Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers is a bold and audacious film that is definitely a product of its time. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really work and comes off a bit dated now. It fails due to a fairly basic reason: miscommunication.
Stone is an auteur whose films tend to get dominated by a specific message. His commitment to the messages is what makes him such an interesting filmmaker. Unfortunately, his agenda driven style kind of contradicts Quentin Tarantino’s screenplay. Tarantino is a character-based filmmaker with a strong grounding in niche genres. His scripts cater to this, which is usually why he refuses to have someone else direct them. Stone and Tarantino’s styles of narrative storytelling just don’t mesh together and the film suffers for it. Stone seems to be using a Verfremdungseffekt style of filmmaking where everything is exaggerated so you get more invested in the message than the characters. This would work great if the film had more to say about how the media glorifies violence. It’s a solid message but the film is redundant. Instead of building off of the message with an essential human truth or engaging story it just reinforces said message.
The film isn’t without its good bits though. The acting is fun in a gloriously over the top way. The editing, while abrasive at first, does create a genuine ebb and flow and helps the film gel into its ever-changing tones. The cinematography is lively and inventive and Stone manages to keep the film’s momentum consistent.
It’s a bit hard to call the film successful; especially when you take into account the number of real life murders the film “inspired”. Stone intended to make the violence outlandish, instead he accidentally glorified it. It sticks with you but it doesn’t resonate.
- Rated: R
- Drama, Thriller
- Release Date: 8/26/1994
- Directed by: Oliver Stone
- Starring: Juliette Lewis, Robert Downey Jr., Tom Sizemore, Tommy Lee Jones, Woody Harrelson
- Produced by: Arnon Milchan, Clayton Townsend, Don Murphy, Jane Hamsher, Thom Mount
- Written by: Dave Veloz, Oliver Stone, Quentin Tarantino, Richard Rutowski
- Studio: Alcor Films, Ixtlan Corporation, Lionsgate Films, New Regency, Regency Enterprises, Warner Bros.