me. I don`t understand why people think that movies that are clearly products of their time are lesser movie than so-called “timeless” movies. It doesn`t have the same impact as it did when released, cause the future did turn out to be far worse (or more murederous?) as the movie predicted. Funny that a movie that people percieved as over the top or unrealistic in the nineties actually seems pretty tame when compared to the reality of now.

    Also, the movie did actually inspire a real killingspree, I think it was in France. I don`t think anybody mentioned that yet.

    Looking forward to that rabbithole, Vern. I might not agree with you, but that was a really good review.

  29. In the dark ages, before THE DAILY SHOW and THE COLBERT REPORT, it was a common beliefe here in Europe that Americans can’t do satire. This manifested itself in the 90’s by the fact that no one here found NATURAL BORN KILLERS to be funny at all, while we laughed our asses off at STARSHIP TROOPERS. In America it was the other way round, according to Paul Verhoeven.

  30. And yes, dna, satire’s supposed to be funny.

  31. JD – I can see the comparison to GOD BLESS AMERICA. Both have a male-female team on a cross country killing spree, both are heavy-handed and preachy in some ways. But for the most part they’re totally different.

    NBK is a better looking movie, despite my being annoyed by its style. I’ll give it that.

    But I think the biggest difference is that in GBA the protagonists are only hatable because they’re killers. All of the things they’re angry about (and there are many long lists of them) are completely relatable to most of us. They’re horrible people but they’re funny and they’re grumpy about the same things I’m grumpy about. In GBA they kill people to punish them for being assholes, so there’s a sick wish fulfillment to it. In NBK they kill people because they’re people.

    GBA is extremely specific about which specific elements of pop culture and their values it’s lashing out at. NBK is a more general “the media” – Geraldo Rivera, movie stars, old sitcoms. Both feel to me like they’re supposed to be saying something, only one of them says it clearly.

    In GBA they don’t seem like they’re supposed to be cool. They’re people who don’t fit in, and not in a cool way. I mean, look at the guy’s sweaters. He wants you off his lawn.

    These aren’t necessarily reasons why GBA is better, but reasons why it was way more fun for me to watch. (I didn’t love it though. In my review I said “I like what he’s going for” and “I sort of liked it.”)

  32. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen this movie. I probably watched it two or three times in high school. I hated it at first, because it did seem to be trying too hard to seem “cool,” but I think I gained a grudging respect for it over time, mostly because of its style. Unfortunately, this was a long time ago, so I have no clue if it holds up at all. I suspect Vern is right and it’s kind of passe now. I do remember coming to the conclusion that Stone isn’t saying the media is creating them (that’s just Mickey putting on a show). I thought that he was criticizing the way the media is exploiting their killing spree. But, again, it’s been a while.

  33. “Crank in Network’s clothing”

    As a one line summation of NBK, that’s as succint as it gets.

  34. Do people really think this is Oliver Stone’s worst? Any Given Sunday, Wall Street 2, and Alexander are by far his worst. If anything, i remember blockbuster not letting me and my buddies rent the directors cut because it was nc-17 or unrated. Wasnt the directors cut of this a double vhs tape? Titanic, Scarface, and Braveheart are my most memorable double vhs tapes.

  35. Also, Tom Sizemore is amazing in this. I hesitate to call it acting because I honestly believe that if we were living in some kind of bizarro earth where Tom Fucking Sizemore is a cop, this would be him. I was kinda rooting for him to be honest.

  36. Did anyone else get a big teenage crush on evil Juliette Lewis from this movie? “How sexy am I now, motherfucker?!” Very.

  37. No, not at all, I already hated her from CAPE FEAR, and this certainly didn’t change that feeling. It wasn’t until I saw her in STRANGE DAYS that I started to be okay with her being in a movie. She’s good in WHAT’S EATING GILBERT GRAPE, though.

  38. Jareth Cutestory

    August 7th, 2012 at 7:55 am

    pegsman: I saw Woody Allen’s HUSBANDS & WIVES with a buddy of mine who found Lewis really annoying in CAPE FEAR. It was like some kind of death grudge. Watching HUSBANDS & WIVES, he yelled out “fuck yeah!” at that moment in in the film where Woody says to Juliette Lewis: “I don’t need a lecture on maturity from a 20-year-old twit.” This guy was really pissed off by Lewis’ performance in CAPE FEAR.

  39. renfield: Actually, it was my esteemed colleague Mr. Subtlety that espoused the notion that NBK is not a comment on violence in media, but merely a particularly over-the-top example of same. I just said it was a good movie to get high to. I do agree with Mr. S, though. Any message you might find in NBK is bound to get contradicted within seconds. It’s just as exploitative and hypocritical as the things it parodies, only more so, because it’s self-aware. It wants to have its cake, eat it too, throw it up, make a finger-painting with the puke, then high-five you over how awesome it looks before writing a letter to its congressman about how people shouldn’t be allowed to make cake-puke paintings, then stage a protest about the sanctity of art. It negates itself so many times over that all you’re left with is a particularly brutal lava lamp. Which is what I like about it.

    Also: STARSHIP TROOPERS is fucking hilarious. I thought so the first time when I was so floored by the carnage that I took it at face value (despite the fact that I really should have known better, it being Verhoeven and all) and it just gets funnier. One of my favorite bits is how Michael Ironside tells Rico that the most important thing a man can do is to learn to think for himself, and Rico says, “Yup, think for myself, got it” and proceeds to parrot everything Ironside said for the rest of the movie.

  40. Lewis is almost unbearably annoying in every role. Plus, she has the worst instance of white people cornrows since Axel Rose.

  41. Knox Harrington

    August 7th, 2012 at 9:06 am

    I thought she was funny in Old School.

    As for Natural Born Killers… Yeah, I think Stone was trying to turn the audience into accomplices rather than trying to preach to them.

  42. Mr M — I wouldn’t say that NBK is specifically about *violence* in the media, but rather about media hyper-saturation and the extremes it’s willing to go to in order to get your attention (violence being only one such extreme). Stone does everything but come through the screen RING-style and shake you up in order to get you to pay attention to him. At the time, it seemed like a hilariously grotesque parody of the amoral news and media cycle. Now, the Tony Scotts of the world are doing the same thing without the irony. Still, think Stone’s particular flavor of depravity stands today as respectably repulsive. That bit with Dangerfield particularly still feels like a really disgusting nightmare.

  43. Casper Van Dien is following me on twitter for some reason even though I’m not following him and I never actually post anything. I think I might have to block him.

  44. Casper Van Dien is just a natural born follower.

  45. Don’t block him! Casper van Dien (who is following me [on Twitter] too, since his recent appereance at a German SciFi convention) is a pretty cool guy! His tweets are more of the promotional kind, so you don’t HAVE to follow him back, but what I wanted to say is, that he doesn’t deserve the same treatment as a normal spambot.

  46. SIrs Majestyk and Subtlety:

    “Actually, it was my esteemed colleague Mr. Subtlety that espoused the notion…”

    Apologies, and due credit.


    “satire’s supposed to be funny.”

    I gotta disagree about this. There’s a large gulf between satire and spoof/parody. AIRPLANE is a spoof, DR. STRANGELOVE is a satire. Some of the most satiric moments in DR. STRANGELOVE are seriously not funny but are in fact relentlessly scary (like, the fact that the world really will blow up because of bureaucratic snafus, one psychopath and a few good men following orders).

  47. Yeah, but those scare moments are embedded into a comedy. If they would leave the funny bits out of DR STRANGELOVE, it wouldn’T be a satire, but a thriller about politicians arguing about the end of the world.

  48. I don’t know about GOD BLESS AMERICA because I haven’t seen it but I have to say my favorite “unlikeable sociopath goes apeshit in 90’s america” movie is still FALLING DOWN. Which is just as over the top as NBK at points but certainly a lot more interesting than NATURAL BORN KILLERS ended up being since I could actually sit through the whole thing.

    It says something about how out of touch Stone became after JFK compared to how he was before that in terms of consistency. That the director of BATMAN & ROBIN could totally outclass the director of SALVADOR with similar tropes is proof enough that even some of the most obnoxious directors ever have some gems on their resume.

  49. CJ Holden: “If they would leave the funny bits out of DR STRANGELOVE, it wouldn’t be a satire, but a thriller about politicians arguing about the end of the world.”

    It would, in other words, be FAIL-SAFE. Released just eight months later, incidentally, and just as excellent in its own way. But not exactly a laff riot.

  50. “The idolization of Mickey and Mallory is just as puzzling to me as it is to Vern. Sure, they are rebellious, and “bad”, and young, and fairly good-looking. But neither character is smart, or charismatic to me. Charisma of course is a very subjective thing… But I’m really missing out on the coolness. They seemed like two dumb white trash psychopaths to me. ”

    James Holmes already has fans, and he’s much less cool.

    “In GBA they kill people to punish them for being assholes, so there’s a sick wish fulfillment to it. In NBK they kill people because they’re people.”

    What’s the difference?

    Honestly, I saw NBK a few years ago. I figured I’d love it, but I had the same problem as I had with Badlands – neither felt mythic enough. All the dated media satire brought it down to earth. It should have been pure cool, pure archetype.

  51. renfield, satire’s a form of humor, just like parody or slapstick. It’s more demanding, yes, but if people aren’t laughing it’s not done right. And I’m with Holden here, DR STRANGELOVE is funny all the way.

  52. – pegsman

    Can we agree that American Psycho (the novel) is satire, but not comedy? Yes, it`s funny, but the main point of satire (imo) is criticism of society and stuff, not making the audience laugh. I do prefer funny satire, but a satire that is not funny is not a failure as a satire.

    That said, I do think that NBK has some very funny scenes. It also has scenes and performances that tries to be funny but fails (Tommy Lee Jones for example).

    I been reading a bit about NBK and it is (according to british newspapers) the movie in history with the biggest bodycount, as it appearently inspired not just 1 real life killing spree, but 3. I`m not holding this against the movie, but it kinda shows that Mickey and Mallery was percieved as supercool characters by it`s audience at its time.

    I must agree that Oliver Stone likes his characters, though. I don`t think he finds them cool, but they do change from murderous wannabee`s to media-hating rebels who realizes that love kills the demon and stuff. They are my favorite kind of characters, actually. Monsters, who tries to change to the better.

    One last comment on the style. I like it. And I can`t compare it to modern filmmakers like the Crank-dudes or Tony Scott, who edit their movies in a sorta similar way in a misguided attempt to create a sense of action. No, Oliver Stone uses his style in order to make a point. The style is a big part of the films statement and serves the films story. I guess we can agree that shaky-cam in Saving Private Ryan is brilliant cause it serves a purpose, re-creating the confusion and chock that soldiers on D-day experienced.
    NBK is not cut in order to create a sense of action, but to indicate the moral confusion inflicted on our protagonists by the media. It serves a purpose and supports the story, so that Network meets Crank-description is way outta order, imo.

    NBK is a rare example of the kind of filmmaking that actually combines a groundbreaking style with substance, and shouldn`t be judged on behalf of the lesser movies it inspired.

  53. dna, I see AMERICAN PSYCHO (the novel) more as social critisism than satire, but fair enough, I guess that it could be called satire. And you’re right, there’s a lot in that book that’s not supposed to be laugh out loud funny. But there are several chapters – especially the ones where Bateman hails crap music as masterpieces – that make me laugh. I guess this is one of those subjective things that it’s hard to talk about objectively..?

  54. Maybe it’s a cultural thing? I think the differences between the original series THE OFFICE and the American remake illustrates that there are at least two ways of seeing this. The remake IS funny, but I laugh even harder at the original. And still there are people out there who doesn’t get either of them.

  55. – pegsman

    The original Office is very funny in a devastating and horrible way. I almost couldn`t finish it the first time I wached it. I haven`t seen the american version, though.

    It might be a cultural thing, but I think that you sorta adapt to the culture, if you`re exposed to it enough. When I lived for a couple of years in England, I found british humour like Father Ted, Bottom or The Fast Show hilarious. A decade later Ì merely find it amusing. Kinda like when I joke around with friends, I`m used to their humour, but an outsider would find our jokes pretty lame or offensive.

    Even though I live in a european country, I`m more used to american humour than european humour. But, I`m not exposed to humour from the nineties anymore, so I properbly wouldn`t find NBK as funny as I did back then.

    I guess my point is that humour might not a question about cultural backgrounds or age, but if you`re familiar with THAT particular brand of of humour.

    I think it was Desmond Morris who made a theory about laugther being a reaction of relief. Like, when babys start laughing, it`s usually because a threatening incident turns out to be mummy behaving silly and thus non-threatening.

    The funniest movie-experience I EVER had was watching Evil Dead 2 in the eighties. And I think it was extra funny because the movie was extremely violent for it´s time. So, the violent and shocking content made the gags (relief) even funnier. Today Evil Dead 2 is pretty tame in the gore-department and therefore not as funny as in the eighties. I think the same goes for NBK. It WAS pretty violent and shocking in `94, which made the funny bits even funnier. (I remember watching it in the cinema, being the only guy laughing all the way through).

    On a similar note: I did find A Serbian Movie pretty funny, especially the scene where he (SPOILER) skullfucks a guy to death. It`s so over the top and unrealistic that the movie suddenly became unreal (whoa, BIG relief, cause that movie was pretty unpleasent till that moment) and I almost pissed myself laughing. I think NBK worked on a similar level in the nineties, but since the violence are pretty tame by todays standard, the relief in the humour of the overthetopness has less impact.

  56. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    August 8th, 2012 at 4:31 am

    Pegsman – put me in the class of people who didn’t “get” “The Office”. I’m just not a fan of that awkward type of humour (which is why I couldn’t totally get into the Solondz movie I saw recently). I thought it was very well done and the characters were excellently written and acted, but in the end it just seemed like my life with slightly more awkwardness. I felt I should’ve been able to relate to it so much more than I actually did.

    I hated “Natural Born Killers” when I first saw it, and I haven’t watched it since. Regular readers (who will probably know what film I’m talking about, but I don’t want to start a Soderburgh debate here, so let’s keep this general) will know that I really really hate films that only seem to exist to make the viewer feel stupid for not “getting” their multitude of references / oddities, especially when they’re thrown in your face every second in the most over-stylized and pretentious way possible. That’s kinda how “Natural Born Killers” felt to me.

    Plus, like that certain Soderburgh film, it didn’t seem to be a tenth as smart as it clearly thought it was. I don’t mind being made to feel foolish by a film like “The Usual Suspects”. I’m damned if something like “Natural Born Killers” gets to do it. You gotta earn that right.

  57. I never got THE OFFICE either. And I saw one more version of it, than most people here. (Germany also has its own one, which is named STROMBERG and was originally just a rip off until Ricky Gervais sued and it became an official adaptation.)

  58. Not so fast, my little German friend, I’ve seen two Norwegian and one Swedish version of THE OFFICE in addition to the original and the American. You can safely say that Gervais is huge in Scandinavia.

    CJ, in what way did STROMBERG differ from the original? From what I’ve seen of German humor it’s usually more over- than understated. And please say that STROMBERG is about the old Bond villain and his struggles with daily life as a master bad guy!

  59. Guys:

    noun /ˈsaˌtīr/ 
    satires, plural

    The use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues”

    Please note the “OR” in the list of means by which satire can be approached. Humor being only one of them. I think NBK is more exaggeration than humor. DR. S: heavy on the irony.

  60. Drive-by comment: I think the part where they are going to shoot RDJ on camera and give a big speech about it was all but ripped-off from PINK FLAMINGOS.

  61. Pegsman, I still have seen more verswions of THE OFFICE than most people here. Just not more than you.
    Actually STROMBERG is a pretty accurate adaptation, only that the main character (no Bond villain) is even more awkward IMO and that they wrote their own scripts, instead of just translating the Gervais ones.

  62. There has been technically TWO swedish versions of THE OFFICE. One of them is pretty funny, the other one, the more literal adaptation looks asinine and I never bothered to watch it.

  63. A friend of mine forced me to watch the first two episodes of the British OFFICE, an episode of CURB, and fucking HAROLD & MAUDE all in the same night. I despised all of them. H&M, as I’m sure most of you will agree, is the most overrated film of all time, a colossal wank that’s like an icepick made of forced whimsy and canned platitudes to the brain. It not only pissed me off at how phony and full of shit it was, it probably had a ripple effect that made me start disliking Wes Anderson and the entire genre of indie dramedy. OFFICE and CURB weren’t quite so angry-making, but I still found them damn-near unwatchable. I’ll admit they accurately captured the experience of being stuck in a room with a bunch of terrible people you can’t stand, but I don’t understand why that’s an experience anyone would seek out.

    The American OFFICE seems alright, though. There’s enough sugar in there to make the bitterness easier to swallow.

    Anyway, I’m not saying that night is why this girl and I don’t hang out much anymore, but it is a pretty good indicator of why we naturally grew apart.

  64. I guess this is why Vern doesn’t review comedies. Just what makes us laugh is so subjective that it isn’t even worth discussing. Parts of me want to scream ARE YOU INSANE right now, Mr Majestyk, but what good would that do. If you didn’t like it you didn’t like it.

    renfield, I don’t see that OR as a “wall” between humor and seriousness, but if you insist I think you have to provide some examples of humorless satire to convince me.

  65. I’ll admit that uncomfortable humor is not really my go-to. It can be a nice seasoning sometimes, but when it’s the whole dish I stop thinking of it as a comedy and start thinking of it as a social horror movie. I prefer my comedy to make me, you know, laugh, not squirm awkwardly in my seat and hope it’ll all be over soon.

  66. A friend of mine, who hates that kind of humor by the way, wanted to see what all the commotion was about and ended up watching the whole first season of THE OFFICE behind a big pillow. He even had to turn the sound off and watch it with Norwegian subtitles.

  67. I am a total wuss about that shit. I could watch a Japanese gore movie about a girl getting her va-jay-jay cored out with an ice cream scoop without flinching but show me one flustered bastard caught in a lie and I get all squeamish. I even remember watching THE FLINTSTONES as a kid and being like, “Why don’t you just tell Wilma the goddamn truth, Fred! You know you’re just gonna get caught eventually!”

  68. Mr. M,

    It probably hits closer to home. Few of us have ever been dismembered by a serial killer, but all of us have been in humiliating social situations. It’s easier to distance yourself from something outside of your realm of experience.

  69. That’s probably it. I’m not totally against uncomfortable humor. I can handle it in a movie or in small doses, but I don’t really like TV shows that are totally based on it. For me, the most important thing about a TV show is that I like the characters enough that I’ll want to spend hours and hours and hours in their company. I’d rather throw myself down a flight of concrete steps than spend that much time with Larry David or Ricky Gervais.

  70. My response to this one was similar to Vern and a number of you. I watched it when it first came out and hated it. I hated it so much I have never even been compelled to revisit it. It is an abrasive film and experience I have no desire to sit through again. However, over time with all the film’s acclaim I have wondered if maybe I had missed something or I was to young to understand NBK when I first saw it and that maybe I should give the film a second chance. Vern’s review only validates my decision to stay away from it. I never bought into satirical elements of NBK. They are all to heavy handed & on the nose, and don’t added up to a deeper subtext or message. I think if there is any subtext to NBK it is that it is a film that substitutes style for substance, about a world where there is only style in place of substance.

  71. Majestyk:

    “The American OFFICE seems alright, though. There’s enough sugar in there to make the bitterness easier to swallow.”

    The first two seasons, I believe, are the ones that hew closest to the British prototype and are far more painful to watch than the rest of the series. Seasons 3-4 are the high watermark for the show and are a winning combination of people acting disgracefully/squirmily, but also resigned to make the most out their situation of being subjecting to each other’s quirks day after day. By this point they’re all each other’s butt buddies. For me, Dwight was the ingredient that made it bearable. He has the mettle to not give a shit what anybody thinks of him, and is a great target for Jim’s pranks. If Jim had been pranking Michael Scott it would be like kicking a retarded puppy and laughing at it.

    Bridesmaids has a few moments that I had to watch between my fingers. Brutal. Good film, though.

  72. pegsman,

    “I don’t see that OR as a “wall” between humor and seriousness, but if you insist I think you have to provide some examples of humorless satire to convince me.”

    I’m tempted to say Natural Born Killers but I suppose that would be a bit of tail chasing :). I dunno man, I disagree that it’s the jokes (“War Room”, the doc’s rogue nazi limb, conversation with Russian PM) that make Dr. Strangelove a satire. I think the most satirical thing in the movie is the irony of the fact that the dudes on the bomber have a carefully constructed protocol that will ensure that the world is going to blow up, and that it demands the utmost heroism and self-sacrifice on their part to see it through. They’re easily the most likeable guys in the film: down to earth, good natured, and the instruments of destruction simply because they’re really good and dedicated to what they do.

    I don’t think the third act of FIGHT CLUB, with the militant, violent Space Monkeys, boasts a lot of humor, but it’s obviously just as satirical as the first act with all the support group stuff.

    But honestly I don’t know why the burden of proof is on me to demonstrate that satire doesn’t have to be funny. I’ve consulted a few dictionaries and wikipedia and shit and the conventional wisdom is that it’s “often” funny, but it’s not a requirement. It’s just what the word means. In fact here’s an interesting bit from the wiki article that pertains rather well to NBK:

    “Because satire often combines anger and humour it can be profoundly disturbing – because it is essentially ironic or sarcastic, it is often misunderstood.

    Common uncomprehending responses to satire include revulsion (accusations of poor taste, or that “it’s just not funny” for instance), to the idea that the satirist actually does support the ideas, policies, or people he is attacking.”

    I think that pretty much nails Vern and others’ problems with NBK: the notion that Stone is inadvertantly or, uh, advertantly supporting the policy of glamorizing the psychos. You couldn’t stay the hyper-media style of NBK is meant to provoke laughter, but how you could imagine that it’s not satirical is beyond me.

  73. I started watching GOD BLESS AMERICA and from what I saw it’s much, much more offensive than NATURAL BORN KILLERS.

    As Vern pointed out, Frank in GBA is rebelling against specific things. Mick and Mallory aren’t, killing people just makes their dick hard. Frank even articulates his issues in a lengthy monologue (that I thoroughly enjoyed), comparing the U.S. to the Roman Empire in decline and stuff like that.

    The female counterpart in both films was raped, but GBA is the one that actually has a rape-revenge flick’s structure and sense of what emotional buttons to push, and it’s obviously Frank that’s the real victim. The film details the outrages that society has subjected him to at some length. It does it quite well; I love the film’s treatment of the trashiest aspect of American culture (although I don’t know why Frank subjects himself to it so thoroughly, I guess it’s like that sore on the roof of your mouth which you can’t stop tonguing). But it basically is inviting you to join in the fantasy of going murder-crazy on all these fuckwads, going so far out of its way to make you share in Frank’s outrage. Obviously this is what all rape-revenge films do.

    The smart ones then go on to make you question whether the murderous response, the victim rising against, is really something you’re okay with. Not sure if GBA gets to this point because I haven’t finished it yet, but the point is basically that GBA, at least at first, argues that wanting to kill all these people is a sympathetic position to take. Natural Born Killers makes no such argument. You don’t feel as if it would be scary to run into Frank in a diner because, if you’re watching the film, you probably don’t exemplify the traits that make Frank want to kill people.

    With Mick and Mallory, it’s based on pure whim and you just gotta hope you’re the one who gets to tell the tale. You can’t relate to the killers in NBK (unless you’re dna’s dangerously unhinged ex-girlfriend), there’s no reason that can be ascribed to their motives. What reasons the film DOES present, come from stuff RDJ’s tv show or the faux-sitcom at the beginning. I don’t think you’re supposed to buy that stuff. It’s what the film is all about: it takes assholes and worships them as heroes.

  74. “it takes assholes and worships them as heroes.”

    It = the media/our culture/etc.

  75. Alright then. Since Natural Born Killers is one of my favourite movies and is getting bitchslapped by my favourite filmsight, I`ll have a last go at explaining why it is a personal favourite of mine.

    Dear outlawvern.com
    I`m really surprised how much you guys dislike this brilliant mess of a movie. And yes, it is a mess, it`s supposed to be a mess and I love it is a mess. People think it`s not as clever as it thinks it is. Hell, I don`t think NBK even tries to be clever. I`m not even sure it has a brain.

    It`s an explosion of feelings and confused thoughts, though.
    It`s a director having fun, but also discussing a topic he is very engaged in, like a drunk James Joyce, rambling and cursing and looking for a fight. Just like Peckinpahs Straw Dogs, it`s not a movie with a clear message, but an investigation into the directors often conflicted feelings regarding violence and media. Some of you guys seem unsure about what the movie is trying to say. That would be a valid criticism if for example it was a Christoffer Nolan-movie, where the director is designing the entire movie to make a point.

    NBK is more like a David Lynch movie, where the director is exploring his feelings regarding a subject. It`s like a painter smearing colours on a canvas in order to express something, a vague feeling, a though, something that haunts him.. I don`t think that this is a sloppy approach to filmmaking. I think it is an unusual, brave and more honest approach than most movies that tries to say something clever about society and stuff. And I applaud that, since I recognize the ambiguity of the subject matter:
    Media exploiting violence for profit is bad, but I love to watch violent movies. Massmurderes are scum, but I enjoy movies that glamourizes them etc.

    I find it bizarre that a sight dedicated to badass cinema, action, horror etc takes offence when a movie doesn`t take the high stand and condemns it mass-murdering protagonists. Oliver Stone loves violence, just like us, but is worried about the state of society, just like us. What could be more honest than creating a piece of art that represents those conflicting feelings? Just like Sam Peckinpah is fascinated AND appalled by violence as an expression of masculinity in Straw Dogs.

    The big joke is that EVERYBODY who bought tickets to Straw Dogs or Natural Born Killers did so in order to se some good old-fashioned ultraviolence. And afterwards they bitch about the director not condemning violence in his movie. That’s like watching porn and complaining that the movie didn’t take a stance against pornography.

    As Oliver Stone has said about NBK: It`s supposed to be a distorted mirror. (I`m not really sure what that is suppossed to mean, but I`ll quote him anyway, cause it makes me sound really clever.)

    In conclusion; NBK is art in it`s most basic form; an artist trying to express something personal and engage the audience in a dialogue instead of forcefeeding them a message. And better yet; its art with gore, sex and outrageous humour. Add brilliant performances, one of my favourite soundtracks ever, excellent cinematography, ultraviolence, amazing editing and some really good dialogue, and you end up with one of the very best movies of the nineties.

    Yours sincerely
    The guy who thought that Sucker Punch was pretty good.

  76. I’m with dna on this one. As I said, I liked the movie because it contradicted itself so many times and turned itself into a weird lava lamp of a movie that all you can do is stare at without ever figuring it out. I think that approach is right because there is no clear solution to the problems that the movie is dealing with. It’s a chicken and the egg thing: Does violent art make us more violent or does being more violent make us make more violent art? Anybody who says they have an answer to that question is full of shit. So I think that Stone’s approach is probably the most honest one.

    Also SUCKER PUNCH is the tits.

  77. renfield, I agree with you in that satire doesn’t have to be laugh out loud funny every time, but I think at least you have to get in a good mood and think YES, THAT’S SHOWING THEM on the inside for it to be a success.

    And you’re really on to something with the support thing. We know that Bobcat’s a anarchist at heart and that Stone is a bit of conservative in certain areas. And there’s not much humor on the right. Which I guess is why the Republicans invited Stephen Colbert to talk at some rally a few years back and eventually got angry when it dawned on them what he was doing.

    Mr Majestyk, I might be full of it, but I think it’s very plausible that someone a long, long time ago got hit over the head and THEN someone drew a picture of it. The other way around doesn’t make sense.

  78. I want to point out that even though I insulted dna’s xgf, I generally agree with his take on the film.

    People talk about style vs substance. Fuck that; why can’t the style BE the substance? Some people probably hate rock and roll too.

  79. Count one more vote in favor of NBK. Dna — I think his “fun house mirror” comment is meant to suggest that the movie is a wildly exaggerated parody of living in a media environment which is utterly saturated with the extremities of the human condition. Tarantino’s script has a lot of the film as a movie-within-a-movie about the proceedings. I think, and I think a couple other commenters here pointed out too, that Stone’s finished film dispenses with the movie-within-a-movie framework and just shows us what the whole final media landscape would look like.

  80. dna, I don’t disagree with you. I think NBK is an audacious & ambitious film , and I don’t have any problem with any of the ideas or feelings Stone is exploring with the film. However, it is also an abrasive film that is long and not easy to sit through, and it is not because of the subject matter it is the filmatism that is abrasive. I really like your point “It`s like a painter smearing colours on a canvas in order to express something, a vague feeling, a though, something that haunts him..” I can totally see how that is what Stone is doing with NBK, but that doesn’t mean it will produce art I want to consume. Actually, I think I like your take on NBK more than I do the film.

    PS: SUCKER PUNCH is awesome!

  81. renfield, just to be clear when I said “I think if there is any subtext to NBK it is that it is a film that substitutes style for substance, about a world where there is only style in place of substance.” that was an attempt at a complement.

  82. This is amazing. I’m actually having a hard time remembering who liked the movie and who didn’t because everyone in this community is so respectful of each others view even if they don’t agree. It’s the polar opposite the typical comments board were everyone is shouting “This movie sucked and anybody who liked it has Down Syndrome.” Badass but civilized, you guys are fucking awesome!

  83. Just watched this one again last night, to freshen up the ol’ memory banks. A couple of quick thoughts, if you folks don’t mind:

    i) I suspect it works better in the early hours; when you’re drifting off and have to struggle to keep your eyes open, as I was last night. Then the whole channel-hopping, TV-junk aesthetic seems a bit more natural, like the sort of thing you might come across anyway, rather than Oliver Stone playing at, erm, “breaking all the rules”. Besides, it’s not like you need to concentrate to get the whole media-violence-symbiosis message. Best to just let it wash over you.

    ii) I much prefer the second-half, with the prison scenes and the television interview. I’d like to think this is because the film calms down a bit, becomes less lost in its own craaaaaziness, and showcases some of the (very fine) performances. But it’s probably more because it reminds me of the Roger Corman-produced prison films, like Jackson County Jail: sweaty, tough and Tommy Lee Jones-y. The head-on-a-stick moment is straight outta the Corman guide to moviemaking.

    Anyway, not a great film, but not a bad time in front of the accursed TV either. Watchable despite itself.

  84. Reading through this comment board, I realize that all of the criticism people have thrown at NBK could just as easily apply to Fight Club, a film that I also find to be somewhat overrated. Like NBK, Fight Club relies heavily on style throughout the film. It is also a parody of sorts. Its message is just as muddle and confused, like NBK, and in the end it thinks it has more to say than it really does. Fight Club is a little more assured in its aesthetics, but overall I think both films are kind of mirror images of each other. Where NBK shouts at you, “MEDIA” and “VIOLENCE,” Fight Club yells, “MEN” and “SOCIETY”.

  85. This movie stinks. Although ANY GIVEN SUNDAY is the true Stone atrocity.

  86. – Rbatty

    I think that NBK and FIGHT CLUB have ambigious endings, that`s not the same as a muddled message. Oliver Stone and David Fincher is not giving us a solution to a problem, they`re showing us the problem and asking us to make up our own mind. Especially NBK, that points out that WE (the director AND the audience) are a very big part of the problem the movie is presenting.

    I do think that David Fincher is very much in control of his story in Fight Club, while Oliver Stones approach to making NBK was loosing control on purpose and making art out of chaos. He was doing magic mushrooms with the producers during the pre-production and all.

  87. dna, I just have to ask; what problems are NBK and FC presenting?

  88. – pegsman

    I`m too hungover to make any sorte sense right now, but NBK is something about the media glamourizing murders and violence. I think Oliver Stone was spot on in describing a society where being famous is more important than what you`re famous for. I dunno bout america, but most celebreties in my country are just famous because of acting like assholes on tv or being on the covers of magazines because of crime, scandals, sextapes or domestic issues. Anders Breivik, for example, murdered dozens of teenagers in Norway and I don`t believe that he had any real reason for doing so, except for wanting to be famous. And we, the audience, are the ones making them famous.

    Fight Club.. Oh, man, I´m not gonna go into that. Something about modern society alienating modern men and making them extremists something something.

  89. I think the love story behind it is very beautiful actually. And of two people in the total grip of unconsciousness, unspirtual episode of prolonged violence, but pure unadulterated and conscious love for one another i think it’s one of the movies strongest points. I was browsing on youtube and found a video that pretty much sums it up…


  90. I’m dissapointed the ‘fate’ aspect of Mickey’s character and implied life was not mentioned here, as to me anyway, it comes across as an important part of the story and the lives of Mickey and Mallory. For example, the Native American man being shot by Mickey in reaction to his recurring childhood dreams. It wasn’t so much that the man was “All knowing because native americans,” to me he didn’t really come across that way anyway, seemed of average intelligence. The Native man is outside of the media and society, and I think it’s implied that because of this he harbors more control and understanding of life and death. His mind has not been twisted into living life passively and in submission of man-made authority/corporatism and propaganda/mass programming. The theme of fate is a pretty clear and substantial part of the movie, and I think in a real review it should be explored in the context of the film.

    During the prison interview, Mickey mentions how so many people are walking around already dead inside, shells of who they possibly once where, but still clinging to life because they are part of the implied machine of society, they have a job to do, and that job is to serve, pay taxes, be productive, ect. Just living and dieing is no longer an option anymore. I guess I also disagree with the idea of Mickey and Mallory just being shallow caricatures. The native man is not part of the machine, he doesn’t live life based on a constant barrage of external mindless media and expectations, he lives in the natural world, he wasn’t taught to be fearful and cynical of his own mind.
    I think the native man is actually a really important part of the film, I see it as a device used by Stone to give credibility to Mickey’s worldview and the idea that maybe fate does exist, and if we weren’t all so caught up in everything but our own life maybe we would recognize it, or maybe not. Mickey is most certainly sick in the head.

    Anyway, what I’m saying is I think this movie has a lot more substance than I see some people giving it. Maybe I’m wrong and pulling this stuff out of nowhere, but I don’t really think that’s the case.

  91. Some of that comment was somewhat incoherent but I’m tired and don’t want to go too intricate right now.

    One more thing though, every single effect and changes in film style, as well as the flash cuts are used not only for the style of the film but they also convey a meaning or subtext into what’s going on within Mickey and Mallory’s screwed up world and minds. They aren’t just completely random nonsense.

    I think the I love Mallory bits in and of themselves, like the coke commercials, are symbolic of how many TV programs have seriously disturbing undertones but are presented in a way to make the viewer feel calm and okay towards said undertones/ideas/morals/ect. I think it’s no secret that most people can be easily influenced and manipulated using certain ideas, presentations, and visual/auditory cues, ect. I think lately this has been even more clear and rose to an even more disturbing level, in regards to media. Look at what is presented as reality tv for example. Many many people actually think lizard lick towing and game of arms is real life, and this, IMO, undoubtedly has an impact on the masses.

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