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By John Carlos Cantú [1994. Directed by Oliver Stone. Cast Woody Harrelson, Juliette Lewis, Robert Downey Jr., Tommy Lee Jones, Rodney DangerfieW. Warner Bros. 119 mins.] T here's enough senseless violence in Oliver Stone's Natural Bom Killers to fill this year's body bag quota in American cinema Yet this simplistic observation alone accords the film as being all flash with no thunder - and nothing could be less accurate. For there's a shrewd madness to his method. Just because many major film critics have fallen distressirigly prey to the hackneyed notion that Natural Bom Killers is merely superficial gore doesn't mean that all's you see is all you get in Stone's latest missive on modem-day America. Repeatingourselves: Nothing could be less accurate. Oliver Stone has simply done what other American filmmakers have been straining towards - and would love to do - if their agents and production companies were only willing to risk occupational unemployment. Hollywood has long lacked the guts to admrt (without resorting to sophomoric sensationalism) that there's a remarkable amount of violence taking place behind America's living room walls. David Lynch's Blue Veivet was once thought to be the final word on the subject... but not any more. Scratch into Stone's shocker and you come up with the scariest snapshot of American familial life this side of Leave It to Beaver. According to Stone, where Eddie Haskell once had the only mean streak in town, we're all getting into the act these days. Admittedly, he relies on Quentin Tarantino's story to sketch his nightmare, but the final reckoning is all Ollie. When Micky Cox (Woody Harrelson) tells Ns fatuous interviewer, Wayne Gale (Robert Downey Jr.) of television's American Maniacs, that he and wife, Mallory (Juliette Lewis), have been "naturally bom bad," he's merely paying tribute to the seeming non-stop barrage of ritualized violence that has recent ly disguised itself as "family values" on TV. From the Menendez Brothers toO. J. Simpson, and despite Dan Quayle's vapid generalizations otherwise, some of these questionable values haveindeedshapedAmerica'shomefrontthrough this last decade. Forthefirsttimeinhistory wecan all see the disastrous patrimony that was once hidden behind aluminum siding by way of the eveningnews'satellitehook-up.Ourdailydosage of murderous pop culture comes freewheeling at us nightly with an update at 11 pm. Stone has just tapped into this psychic undercurrent and regurgitated it through a synesthetic barrage in Natural Bom Killers. Not that this really matters much to him in the final analysis. For he's apparently determined to out-Peckinpah the master himself. Yet even the weirdest Sam Peckinpah urban jungle - The Getaway, for example - ostensibly sought to sound out the ethica] implications of modern day violence. Ollie, by contrast, says "to blazes with all the penny-ante moralizing." We dont need to know much about leading characters, Micky and Mallory. In a remarkably maudlin confessional, we find that she's come fromaunrelievedlydepressingmiddle-classbackground that is played out as a sit-com from heil. But, then again, this inserí is only a flimsy plot contrivancefor Micky to whisk Mallory outta town after they've laid waste to her nuclear family. The next t hing we know, we're cruising down a New Mexico highway sharing in a rampage of more than 50 random corpses scattered along the roadside. It's apparently enough that M&M have declared their etemal love overthe bodies of everyone that nadvertently crosses their path. It's also only after our star-crossed lovers have been cornered, and tumed into a 1990s' faux-Bonnie and Ctyde, that we're introduced to sleaze-master Gale. This Robin Leach-warmabe decides Micky will make the perfect guest for his program on Super Bowl Sunday. But Micky, apparently nuanced in the vicissitudes of cinéma vérité, manages to spark a riot in Warden Dwight McClusky's (Tommy Lee Jones) maximum security prison as he's undergoing his deceptively casual Q&A. Flaking off the law and their companionsone by one, the young couple escape in a miraculous hale of bullets to continue their erstwhilead ventures in parad se. In fact, polishingoff Gale - al most as an afterthought - tums out to be the only rea justice realized in the entire film. Simple enough, but still not quite good enough. For Stone crafts a pyrotechnic wall of sight and sound to dazzle his audience's magination until it begs for no more. And through it all, he allows for no narrative continuity outside the bare-bone essentials to keep his film's momentum moving forward. Instead, it's the sheer virtuosity of the film's scatological humor that hammers his message home. One can only imagine his satisfaction in creating a crime wave that Inside Edition would kill for. The single lasting image of Natural Bom Killers is Maliory 's Dad (Rodney Dangerfield) bellowing at the top of his scabrous lungs as he salaciously leers at his nubile eldest. Dangerfield's pockedmarked face bursts forth from the screen with his Adam's apple bobbing wildly. As horrific as he initiallyseems, he'sthe fitting personificatlonof the peculiarlyfamiliarpaferofAmerica'sfem7;affrmus. After all these years of hiding behind his standup comedy, America's favorite hard-luckstory has taken off his mask. Staring deep into Dangerfield's misanthropic, watery eyes we know immediately what Natural Bom Killer 's badlands of apocalyptic domesticity really mean. And what they have meant for all these years. Just ask Oliver Stone: It tast es great . . jand it's less filling. WILD WHEELS [1993. Directed by Harrod Blank. Cast 46 very happy car owners. Zoom-ln ProductionsTara Video. 64 mins.] m fa O What are you going to do with a film about a select group of car owners who've decided to turn their vehicles into rambling expressions of their personalices? Well, of course, you're going to have to roll with it. For Wild Wheels is easily one of the quirkiest documerrtaries to be released in many a showcase model. From Gene Pool's "Grassmobile," that was created by gluing and manicuring seed beds to the body of his auto; to Eric Staller's computer-sequenced 1 ,400 mini-bulb "Ughtmobile" (starting to get the picture?); to Joe Barnes' "Ultímate Taxi" (with flashing disco lights, smoke machine, and complimentary stereo karaoke); to Larry Fuentes' "Cowasaki" roaming the wide frontier (you have to seethisonetobelieveit), Wild Wheels explores this unusual subculture of common folk whose identities are more firmly bound to their vehicles than to their common sense. Yet what's so grand about this film is director Harrod Blank's heartfelt take on his subject-matter. There's no ridicule being cynically poked at here. Rather, Blank (for good reason, as the documentan shows us earty on) allows the owners of these eccentric vehicles toexplainforthemselves what in the world has possessed them to paint, lather, shellac, sculpt, and polish their "wheels." In every instance, there's an affectionate story behind what initially seems to be a rather odd choice for a hobby. And it just goes to show you that there's beauty lying in wait at every corner you turn. Just don't be surprised f someday a museum of art passes you one day on the Blank tells us in his giddy documentary: It's just another select set of Wild Wheels happily making their way across America I RATING KEY ik Acting H Cinematography Direction H Editing fc Narrative Sound Special Effects When a symbol appears following a title, t implies that the corresponding category s a strength of the movie.


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