Oliver Stone’s Magnum Opus

Maybe no movie better encapsulates the 1990s than Oliver Stone’s polarizing Natural Born Killers. Starring Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis as two demented killers in love, Stone’s bravura filmmaking in it dazzles with hundreds of careful edits and an incredible soundtrack of curated music hand-picked by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. Natural Born Killers is Oliver Stone’s boldest and most manic storytelling, a visual tour de force culminating in his most inspired film.

Based off a screenplay by Quentin Tarantino, Natural Born Killers is a provocative and violent satire of a sensationalized news media covering two killers as they roam across America wreaking havoc. In one of his greatest performances, Robert Downey Jr. plays the inimitable Wayne Gale, a pseudo-Geraldo Riviera television journalist. Tommy Lee Jones and Tom Sizemore ham it up in brilliantly over the top portrayals as distorted parts of the justice system, all part of a chaotic madness Stone relentlessly pushes.

Natural Born Killers is Oliver Stone’s boldest and most manic storytelling, a visual tour de force culminating in his most inspired film

“Mickey and Mallory are the best thing to happen to mass murder since Manson.”

Stars Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis play two wackadoo killers in Mickey and Mallory Knox on the run. Natural Born Killers is a twisted love story at its core fueled by their gonzo performances. Falling in love together, the psychedelic narrative follows the deranged lovebirds on a murder spree. Covered by a news media obsessed with glamorizing their violence, Mickey and Mallory become national icons. Made in the wake of O.J. Simpson’s arrest and murder trial, it’s a pointed satire as relevant today as it was upon release.

“I see angels, Mickey. They’re comin’ down for us from heaven. And I see you ridin’ a big red horse, and you’re driving them horses, whippin’ ’em, and they’re spitting and frothing all ‘long the mouth, and they’re coming right at us. And I see the future, a vision of death, ’cause you and I, we’re angels…”

Employing a barrage of different cinematic techniques, Oliver Stone crafts a thrilling and often delirious powerhouse boasting one of the best film soundtracks of all time. Leonard Cohen’s apocalyptic songs “Waiting For the Miracle” and “The Future” respectively open and close Natural Born Killers. Fitting bookends for a film steeped in the rot of society. It’s disorienting cinema dissecting its subjects with tasteless abandon, a hyper-real parody of American culture and television which shouldn’t be taken completely seriously.

Rarely does Hollywood produce such genius, providing a zany snapshot in time of American culture at the hands of gifted performers and virtuoso direction.

Video

Carefully made with hundreds of small edits and a wide variety of different medias such as animation, Natural Born Killers debuts on 4K UHD in this gorgeous new scan unmolested by extraneous processing of the original camera negative. Shout Studios provides the unrated director’s cut in 2160p resolution in a nigh pristine film transfer approved by Oliver Stone laced with a beautiful color correction enhanced with Dolby Vision. Never before has the green-tinted pharmacy scene looked so outrageously pure, even in the theater.

My highest compliments to the video mastering professionals responsible for this particular transfer at each step of the mastering chain. The careful workflow truly wrings out a measured and nuanced palette, replete with keenly saturated highlights and a mesmerizing contrast. It exceeds my wildest expectations for a movie I’ve been familiar with since its earliest theatrical presentations. Natural Born Killers looks better today on 4K UHD than it ever did upon theatrical release. New life has been brought out by the incremental improvements in every possibly way.

Each frame of the movie benefits in almost every criterion one can use to assess picture quality. In comparison the original Blu-ray reveals itself as the result of an older master limited by the scanning resolution of an earlier era. It is amazing how a completely new transfer can revitalize the video of an older catalog selection. Even a relatively new film made in 1994.

The transfer is entirely free of halos with lovely grain reproduction. Colors have been subtly tweaked for more visual appeal. The extreme red-push seen in older transfers is now gone, once prevalent in the older theatrical Blu-ray. In its place is a color palette that is well-balanced and rendered in a stylized yet naturalistic manner.

The shots of red no longer bleed with chromatic problems and green is suitably more saturated. Its contrast has been altered to deepen black levels while minimizing blown highlights. Any shots of black crush have been eliminated and now reveal finely-textured shadow detail that is perfectly delineated. The scenes in the prison and motel benefit the most from these subtle changes.

The majority of the movie is filmed on clean 35mm stock, though Stone occasionally throws in a litany of formats such as 16MM and even videotape. These scenes on UHD easily exceed Blu-ray’s limitations, offering excellent sharpness and improved clarity. In motion, each scene from the new UHD appears better defined with less softness.

The HEVC video encode is a quality compression effort, spreading the 121-minute director’s cut over a triple-layer UHD. Many scenes, like the prison riot, could lead to compression artifacts if not handled properly and often did on earlier releases. The 1.85:1 video holds up upon close inspection, immaculately capturing the celluloid signatures of each respective film stock.

If you’re so inclined, a new transfer of the R-rated theatrical version is included on BD in this collector’s edition. The MPAA forced Stone to make numerous small revisions to earn that rating. While it would have been nice to see in 4K, there’s little doubt the director’s cut is preferred by most fans.

Hats off to the refined color correction, it absolutely nails the movie’s intended aesthetic without amplifying problematic issues inherent to Stone’s blend of exotic cinematic techniques. Highly film-like, this new transfer may very well be the final word on Stone’s masterpiece.

Audio

Heady 5.1 DTS-HD MA and 2.0 DTS-HD MA tracks are included on UHD for the unrated director’s cut. Audio plays such an important part in Natural Born Killers as the music is an essential element of the action, often the connective tissue holding its screenplay together. The surround mix is wildly immersive, plunging listeners into the middle of a dense sound-field with generous low end and discrete effects.

Highly dynamic, there is a small issue with the music often competing with dialogue. Otherwise expect a high-end production throwing everything at you in classic surround fashion. For my money, Natural Born Killers has the best movie soundtrack ever made.

Receiving a full remix for home video, the theatrical sound mix had differing volume levels. It’s not a big deal but I always felt the theatrical sound’s integration of music and dialogue was a tighter experience.

The song “Burn” by Nine Inch Nails has been restored to both cuts of the film, something which prior home video releases had been missing.

Optional English SDH subtitles play in a white font.

Extras

Shout Studios gives us the definitive Natural Born Killers release in a three-disc (1 UHD and 2 Blu-rays) collector’s edition which scoops up all preceding bonus features while adding several new interviews with crew members, not to mention including both the R-rated theatrical cut and unrated director’s version. Top-notch 4K video rounds out what is now an essential UHD.

A slipcover is available and pre-orders from Shout’s own website included a 18″x24″ rolled poster.

The only special feature included on UHD is the 1996 audio commentary by Oliver Stone. Everything else is split between the two BDs, giving each version of Natural Born Killers its own BD.

Even if you don’t do 4K video, this release offers new transfers for both versions on Blu-ray. My highest possible recommendation, the only possible thing this set is missing would be commentaries from cast members like Woody Harrelson.

Commentary By Director/Co-Writer Oliver Stone – Stone’s commentaries are always worth a listen as he expounds on his inspirations for various aspects in Natural Born Killers while often descending into diatribes and rants about topics like the media.

On Dawn’s Highway Bleeding – Editor Hank Corwin On Natural Born Killers (12:04 in HD)

The Scream of the Butterfly – Producer Clayton Townsend On Natural Born Killers (11:50 in HD)

A Bloody Pail Of Nitro – Special Makeup Effects Artist Gordon J. Smith On Natural Born Killers (11:14 in HD)

Wilderness Of Pain – Cinematographer Robert Richardson On Natural Born Killers (24:13 in HD)

Natural Born Killers: Method in the Madness Featurette (15:47 in HD)

Natural Born Killers Evolution: How Would It All Go Down Now? Documentary (22:00 in SD?)

Chaos Rising: The Storm Around Natural Born Killers Documentary (26:30 in SD?)

Deleted Scenes With Introductions By Oliver Stone (20:49 in SD?)

Alternate Ending With Introduction By Oliver Stone (04:54 in SD?)

Natural Born Killers Theatrical Trailer (01:47 in HD)

Full disclosure: This UHD was provided by the label for review. This has not materially affected DoBlu’s editorial process. For information on how we handle all review material, please visit DoBlu’s about us page.

Natural Born Killers
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
5

Movie

Oliver Stone’s greatest and most controversial film stars an all-star cast hamming it up in this quintessential ’90s satirical ode lambasting pop culture and the media’s obsession with violence

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User Review
4 (1 vote)

The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 72 full resolution, uncompressed 4K screen shots ripped directly from the UHD:


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