Natural [1984]

Oliver Stone would like to have the last word on America's media culture of voyeurism and violence, but whatever he's trying to say in this grisly, unconventional movie comes across terribly garbled. Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis play traveling serial killers who become television celebrities when a Geraldo-like personality (Robert Downey Jr.) turns their madness into the biggest story in the country. Stone extensively rewrote an original script by Quentin Tarantino, and he employs a mosaic of different film stocks, video, and pop pastiches to create a sense of blurred lines between visual phenomena. (The background on Lewis's character's life as an abused child, for instance, is presented as a sitcom starring Rodney Dangerfield.) But the result of these experiments is a pompous, even amateurish effort at grasping the reins of a real-life national debate. One almost wants to tell Stone to sit down and raise his hand next time if he thinks he has something to say. The controversial director would like Natural Born Killers to be nothing less than a monumental achievement, but it's one of the emptier entries in his filmography. --Tom Keogh

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