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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Natural Born Killers: 20th Anniversary (Blu-ray)
Natural Born Killers: 20th Anniversary (Blu-ray)
Warner Bros. // R // December 9, 2014 // Region A
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Oktay Ege Kozak | posted December 18, 2014 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

It's beyond a doubt that Natural Born Killers is a dangerous movie. It's a prophetic, brutally honest, daring, willfully insane and altogether masterful satire of America's obsession with violence and tabloid media, but I'll be damned if I'd ever recommend it to anyone before learning of their taste and personality. In fact, if it were up to me, you'd have to take a detailed test on your satire aptitude levels before being allowed to watch it.

God knows we don't want to burden the world with more morons who completely miss the point of Oliver Stone's vision and blindly lash out against the gratuitous sex and violence in contemporary cinema, the irony being that Stone was obviously angrier about the desensitization of violence in media than any conservative talking head.

Or worse yet, some people could go on a killing spree simply because they wanted to be popular like Mickey (Woody Harrelson) and Mallory (Juliette Lewis), the star-crossed lovers who also happen to be ruthless mass murderers (Mickey would correct you that they're not serial killers) turned media superstars due to the tabloid consuming public's thirst for violence. If you think I'm exaggerating, Google Sarah Edmondson and The Richardson Family Murders.

The best way to appreciate Natural Born Killers is to approach it as a hyper violent live-action Looney Tunes cartoon with a clear and imminently important sociopolitical agenda, which explains the film's deliberately over-the-top approach to every aspect of its execution, including Tommy Lee Jones' deliciously bats--t crazy take on Yosemite Sam as a prison warden.

Stone's angry, in-your-face take on America's obsession with violence is the cinematic equivalent of a father catching his son smoking a cigarette and locking him in a closet with fifty thick cigars, refusing to let him out until the poor kid smokes every last one.

You think violence is cool? Let's crank that up to 11 while crossing your wires by structuring all of that senseless graphic violence around a bona fide tender love story, a blood-soaked version of Romeo & Juliet as ruthless psychopaths, where even the most disturbing content is delivered as casual entertainment, complete with soothing commercial brakes.

Scenes of cold-blooded murder are executed like a wacky comedy accompanied by a grotesque combination of "cool" hard rock tunes and an "artsy" classical score. Mallory's sexual abuse from her father (A perfectly cast Rodney Dangerfield) is handled like a Married With Children-style sit-com. A chaotic prison break is broadcast live as a narcissistic tabloid "journalist" (Robert Downey Jr.) narrates the slew of murders as if pitching an action movie to a Hollywood executive. Every second of Natural Born Killers was designed to turn horrific violence into vapid entertainment, the way Stone understandably saw the way mainstream media treated real-life atrocities.

The Blu-Ray:

Video:

Completely in tune with the film's satirical look at media excess, Natural Born Killers is a visual onslaught on the senses, combining pretty much every format of film and video that was available at the time, intercut together in appropriately manic fashion. Considering this fact makes the excellent Blu-Ray transfer of the film that much more of an impressive feat. Every sudden change in format and color palette stays very loyal to the source material as the 1080p transfer showcases the best home video presentation of Stone's masterpiece. Even the cheesy video footage, like the sit-com sequence full of gauche colors, stays true to the film's artistic intentions.

Audio:

Natural Born Killers' immensely layered sound mix is perhaps even more chaotic than its visuals. The DTS-HD 5.1 Surround presentation is bound to give your surround system quite a workout as the film's soundtrack full of an eclectic selection of popular music is mixed perfectly with the busy sfx work. All in all, this is one of those films that was meant to be experienced in HD video and sound, and Warner Bros doesn't disappoint.

Extras:

The Diamond Luxe edition of Natural Born Killers comes with two Blu-Ray discs, one containing the original theatrical release, the other including the more violent director's cut. There isn't any story difference between the two cuts, the director's cut basically reinserts graphic violence that was cut out of the theatrical release in order for the movie to get an R rating.

Since Stone's intention is for the audience to experience the film's excess in as much of an exaggerated way as possible, I recommend the director's cut as the only version that viewers should spend their time on. Aside from a short Introduction from Stone on the director's cut, both discs contain the exact same special features.

Method in the Madness: A 15-minute documentary that focuses mostly on the film's manic editing style.

NBK Evolution: The most fascinating feature on the disc, this 21-minute documentary examines how Mickey and Mallory would have operated in today's social media-ruled world. It contains in-depth interviews with tabloid figures and Internet power players, all matter-of-factly theorizing how the killer duo would have used facebook and Instagram to promote their murder spree.

Chaos Rising: This vintage featurette from the mid-90s inspects the film's production. It's for those looking for a more standard behind-the-scenes doc.

Charlie Rose Interview: An 11-minute excerpt from Stone's mid-90s appearance on Charlie Rose where he honestly talks about his own demons.

Deleted Scenes: These scenes come with optional introduction videos by Oliver Stone. There's some fascinating stuff here, including a long courtroom sequence and a bonkers appearance by The Hun Brothers.

Alternate Ending: This one also comes with an optional intro by Stone. One of the most important elements in turning Natural Born Killers into such a subversive experience is the nihilistic ending. Even though this ending gives more context to the enigmatic guardian angel character, it would have done a disservice to the film's anarchic tone.

Audio Commentary by Oliver Stone: This is one of the best director's audio commentaries out there as Stone meticulously explains his intentions behind each scene and editing decision.

We also get a Trailer.

Final Thoughts:

Twenty years after its release, Natural Born Killers is even more culturally and artistically relevant. Not only has it aged really well, the film's ADD-style editing, almost surrealistically cutting between live action, stock footage, commercials, animation etc… fits our current social media-obsessed, always multi-tasking, ever-shortening attention span culture than it did with the mid-90s. Unfortunately for our culture and fortunately for film buffs, I predict Natural Born Killers will become more and more relevant over time.

Oktay Ege Kozak is a film critic and screenwriter based in Portland, Oregon. He also writes for The Playlist, The Oregon Herald, and Beyazperde.com

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