Thursday, October 24, 2013
Oliver Stone's "Natural Born Killers"
"Did you enjoy that rubbish?" asked my wife, the next morning. She'd gone to bed after two scenes of Natural Born Killers. Too much violence. Too much bad language. Not her sort of film.
I wouldn't say I enjoyed the film but I was quite mesmerised by it. I have a habit of falling asleep in front of the telly but there was no chance of me doing that with Mickey and Mallory on the rampage.
With original story by Quentin Tarantino (though substantially rewritten) and directed by Stone, the film was never going to pull any punches. It concerns the curious relationship between two young people from dysfunctional families (Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis both played brilliantly) who embark on a mass-murder spree. The second half of the film deals with their eventual incarceration and bloody break-out. It was shot mainly in New Mexico and Illinois respectively.
The main themes of the film are the almost innate violence in society that produces such a pair and the media's glorification of the violence. Mickey defends his actions as being 'pure' whereas the media, as portrayed by the Robert Downey Junior figure Wayne Gale, is hypocritical and false. During the breakout, where Gale himself goes on a shooting rampage, the film seems to suggest there is not much difference between the two. Like de Niro in Taxi Driver, Woody Harrelson also shaves off his hair before cleansing the world of filth.
Even the warden of the prison - a brilliantly OTT neurotic psychotic Tommy Lee Jones - is just a step away from the Mickey and Mallorys of this world and the law enforcement officer Jack Scagnetti once strangled a prostitute. The pair drive past buildings that appear to be on fire or showing grisly violent scenes, an effect that works well the first few times but I began to tire of it a bit towards the end.
I won't give away the ending. It seems very far-fetched but the film seems to be suggesting that we are approaching some kind of apocalypse where violence becomes the norm.
For me, the violence got wearisome after a while. Maybe that's the point. Like society, the viewer sees so much violence he becomes inured to it. We never seem to have much sympathy with the victims because they are mere canon fodder to be butchered. We don't know their back stories or have any empathy with them. It's the old Sex Pistols 'No one is innocent' thing. The film concentrates on the perpetrators and their motives for seemingly random acts of butchery, though it seems that several of the victims were pretty unsavoury - Roger Dangerfield as Mallory's Dad, her mam, the redneck in the bar (quite Thelma and Louise-ish), the warden, the police officer, the media guy. Except for the Indian guy. He was shot by accident.
This film was actually banned in Ireland on its release. I can kind of see why. The irony is that, although the film is an attack on the media's sensationalision of violence, the two protagonists are the real anti-heroes of the film and there is a very real danger they could inspire copycat killings.
Not for the faint-hearted. Or the criminally deranged.