Oliver Stone’s notorious film about two dim kids who kill a few people and become media celebrities takes two actors who weren’t exactly the go-to choices for crazy nutjob killer roles. Woody Harrelson was fresh from playing affable dunce Woody in Cheers and Juliette Lewis was uppermost in the mind as the daughter in Cape Fear. As it turned out the roles fit them like a second skin. As in similar gangster/road movies such as Badlands or Bonnie & Clyde, writer Quentin Tarantino and director Stone send their two fuck-ups off on a series of murders. But, unusually, they also send them off on a stylistic journey through a storm of different generic TV styles – advertising, sitcom, news etc. This allows both Tarantino and Stone to show how down with popular culture they are. And to deliver the big message : the media might not create murderous misfits but they certainly exploit them – especially if the murderers in question are sexy. This is an Oliver Stone film so the main point about media culpability is overdone. If we’re being kind this is deliberate, Stone is aping news media’s habit of chewing and chewing until whatever it’s bitten off has been reduced to pap. This excess of stylistics also handily does away with the need for a character who “explains it all”. Stone’s focus on almost all branches of the media – except very obviously the movie business – did come back to bite him however. On the film’s release, TV and newspapers went for him like a baying pack and accused the director of making a film liable to pervert weak minds and encourage violence. Thus missing the point entirely – deliberately, of course – so Stone’s wider issue of the “famous-for-15-monstrosities” culture got completely ignored. Yet violence is not the film’s point at all. And even if it were – how many people did Freddie Kruger kill?
© Steve Morrissey 2013