When it was originally released in 1994, this controversial and shocking crime thriller suffered more than 150 cuts, most of which involved instances of violence against authority figures. Oliver Stone's uncut version restores those cuts. It also includes deleted scenes from the prison riot and, most crucially, there's a subtle but important difference to the film's ending.
The film is the natural-born successor to A Clockwork Orange, not only in its theme (the link between media and real-life violence), but in the way it was received. No other film since Kubrick's has spawned such hysterical reaction. Within two months of its release, ten copycat killings had been reported in America, and a vitriolic media frenzy brought the film a temporary ban in Britain.
The film's story is a Bonnie and Clyde for the 1990s. Lovin' white trash, Mickey (Woody Harrelson) and Mallory Knox (Juliette Lewis) randomly blow away 52 innocents on a three-week rampage across America. They do it for kicks, and for the folk-hero fame that inevitably builds as venal Australian TV host Wayne Gale (Robert Downey Jr.) tracks their murderous progress on his ratings-craving crime show, American Maniacs.
The couple, who leave one gibbering survivor at every massacre, are eventually caught by amoral celebrity cop Jack Scagnetti (Tom Sizemore), and banged up in the prison of crazed warden Dwight McClusky (Tommy Lee Jones). In an exclusive interview with his prey, Gale sparks a prison riot during which Mickey and Mallory behead McClusky, execute the TV host in front of his own camera, and escape to trailer-park bliss.
Natural Born Killers was adapted from a script by Quentin Tarantino. In Stone's hands, the film's satiric message, that the blood-thirsty American tabloid media perpetuates crime by glamorising and sensationalising violence, is simplistic. The way in which it hammers home its point, however, is anything but.
The film is a warped tour de force of technical wizardry. It surfs between old movie footage (including Scarface and the Oliver Stone-scripted Midnight Express), cinema, TV news, soap-opera, home video and security film styles, switching spasmodically from black and white to colour, fast- to slow-motion, hyper-reality to hallucination.
Meanwhile, brutal flash-cut editing (which took Hank Corwin and Brian Berdan a staggering 11 months to complete) shuffles the skilfully constructed, heinous imagery into a high-octane, sensory blitzkrieg that's accompanied by a scorching soundtrack pieced together by Nine Inch Nails's frontman Trent Reznor.