Natural Born Killers (NTSC) (1994) (NTSC)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 6-Feb-2002

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Main Menu Audio
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Audio Commentary-Oliver Stone (Director)
Deleted Scenes-6 +/- Oliver Stone Introduction
Featurette-Chaos Rising
Theatrical Trailer
Alternate Ending
Featurette-Charlie Rose Interviews
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1994
Running Time 118:49
RSDL / Flipper RSDL Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,4 Directed By Oliver Stone
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Woody Harrelson
Juliette Lewis
Robert Downey, Jr.
Tommy Lee Jones
Tom Sizemore
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $24.95 Music Tomandandy


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
Spanish
Portuguese
Smoking Yes, for plot movement
Annoying Product Placement Yes, mildly
Action In or After Credits Yes

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Natural Born Killers is one of those films that manages to divide audiences firmly down the middle, with one half praising it for its satirical elements as well as its ability to counter the "violence is cool" attitude that some filmmakers I won't glorify by naming here seem to have. The other camp criticise the film because of its manic visual style that soon gives the viewer a nasty headache, and this is a perfectly valid criticism to make, in all honesty. Indeed, this effort, combined with Oliver Stone's subsequent film, U-Turn, had some critics speculating that he was going to film his next feature while jumping up and down on a trampoline. Of course, Natural Born Killers also attracted a lot of publicity in the USA, with the company originally responsible for its distribution there refusing to handle the unrated Director's Cut (more on this shortly).

    The plot concerns itself with Mickey Knox (Woody Harrelson) and his wife, Mallory (Juliette Lewis), who have been running across the country killing anyone who ticks them off. After they dispatch some rednecks at a diner in a way that I can just imagine my girlfriend and I doing ourselves, they then take us back to the time when they met via a series of flashbacks. The story proper begins as Mallory is living with her parents, Ed Wilson (Rodney Dangerfield) being the one of most importance to the story. Ed is a very abusive father, and after he manages to get Mickey put away for Grand Theft Auto, Mickey comes back to help Mallory kill both of her parents. From there, they roll across the countryside, killing patrons and staff at stores while journalist Wayne Gale (Robert Downey, Jr.) feeds off their work like a buzzard off a rotting cow.

    Pursued by an obsessive police detective by the name of Jack Scagnetti (Tom Sizemore), the pair are eventually arrested outside a pharmacy, but this is only where the fun, or horror, depending on your sense of humour, picks up a gear or two. A year later, the prison they have been relegated to under the supervision of warden Dwight McClusky (Tommy Lee Jones) is overcrowded to bursting point, and when Gale interviews Mickey for his current affairs programme, all hell breaks loose, both in the on-screen action and the cinematography. The whole film is like a really bad drug trip, and half a dozen different shooting styles were used to simulate the different looks of every sequence, with the film often going from thirty-five millimetre colour to black and white eight millimetre and back again, often within the same scene.

    This DVD does not contain Oliver Stone's preferred cut of the film, which had to be trimmed by a couple of hundred shots in order to avoid being slapped with the NC-17 rating by the MPAA and their archaic classification system. From what I have been able to gather, Warner Home Video in America have a policy about not distributing unrated or NC-17 home video material, so the director's cut was handled in America by Trimark (it is distributed here by Universal). The only reason I can therefore think of to buy this version of the film is if you thought the director's cut was excessive, or if you have a weak stomach.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    The Warner Home Video version of Natural Born Killers is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, and it is 16x9 Enhanced. It is presented in NTSC, so you will need to make sure that your display can handle this signal.

    One thing to bear in mind when assessing the transfer of this film is that director Oliver Stone decided to make numerous sequences look like they'd been recorded on low-quality source materials such as those used for news broadcasts on purpose. For this reason, the sharpness of the transfer varies considerably, with the sequences shot with standard film having plenty of definition, while the video sequences such as the newscasts are decidedly blurry. The shadow detail is also quite variable, with some sequences having well defined detail in the darkness, while others that were shot in black and white or with a different gauge of film are more indistinct. Low-level noise is occasionally apparent in the video sequences, with the colours taking on a grainy, random look, but this is inherent in the film, and there are no such problems otherwise.

    The colour schemes in the film also vary wildly, varying between full colour, singular-colour tinted lenses, black and white, and of course the smeared look of video. All of these schemes are represented well on this DVD, with only the video sequences suffering minor evidence of dot crawl. There are no composite artefacts or smearing on display apart from in these moments.

    MPEG artefacts are not apparent in this transfer, which is just as well considering some of the challenges that source material like this presents. There are some film-to-video artefacts, namely aliasing, in such things as the waitress' badges at 1:31, the steering wheel at 27:30, and a gap in the wall of the Indian shaman's hut at 40:00. The more creative shots in this film, namely the video and lesser film stock sequences, seem to lack the resolution to make this artefact apparent. There are quite a number of film artefacts in this transfer, but the majority of them are actually deliberate, with the rare non-deliberate ones being rather minor and occasional.

    There are no English for the Hearing Impaired subtitles on this disc, and the English subtitles that are included are not entirely faithful to the spoken dialogue.

    This disc is RSDL formatted, but I was unable to locate a layer change anywhere in the feature.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are three soundtracks on this DVD. In order, they are the original English dialogue in Dolby Digital 5.1 with a bitrate of 384 kilobits per second, a French dub in Dolby Digital 2.0, and an English Audio Commentary, both of which are in Dolby Digital 2.0 with surround-encoding and a bitrate of 192 kilobits per second. I listened to the English dialogue and the Audio Commentary.

    Compared to the director's cut version released late in 2000 by Universal Home Video, the audio transfer here is pretty underwhelming. The dialogue is clear and easy to make out most of the time, although the suspect areas of the film, namely what Woody Harrelson is saying while he cuts up one redneck, and the name the prison officer repeats to Tommy Lee Jones, are pretty indecipherable. In the latter case, this is due to the actor's enunciation, but the former example could have been better if there had been more bits available to separate the dialogue from the cavalcade of noise taking place in the background. There are no discernable audio sync problems that weren't intended to be in the finished film.

    There are numerous pieces of contemporary music used in this film, my favourite example being the Leonard Cohen numbers that open the film and close the prison riot sequence. Other contemporary numbers are merely distracting and inappropriate. There is also some score music by tomandandy, but this is hard to notice over the wall of sound that often accompanies it. It is worth noting that the piece of music just before the closing credits, after the Rodney King speech, is different in this version of the film. The music in this sequence in the director's cut of the movie is much more appropriate.

    The surround channels are used rather sporadically in this transfer, with the only specific example worthy of mention that I can remember being the passage of a bird through the rears at 75:39. The music, of course, is constantly blaring out of the surrounds, but it is curiously underwhelming, and the soundfield does not have that aggressive, violent feel that was so pervasive in the director's cut.

    The subwoofer was used to support the music and gunshots, but it was curiously detached from the film a lot of the time. It simply comes into action when required without calling any attention to itself or being particularly creative.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    The menu is static, accompanied by Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, and 16x9 Enhanced. Navigation is very straight-forward.

Audio Commentary - Oliver Stone (Director)

    Presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 with surround-encoding, this is essentially the same dull audio commentary that graced the director's cut DVD distributed by Universal.

Cast & Crew Filmographies

    Filmographies for Woody Harrelson, Juliette Lewis, Robert Downey, Jr., Tommy Lee Jones, and director Oliver Stone are presented under this submenu.

Deleted Scenes

    Six scenes totalling twenty-four minutes and twenty-two seconds 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.

Featurette - Chaos Rising: The Storm Around Natural Born Killers

    This twenty-six minute and twenty-seven second featurette is presented in the aspect ratios of 1.33:1 and 1.78:1, with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Theatrical Trailer

    This one minute and forty-seven second trailer is presented in the aspect ratios of 1.33:1 and 1.78:1, with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Alternate Ending

    This four minute and fifty-seven second alternate ending is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Featurette - Charlie Rose Interview

    This eleven minute and thirty-second featurette is of Charlie Rose interviewing Oliver Stone about the film, presented in the aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The equivalent theatrical cut in Region 1 is distributed by Warner Home Video, and is presented on a 16x9 Enhanced disc. If you want the theatrical cut, then the two discs are pretty much identical, right down to the NTSC formatting. If you want the director's cut, however, then Region 4 still wins by a long way.

Summary

    Natural Born Killers is a film that resembles being on really horrible drugs, and while its message that violence is not the cool fashion statement that a certain overrated sulk who disowned the film makes out is a valid one, it does become a little hard to take the way the film hits one over the head with said message. If you're into fiercely non-conventional films, then this is one to be checked out, although why Warner Home Video have elected to release the MPAA-approved cut here is beyond me.

    The video transfer is good, but the NTSC formatting really counts against it in a lot of shots.

    The audio transfer is strangely underwhelming, and the lower bitrate does not help matters.

    The extras are mostly replicated from the director's cut DVD that was released some time ago.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Sunday, April 07, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 2109, using S-Video output
DisplaySamsung CS-823AMF (80cm). Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony STR DE-835
SpeakersYamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NSC-120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Difference with Director's cut? - REPLY POSTED