Directed By: Oliver Stone
Written By: Oliver Stone, the original screenplay that was picked up off the bottom of a pile of rejections was by Quentin Tarantino
It gives the wrong impression, it’s not something I generally admit to people openly, but this is my favorite movie of all time. Since the very first time I saw it I was in love with it. It is unlike any movie I have ever seen and I think it is indisputably a work of art, despite its content.
As to the content of this movie. This isn’t violence it’s anger, pure unadulterated anger. Anger at a world that isn’t right. Anger that manifests itself in a violent response. Mickey and Mallory are the response to what this world was in 1994 and still is. It is a violent and evil world; there is no innocence, even among the good. Everything is mainstream and we all do as we are told. Mickey and Mallory came from the worse elements of this world and what they turned into was simply reactionary. The response from the world depicted by the public in this film isn’t off base either, that’s the sad reality of the whole thing.
I don’t think this is a movie that should be watched by a younger audience and I don’t think it’s wise for unsettled people to watch it under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs. Both of which have caused unfortunate problems in the past and the consequences were grave. It is an awful thing when people watch a film and do something crazy afterwards. I like it even less when the film is blamed because the actions that follow are on the heads of the perpetrator and not film. Those people were and are crazy. If it isn’t the film or song they were listening to that triggered them then it would have been something else.
I myself watched this movie at too young of an age in truth. I was 15 or 16 the first time I picked it up off the shelf at the video store I worked at. I specifically remembered that my step-father had watched it with my older brother and found it repulsive; saying that the rest of us were never to see it. More than anything it was the look on his face I remember, and the tone in his voice. Something about this movie made it different. We were forbidden from in it a way that somehow surpassed other such declarations. It was years later when I broke the rules and tasted this forbidden fruit alone in my room. I can say honestly that it had me from the opening scene and instantly became my favorite movie of all time. It claimed the spot early and has never been toppled.
I have also, as a matter of fact, watched this movie under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs and I’m not afraid to admit that. I was in college; a time long long ago in a town far far away. Oliver Stone was under the influence of mushrooms at times before and probably during the filming of this movie. The influence of psychedelics is obvious even to someone who has never experienced them. The scene when Mickey and Mallory eat mushrooms and get followed by a cop was actually based on something that happened to Stone and someone else while they were scouting locations. Seeing this movie on mushrooms was like watching a different film and I have thought since that the movie was made to be seen like that. Obviously it is not something I recommend to people and it’s not an experience I expect to have again as times are different now and youthful experimenting is a thing of the past.
I think this movie gets a bad rap, but it earned that in spades. The content of this movie is harsh and it’s not for everyone. I have just always seen through all of the violence and loved what is beneath. Underneath it all is a relationship that I have always found inspiring. Mickey and Mallory are two people completely in love and hopelessly dedicated to one another. Their actions are fiendish and awful, but the connection they share is a beautiful thing. When I was in high school I would tell people about this and tell them to look at the love story that was underneath it all. I love their marriage over the river when they bond their blood and send it into the river. I also love when they finally reunite in prison during the riot, great scene. I don’t care for the implied rape of the hostage, and the very real allusion to it in the uncut version of the film. These are really bad people, and these are the kind of things those types of people do. I don’t condone any of the actions Mickey and Mallory take in the film. I love the characters but in no way think that anything about them is alright. It’s just a movie though, and rooting for bad guys is always a guilty pleasure. These bad guys happen to share a love that I admire and it is the love that gets me with this movie. There is plenty to love and appreciate about this movie but for me it’s all about Mickey and Mallory. They have a love for one another that is special. Sure they are crazy, but they are crazy for each other in a touching way.
At the top of this review I credit Oliver Stone with the writing of this film and I want to explain why. When Quentin Tarantino was trying to get started he sold two screenplays to earn enough money to get Reservoir Dogs started. Those screenplays were True Romance and Natural Born Killers. Both of which turned out to be good films. Good films both of which were about a couple that go on a wild cross country crime spree and kill a lot of people. Yeah the stories are different, but only by variation. Quentin Tarantino has loudly criticized this movie in the past because so much of what he intended was changed, and because…you know, his giant over bloated ego was wounded. Tarantino is brilliant, but when he starts talking he rarely comes across as anything but an arrogant douche bag. Oliver Stone is an incredible writer in his own rite. He picked up this screenplay off the bottom of a pile of rejected scripts and redid it in his own way. With all due respect to Tarantino, he is a great filmmaker, but he isn’t even half the talent that Oliver Stone was in his heyday. I’ll be the first to admit things are dramatically different now and the exact opposite today but in his day Stone was hands down incredible. He made some outstanding movies that, despite their content or political agenda, were works of art and most of them are absolutely unique in their own way. This movie for example, is unlike any you will ever see. If you can look past the surface and see it for what it really is you will see that this is more than a film. It is the product of an artist who was in his element, with a camera as his brush and an editing room as his studio.
During his heyday Oliver Stone was the type of director that a lot of grade-A talent wanted to work with. You only need to look over the casts of his films from the 80s and 90s to see that. This movie was no different and the cast it offers is an outstanding one. It starts with the lead roles of Mickey and Mallory. Woody Harrelson is not only an interesting person personally but he is the kind of acting talent that it is hard to not like. He has seemed to only get better with age and this day in age he is just so flawlessly cool. He is excellent as Mickey Knox. Mickey is uneducated and ignorant but sly and cunning despite that. He is vicious in the ways that only a man of lifelong repression can be yet he wins you over with that charming quality that can only be embodied by Woody Harrelson. Harrelson has the benefit in this film of having an outstanding counterpart in Juliette Lewis. To cast Mallory Knox they had to find someone who could be sexy yet batshit crazy at the drop of a hat. They couldn’t have chosen better. Nobody pulls off batshit crazy like Juliette Lewis. She is such a badass, she actually broke Tom Sizemore’s nose while filming their scene in her prison cell. I don’t know what has happened to her lately as she only appears in the most random of films these days and always as a cameo. She doesn’t capture the big roles anymore and I don’t know why because I have always thought she was an outstanding actress. Like Harrelson she also has a really interesting back story personally.
Tom Sizemore brings his own element of crazy to this film. I have always been a big fan of Sizemore but his personal life has loudly been problematic. He has had significant struggles with drugs as well as anger issues that have led to problems for him before. I do not condone his personal actions but I have always liked him in the supporting roles he is famous for. In this movie he fits the part like no one else could have and I think he is really good as Jack Scagnetti. The name of his character specifically is part of this movie that shows its roots from Tarantino. Scagnetti is a name Tarantino has used before. In Reservoir Dogs Mr. Blonde mentions his parole officer is named Scagnetti.
This was one of the last significant acting roles Rodney Dangerfield had as his career came to a close. That is unfortunate as it was a very unsavory role but like Sizemore he just fit the part so well. I was never a fan of Dangerfield’s loud style but in this movie he did something dramatic and different. He plays a sick and depraved man. The type that makes you feel sorry for the daughter that grows up to be a psychotic killer. This was Rodney Dangerfield’s first and only performance in a dramatic film and I think he did an excellent job. Despite the role he plays in this movie Dangerfield deserves the respect and recognition of comedy fans. He was a one of kind comedian who helped pave the way for those who would follow him.
Rounding out the big names in the cast is none other than Oliver Stone’s good friend Tommy Lee Jones who he shares a birthday with. Jones is a bit over the top in this film but he did so on purpose. As a Harvard graduate Jones is a highly intelligent actor who in fact was never schooled in his trade. Jones never took an acting class but that has never inhibited him. He has had a long and distinguished career as an actor that he continues to build on. Jones was hot during the time this movie came out having hit it big winning an Oscar for The Fugitive the year before. This role is a much different part and that only highlights his talent as an actor. He became a beloved actor playing straight laced types like we saw in The Fugitive or The Client but in this movie he is much more uncouth and heinous. It’s not my favorite role from Jones by any means but I still like what he brings to the table as McClusky.
This movie makes a statement about society, the media, human nature, and American culture in the mid nineties. I think by and large it is misunderstood, but with good reason. There is a lot more to this movie than meets the eye at first approach. If you don’t see anything but the worst in it then you are missing out on what makes it the best. I love this movie and I have never been afraid to admit it. I have never been one to broadcast it because it sets the wrong impression but I will gladly mention this movie every time the question of favorites comes up. This movie is my favorite because it is different, because it is bold, and because it says something about the world.
I don’t generally recommend this movie to people, because it isn’t for everyone and I fear too many just won’t understand. I don’t argue about it either, the content is too controversial and strong opinions come with it. A movie like this comes with certain preconceived notions and assumptions that can give people the wrong idea about a fan. People will think what they think but anybody who doesn’t look deeper into this one is missing out. It has been my favorite movie of all time since the first time I saw it and I love it just as much every time I see it again. Watch this one at your own risk, it is what it is and not to be taken for granted. It’s not like other films but that it part of what makes it special.
Ryan made me watch this when we were in college. I wasn’t allowed to see anything like this growing up. I didn’t know a movie like this even existed until Ryan showed it to me. I have seen it many times now over the years, but even today it sucks me in and intrigues me. The story is incredibly different than anything else I had ever seen, and still today is a great take on the media. It’s even worse today than when this movie was made. Imagine this movie set in today’s world, with social media the way it is today. It was ahead of its time, not even knowing what the monster social media would become.
This poster is cool. I don’t think it does the film justice, but for its time in history, I think it’s pretty cool. The image is set in all black and white, with the exception of his glasses, which also have the reflection of Mallory. There could be so many connections drawn here about the color and the image of Mallory, but I feel it’s all too cliché now, and probably wouldn’t work today. I just don’t feel like this poster is memorable or as special as the movie is. It really gives no allusion to what the movie is at all.
NEXT MOVIE: Night of the Living Dead (1968)