Natural Born Killers

Director's Cut

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Details At A Glance

Category Black Comedy Audio Commentary - Oliver Stone (Director)
Director's Cut Trailer (Full Frame, Dolby Digital 2.0)
Deleted Scenes with introductions by Oliver Stone
Featurette - Chaos Rising: The Storm Around Natural Born Killers
Alternate Ending
Menu Animation and Audio
Rating r.gif (1169 bytes)
Year Released 1994
Running Time
116:39 Minutes
(Not 121 Minutes as per packaging) 
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (80:10)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 4 Director Oliver Stone
Regency.gif (2502 bytes)
Universal Home Video
Starring Woody Harrelson
Juliette Lewis
Robert Downey, Jr.
Tom Sizemore
Tommy Lee Jones
Rodney Dangerfield
Case Transparent Amaray
RPI $36.95 Music Tom Hajdu
Andy Milburn
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448 Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary (Dolby Digital 2.0, 224 Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9Yes.jpg (4536 bytes)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking Yes
Subtitles None Annoying Product Placement Yes, mildly
Action In or After Credits Yes, a montage during credits

Plot Synopsis

    Natural Born Killers is a hard movie to classify, genre-wise, and one with an interesting history where censorship and press reaction is concerned. In my view, the film and the response it provoked is a knee-jerk reaction to the increasing violence that is plaguing America and its media, which points an accusing finger at one of the symptoms without giving any serious thought to the cause. Oliver Stone obviously wasn't aware that America's media has become an arbitrary outlet for basic natural drives as I've detailed in my review of Fight Club when he shot this film.

    On a more superficial level, Natural Born Killers is the story of Mickey Knox (Woody Harrelson) and Mallory Knox (Juliette Lewis), nee Wilson. The film begins in a diner somewhere near Highway 666, where Mickey and Mallory are peacefully dining and minding their own business. Things turn ugly, however, when Mallory starts dancing to jukebox records and attracts the unwanted attention of a pair of local rednecks, one of whom makes the most repulsive advances I have ever seen in a film. When Mallory proceeds to beat the almighty crap out of this repulsive cowboy, the scene disintegrates into a cavalcade of freakish violence, complete with effects that will make you wonder if someone didn't put something in your drink. From there, we are presented with flashbacks and media breaks that detail the day when Mickey and Mallory met, complete with a hilarious portrayal of Mallory's abusive father, Ed (Rodney Dangerfield), up to the moment when they are arrested outside a drug store in a mimicking of the Rodney King videotape. From this point, we fast forward a year, where trash-media journalist Wayne Gale (Robert Downey, Jr.) wants to interview Mickey in prison, while the prison's warden, Dwight McClusky (Tommy Lee Jones), and obsessive policeman Jack Scagnetti (Tom Sizemore) are planning to have the couple killed in transit to a facility for the criminally insane.

    There's no way to describe this plot that really does the film justice, and unlike overhyped drivel such as The Matrix, this really is a film that no one can really tell you what it's about or what you're supposed to walk away with when it is over. You really must see the film for yourself, preferably with a fully open mind, to appreciate what Oliver Stone was trying to say. The original screenwriter, Quentin Tarantino, has virtually disowned this film because of the changes made by subsequent writers, which is a good thing as far as I am concerned. Can you really imagine Mickey Knox spewing forth that patented Tarantino drivel which passes for dialogue in films such as Pulp Fiction? Anyway, as the full title of this DVD states, this is Oliver Stone's preferred cut of the film, with a number of shots that were cut or redone to appease the MPAA restored to their original ugliness. Warner Brothers, who originally released the film, have something of a policy that won't allow them to release home videos that are unrated or carry the dreaded NC-17 rating, which makes a complete joke out of the USA's guarantees of free speech in its Constitution. Thus, the Warner Brothers logo has been removed from the beginning of the film in the Director's Cut. However, not every single scene or shot that was removed from the the film has been restored, as there is a difference between doing it right and being downright vulgar. Thus, this DVD features six sequences that were edited out of the film and remain on the cutting room floor as extras, complete with some explanations by the director as to why they were left out.

    If you want to be entertained by an extremely violent film that resembles a dream you might have while using nicotine patches, then this is a good place to start. The narrative seems to be a little confused as to what it is trying to say, and some of the characters are rather grating, but the overall product is quite hilarious and enthralling. The legacy of Tarantino's original treatment of the screenplay seems to be little more than pointless masturbatory dialogue, but if you can overlook that, you will enjoy this film. It makes a nice piece to sit in your shelves beside A Clockwork Orange (to which this film has also been compared in favourable terms), and Fight Club. Mickey Knox says that a moment of realization is worth a thousand prayers, and I say that this film can be shown to a thousand people who will all think different things once it is over.

Transfer Quality


    Before we begin analysing the video transfer, it has to be borne in mind that this film was deliberately shot in a number of different ways for artistic reasons. Two different film formats were used, with certain segments shot in eight millimetre and then blown up to thirty-five millimetre, with spherical and super-eight lenses used by the cinematographer. Other sequences, such as the I Love Mallory segment, appear to have been shot using a modified video camera in order to give them the feel of a television show.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, and it is 16x9 Enhanced. The transfer is variably sharp, with most of the footage being quite clear and easy to make out, but the aforementioned simulations of television shows appear somewhat hazy. This is a deliberate effect, however, so there are no complaints in this area. The shadow detail is generally average, but most of the film is brightly lit and everything that you are meant to see is perfectly visible. There is no noise in the footage that was shot normally, or as close to normally as this film ever gets, but there is a minor amount of noise present in the eight-millimetre footage. I suspect that this was also a deliberate effect, but it is somewhat distracting at times.

    The colour saturation of the film itself is deliberately all over the place, with some scenes emphasizing specific hues for artistic reasons. The colour green is used a lot to emphasize both Mickey and Mallory's violent states of mind, and is prominently shown before certain sequences, such as in the key lime pie at the diner, the lighting at the service station, and the lighting at the drug store. The monochrome sequences are well-saturated, with plenty of gradations between black and white. The transfer captures all of the colour-based effects in the film without missing a beat, or showing any signs of bleeding.

    MPEG artefacts were not immediately obvious for the most part, although the encoding seems to have reduced the resolution and maximized the grain in some shots. The entire film is essentially a compression algorithm's worst nightmare, so it is a credit to Universal Home Video that the film looks as good as it does here. Film-to-video artefacts are very mild, with the occasional display of aliasing in fine lines that was never too prevalent or distracting. Film artefacts are rife throughout the monochrome footage, with copious flecks and scratches apparent in Mickey's escape from prison, but the commentary makes it clear that these marks are mostly deliberate. No serious film artefacts were noted during the more conventional footage, with the shots that were originally captured on sixteen and thirty-five millimetre film being clean and clear for the most part. When all is said and done, the film looks much cleaner and infinitely sharper than it ever did on VHS, so it is very nice to finally see this film on a home video format with definition.

    This disc is presented in the RSDL format, with the layer change taking place between Chapters 21 and 22, at 80:10. This is in the middle of an action, and is thus extremely noticeable. I don't think this was a very good place for the layer change, as there are plenty of quiet moments and even a fade to black where the layer change could have gone completely unnoticed. Given how brief the layer change is, the noticeability is quite hard to overlook.


    Having viewed this film on the Very Hazy System a number of times, the first thing I can say about this audio transfer is that the clarity is much better. There are only two soundtracks on this DVD: the original English dialogue, in Dolby Digital 5.1, and an English audio commentary in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo. Both of these soundtracks are encoded with a higher bitrate than is the norm, with the dialogue encoded at 448 kilobits per second, and the commentary encoded at 224 kilobits per second. The extra bits allocated to the dialogue are very much appreciated, as a significant amount of the dialogue was difficult to understand in other formats.

    The dialogue is much clearer and easier to understand on this DVD than any other format the film has been presented in, except maybe the theatres. Two specific pieces of dialogue have always been problematic on home video formats: the words Mickey is saying to the elder redneck as he is cutting the man open, and the report one guard makes to the Warden during the prison riot. The former piece of dialogue is much easier to understand in this transfer, but the latter is still quite difficult to fully make out, thanks largely to the actor's efforts. Overall, however, the dialogue is clear and easy to understand, so the salient points of the story are easy to follow. Audio sync is also a strange beast in this film, with the first shots of Wayne Gale on television being deliberately out of sync with the visuals, as are a number of effects shots. However, there did not seem to be any sync problems that weren't deliberate.

    Most of the music in this film is taken from contemporary sources, with occasional pieces of score music from Tom Hajdu and Andy Milburn, who are listed on the soundtrack album as "tomandandy". Overall, the music is something of a hit and miss affair, with some of the contemporary songs enhancing the feel of the visuals, while others just seem distracting and completely inappropriate. The amount of royalties that must have been paid for the music in this film would be quite staggering.

    The surround channels were used aggressively and constantly to support the music, passing cars, television audience noise, gunshots, and the occasional piece of dialogue. The surround field is constant and enveloping for the most part, with only an occasional moment here and there where the surrounds become too quiet for the good of the field. These sequences were meant to be quiet and reflective, so this is hardly the fault of the transfer. The wide surround field also helps with the clarity of the dialogue a great deal, although the opening credits sequence still sounds cluttered due to the artistic intentions of the director. The subwoofer was used to support the music and violence throughout the film, all without calling attention to itself. If I could sum up the surround usage in one word, it would be "violent", as the channels really do give me the feeling that they're assaulting me throughout the film.


    When I assess an extras package, I have only one specific criteria: it must enhance my enjoyment of the film. Comprehensiveness is a bonus, as is the absence of pointless advertising material. This extras package succeeds on the first of these fronts, and scores well in both bonus categories. The Dolby Digital Canyon trailer, which I consider to be a close competitor for the title of the least annoying of Dolby Digital's trailers, is present on this DVD.


    The menus are animated and accompanied by Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. They are 16x9 Enhanced and follow the overall tone of the film admirably. Navigation is smooth and easy, too. Personally, I think the menus look a little bit too much like the video-based sequences in the film, but that's just a personal quibble.

Audio Commentary - Oliver Stone (Director)

    Presented in Dolby Digital 2.0, Oliver Stone speaks about the artistic choices he made in the making of this film with the original soundtrack mixed in behind him at a level that varies upward when he pauses. I found it very difficult to listen to this commentary in one sitting, as Stone's voice is very dull.

Director's Cut Trailer

    Presented in Full Frame with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, this fifty-four second trailer proudly advertises the fact that this is the version of the film that has been cut to the director's intentions rather than those of the MPAA. The video and audio quality are very good.

Deleted Scenes

    Six scenes that were left on the cutting room floor, as opposed to being restored into the director's preferred cut, are presented in this menu. All of them feature an introduction by Oliver Stone, where he explains the reason why the scenes are not included in any finalized cut of the film, all of which make perfect sense and further my argument that he made the film much better than the script originally allowed for. All of the deleted scenes are presented in Full Frame with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, and they are not 16x9 Enhanced.

Alternate Ending

    Presented in Full Frame with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, this is an alternate ending to the story that, while ironic, doesn't quite work in the context of the rest of the film.

Featurette - Chaos Rising: The Storm Around Natural Born Killers

    This must be what the cover is referring to when it claims that Cast and Crew Interviews are present on this disc. Presented in varying aspect ratios, with footage from the film presented in what appears to be 1.78:1, while the interview footage is Full Frame. The featurette is not 16x9 Enhanced. The soundtrack is in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo.

R4 vs R1

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;     Region 4 is clearly the best choice, especially if you have a widescreen display device.


    Natural Born Killers is a piece of entertainment that somehow fails as social commentary because it fails to dig past the surface of its topic, but it also forms a good argument that Quentin Tarantino is nothing more than an overrated sulk. The DVD on which it is presented is excellent.

    The video quality is a very good reflection of the methods used to shoot the film.

    The audio quality is a very good reflection of the manner in which the film was originally presented.

    The extras are comprehensive and enhance the enjoyment factor of the film tremendously.

Ratings (out of 5)

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© Dean McIntosh (my bio sucks... read it anyway)
December 12, 2000. 
Review Equipment
DVD Toshiba SD-2109, using S-video output
Display Samsung CS-823AMF (80 cm) in 16:9 and 4:3 modes, calibrated using the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built In (Amplifier)
Amplification Sony STR-DE835, calibrated using the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Yamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Philips PH931SSS Rear Speakers, Philips FB206WC Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer