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(Director’s Cut)

For the longest time, the Director’s Cut of Oliver Stone’s controversial NATURAL BORN KILLERS ($29) was a property that Warner Home Video has disassociated themselves from, even going so far to license it out to another entity for earlier home video releases. Of course, time changes a lot of things… Fifteen years after the film first appeared in its edited theatrical form, Warner has gotten around to their own Director’s Cut release of NATURAL BORN KILLERS on Blu-ray. Certainly, NATURAL BORN KILLERS remains a controversial film, even more so in its unexpurgated form, as the level of mind numbing violence will attest. Of course, the mind numbing quality of the violence is intentional, as NATURAL BORN KILLERS is intended as a satire, as well as brutal indictment of sensationalistic media and an American society that is addicted to it.

Not only is NATURAL BORN KILLERS brutally violent, it is also brutally funny… in a very dark and very twisted way. NATURAL BORN KILLERS stars Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis as Mickey and Mallory, two crazed killers on a murder spree through America, who are turned into international media darlings by a sleazy tabloid TV show, which is hosted by an even sleazier Wayne Gale (Robert Downey Jr.). Although every cop in America is on the lookout for Mickey and Mallory, NATURAL BORN KILLERS adds an unbalanced lawman by the name of Jack Scagnetti (Tom Sizemore) to the mix. Of course, Scagnetti manages to be on hand when Mickey and Mallory are finally brought to justice. However, if you think the movie is over when Mickey and Mallory get locked away in prison- you are dead wrong.

The Director’s Cut of NATURAL BORN KILLERS restores approximately four minutes of footage to the film. Said footage is not any one particular scene, but instead, consists of approximately one hundred and fifty edits. These snippets run the gamut from frames of film being added to existing moments, to individual and multiple shots being added back to the body of the movie. Everything added back to NATURAL BORN KILLERS certain enhances both the satirical edge and power of director Oliver Stone’s vision, but comes in the form of violence that would certainly garner the film an NC-17 in the eyes of the MPAA. Violence aside, NATURAL BORN KILLERS remains one of the most visually disconcerting movies that I have ever seen. Stone plays mix and match with various film stocks, including Super 8, as well as shooting sequences on video, plus he shifts between color and black and white at the drop of a hat. There are times where no two shots within a scene seem to match, but the overall effect is astonishing. All things considered, whittling down Stone’s original cut of NATURAL BORN KILLERS to the theatrical version must have been an editor’s nightmare. However, even in its theatrical form, NATURAL BORN KILLERS remains a visual masterwork.

Despite Oliver Stone's visual bravado, I don't think NATURAL BORN KILLERS would have succeeded at all, had it not been for the film's rock solid performances. Woody Harrelson is like watching a ticking time bomb- looks completely harmless, until it explodes. Robert Downey Jr. practically steals the movie with his performance as the slimy, egotistical "journalist." In the scenes where his lawman goes over the edge, Tom Sizemore is almost as scary as Harrelson. Tommy Lee Jones turns in a hilarious scene stealing performance as the prison warden, who looks like he should be selling used cars. Finally, there is Rodney Dangerfield, who absolutely amazing in a dramatic role that works brilliantly against his established comic persona. The cast of NATURAL BORN KILLERS also includes O-Lan Jones, Edie McClurg, Balthazar Getty, Russell Means and Steven Wright.

Warner Home Video has made the Director’s Cut of NATURAL BORN KILLERS available on Blu-ray Disc in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. Like the preceding Blu-ray release of the Theatrical Version, the Director’s Cut of NATURAL BORN KILLERS is offered in a stunning 1080p presentation that makes the most of Oliver Stone’s mix and match filmmaking techniques. Of course, since NATURAL BORN KILLERS is an assemblage of numerous types of film, with different grain structures and looks, as well as video, there isn’t a consistent look to the presentation. As I stated on my previous review of the Theatrical Version 35mm sequences do looks better than 16mm and those that were shot on Super 8, not to mention looking much better than the video footage transferred to film. Discussions on image sharpness and detail are rather pointless, since it’s production technique is all over the map. Colors can be deeply saturated, or muted, or even monochromatic- however, hues are faithfully rendered across the board. Blacks, whites and contrast have the same variable quality based upon the medium. Like the Theatrical Version, the elements from which the Director’s Cut of NATURAL BORN KILLERS has been transferred from are in excellent shape. Grain and video noise are perfectly representative of how any given sequence was produced- and that is exactly how it should be.

The Director’s Cut of NATURAL BORN KILLERS is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel Dolby TrueHD soundtrack, which is virtually identical to the Theatrical Version in terms of quality. As I stated previously, the sound design for NATURAL BORN KILLERS is aggressive and perfect companion to the film’s over-the-top visuals. All of the outlying channels are well utilized, with sound effects emanating from all around the soundstage. Thanks to the lossless encode, fidelity is very strong, especially where pop songs and other music is integrated into the track. The bass channel is highly potent and sometimes explosive. Dialogue reproduction is clean and maintains full intelligibility, even when the sound effects threaten to drown it out. An English Dolby Digital 5.1, plus a Spanish 2.0 tracks are also encoded onto the disc. Subtitles are available in English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Bahasa, Bulgarian, Dutch, Finnish, German, Greek, Hebrew, Icelandic, Indonesian Bahasa, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, Swedish, Thai and Turkish.

The interactive menus provide access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some supplements. Starting things off is an Introduction By Oliver Stone. Next, Oliver Stone is back to provide a running Audio Commentary. The Blu-ray features a new twenty-two minute program entitled NBK Evolution: How It Would All Go Down Now? Ported from the Laserdisc release is twenty-seven minute program entitled Chaos Rising: The Storm Around Natural Born Killers. Additionally, there is an excerpt from The Charlie Rose Show in which Oliver Stone is the featured guest talking about NATURAL BORN KILLERS. Deleted Scenes and an Alternate Ending are also provided and include introductions by director Stone. A Theatrical Trailer closes out the supplements. NATURAL BORN KILLERS package also contains a forty-two-page booklet of photos and notes.

Love it. Hate it. There is no denying NATURAL BORN KILLERS is an amazing piece of cinema- which is made even more so in its Director’s Cut. Like their preceding Theatrical Version release, Warner’s Blu-ray presentation of the Director’s Cut of NATURAL BORN KILLERS is an outstanding rendering of this mixed media motion picture event. Very highly recommended.



Natural Born Killers (Unrated Director's Cut) [Blu-ray] (1994)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2009 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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