|Category||Black Comedy||Audio Commentary - Oliver Stone
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
Menu Animation and Audio
(Not 121 Minutes as per packaging)
Universal Home Video
Robert Downey, Jr.
Tommy Lee Jones
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448
English Audio Commentary (Dolby Digital 2.0, 224 Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||
|Subtitles||None||Annoying Product Placement||Yes, mildly|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes, a montage during credits|
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.
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.
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.
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.
|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|