John and Michael are brothers who are raised by their father to consider other people as piggy banks. When they need money or a place to stay, they simply break another piggy bank and take what they need. When John discovers his father had another family he sets out to find his stepsister and finds that he might have met his match.
Morgan J. Freeman was the man who directed the sequel to American Psycho, but Born Killers is the movie that should have been that sequel. While American Psycho 2 was a complete failure, Born Killers succeeds as a solid minor league version of American Psycho.
John and Michael were raised by an absentee father after the death of their mother. Their father (Tom Sizemore) teaches them his way of getting through life. He considers all people to be piggy banks, there to break when you need money or a place to stay. The family would travel around killing people and taking what they needed with no consequence and no rhyme or reasoning. The only excuse for their killing was for survival.
The movie uses the typical film noir technique of voice over and the voice that leads us through the story is that of John (Jake Muxworthy). The voice over is what makes the story so interesting. In much the same way as Patrick Bateman narrating his murders to us in a casual matter-of-fact way, we get John narrating his inner thought process as he goes from murder to murder, learning slowly along the way that maybe there could be another way, another alternative to his imposed lifestyle. This is the main difference between American Psycho and Born Killers. Patrick Bateman was a cold killer who rationalized his murderous ways. John is also a cold killer, but rationalizes his sense of survival. It creates a sense of caring for what happens to the character.
The movie is set up more like Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer in its direction though. The murders are there for us to see, but only after the fact. We know they happen and at times we see them happen, but this is not a bloody, exploitive film. We see the results and the aftermath much of the time and that makes them possibly more disturbing than actually seeing the knife go in or the wrench crack the skull. It is a solid directing job by a man who learned his craft working under an indie legend (Todd Solondz).
The acting is superb in the film and really raises it to a level above much indie fare on the market today. Jake Muxworthy is incredible in the lead role as the quiet and contemplative John. With most of the screen time, as well as carrying the weight of the voice over on his shoulders, he is perfect. He just seems so at home in the role and carries himself in a way that makes you not even realize you are watching someone acting. That is the highest compliment I think an actor can receive. The same can’t be said for Tom Sizemore. He is not bad, but he is the “big name” of the small movie and he is also the one that almost takes you out of the movie every time he takes the screen. He seems to be trying too hard and for such a big name, that is discouraging.
Lauren Geman does a great job as Gertle, the step sister that John seeks out and eventually falls in love with. She takes a very difficult role and carries it out with great success. Gabriel Mann and Kelli Garner are also solid in their smaller roles. Overall, the acting helps elevate the good script into something above average.
Originally entitled Piggy Banks, the name was changed to possible buy into the Natural Born Killers fan base. While both movies were about serial killers, they could not be more different. Natural Born Killers relied on a rock ‘n roll mentality to tell a fable of media exposed antiheroes gone wild. Born Killers is a complex tale about killers who kill to get through life, living on a survival of the fittest mentality. It is about redemption and when redemption is finally found it is at a great cost.
The cover to this DVD is very deceiving. I mentioned that they were trying to capitalize on the popularity of Natural Born Killers when marketing this for DVD. The cover shows John and Gertle, Gertle holding a gun. It is a decent at invoking memories of Mickey and Mallory and that would make the advertising a lie. After John and Gertle hook up, there is only one murder for the rest of the movie. Don’t be fooled into believing this is anything like the cover would suggest.
The transfer was not the best but for a low budget indie film it was not as horrible as it could have been. It is presented in 16×9 Widescreen with traces of dirt and scratches present throughout the film. It is not bad looking by any means, and the grain actually adds to the feel of the movie, so I can only assume it was meant to be. The sound is 5.1 and 2.0 Digital Dolby and sounds good. It is one of the hardest things for independent films to get right, but the sound is just fine here. The only extra is trailers.