HAIRCUT 100: Day 93. No. 93. To mark the sad and beautiful passing of Leonard Cohen last night, I’m thinking: Woody Harrelson as Micky Knox in Oliver Stone’s self-consciously postmodern take on murder porn, celebrity culture and mass media, Natural Born Killers (1994). This remarkable movie, from an original story by Quentin Tarantino, also boasted a memorable soundtrack arranged by Trent Reznor that included three songs from Cohen’s ninth studio album, The Future (1992), the haunting ‘Waiting for the Miracle,’ ‘Anthem,’ and the apocalyptic title track.
Natural Born Killers is a darkly satiric road movie that savagely deconstructs the American Dream and which must now be viewed as deeply prophetic. The story is loosely inspired by the two-month killing spree of Charles Starkweather and his teenaged girlfriend Caril Anne Fugate across Nebraska and Wyoming in the winter of 1957/8, a crime that has inspired several films in addition to Stone’s, for example The Sadist (1963), Badlands (1973), Kalifornia (1993), and The Frighteners (1996). The film centres on the weird, psycho-sexual and oddly spiritual journey of the fatal lovers Micky and Mallory across the south-western United States, pursued by a corrupt and narcissistic cop and an equally self-obsessed tabloid journalist who turns the couple into a media sensation. The film is as cool as it is bleak, featuring a stylized portrayal of violence, rock video graphics and an anarchic subtext not a million miles from God Bless America. It is also, perversely, a love story, with a sense of humour and an oddly upbeat and surprising ending; Stone himself has described the film as ‘optimistic.’ Micky Knox remains a stand-out performance by the ever-versatile Harrelson, actor and activist, beautifully balanced by Juliette Lewis as Mallory. ‘I guess, you gotta hold that ol’ shotgun in your hand and it becomes clear, like it did for me the first time. That’s when I realized my one true calling in life. Shit, man, I’m a natural born killer.’