While commentators and politicians argue about health care and a band-aid crime bill, children are shooting each other and, quite often, their parents.


A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.

"Natural Born Killers" is Oliver Stone's harrowing scream that a sick America is celebrating its own decay. The only way he can reach us, it seems, is to force the blood down our throats. While commentators and politicians argue about health care and a band-aid crime bill, children are shooting each other and, quite often, their parents. Nicole Simpson, by whosever hand, was slit through to her spinal column outside her own condominium; the Menendezes were riddled by bullets from the guns of their own sons; and John Wayne Bobbitt lost his penis in his own bed.

Stone is incensed that the dying and desperate TV networks, responding to a ravenous public appetite for gossip, flog their commentators for ratings in the competition for crumbs in the race for the lurid gossip scoop.

The whole cultural slop bucket overflowed on the day most of America watched the Los Angeles Police Department escort, ever so politely, the White Bronco that carried a suspect in a brutal slaying. Fearful that Simpson might kill himself if they stopped his car, they escorted him safely to the destination of his choice. Oliver Stone is enraged by a culture that has turned police and media into handmaidens to celebrities. His movie is an explosive protest in violent imagery.

Part One of this bloodbath chronicles the wanton killing of 52 people by Mickey (Woody Harrelson) and Mallory (Juliette Lewis) as they honeymoon their way across New Mexico. Without so much as a remark as to why they kill--"I didn't like his eyes" would do--they murder anyone who happens to be around when they stop for coffee or gas. Stone keeps his killers simple. With pokers, knives, guns and without reason, they kill anyone they choose, until finally they are cornered, caught and imprisoned, at which point most of the audience would love to pack up and go home; but Stone has just begun.

His second wind is a frightening mockery of media glorification of the lovers' crimes as seen through grotesque talk-show host Wayne Gale (Robert Downey Jr.), whose insatiable egotistic needs mirror those of his real-life counterparts. The impossible happens when the movie turns even bloodier in a prolonged prison riot that portrays warden, cops and inmates as crazed fools. Stone savages criminals, cops, prisons, psychologists, the judicial system, and the media, which encourage carnage in order to sell fear. The whole thing is a massive self-indulgence of one man's anger.

This movie is not the stuff of satire or parody. It is Oliver Stone in a colossal rage, drawing his characters in extreme caricature without a sly or subtle note. Juliette Lewis, Woody Harrelson, Tommy Lee Jones and a cast of hundreds try our patience by playing their roles in ludicrous overstatement, until we realize that Stone is using exaggeration to paint a surreal depiction of mindless brutality and a society that tolerates it. After that, you may join him in his fury.

Film Critic: JOAN ELLIS
Word Count: 498
Studio: Warner Bros.
Rating: R 1h59m

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