Twenty-two years ago, Oliver Stone directed Woody Harrelson in a film scripted by Quentin Tarantino, "Natural Born Killers". For Tarantino and Stone, it was old hat. For Woody and supporting actor Rodney Dangerfield, it was a drastic left turn into violent drama that demonstrated their acting versatility. For the American film market, it was a extremely violent film that made "Bonnie & Clyde", "The Wild Bunch" and "Dillinger" blush.


Harrelson and Juliette Lewis played a couple that went on a cross country killing spree basically because they were bored. Harrelson was still entrenched in his role as Woody Boyd on Cheers and quirky roles in "White Men Can't Jump" and "The Cowboy Way". Lewis was fresh off a similar role in "Kalifornia" (with Brad Pitt and David Duchovny) and quirky "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" (with Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio), so this wasn't much of a departure for her. The film garnered some critical acclaim possibly because no one wanted to piss off Stone and Tarantino lest there be consequences!


Clearly writers Wes Laurie and Mei Melancon and director Zackary Adler were significantly influenced when they took on this Gary Sugarman story of a couple of serial killers who wind up embedded in another killer's arena of death. "American Romance" challenges the characters to declare who is more bad-ass and will there be any sympathy when there should be none.

"American Romance" recalls the capture of the fictitious Diarama murders as retold by a witnessing sheriff who helped capture the killers. The story revolves around a young couple - Jeff and Krissy Madison (Noland Gerard Funk and Daveigh Chase) who are cruising along in a 1975 Cadillac Eldorado convertible when it suffers a blowout. With no spare, they get out and hoof it to the nearest place, which happens to be the home of Emery Reed (John Savage).


Reed is in the middle of suicide preparations when the couple rings his doorbell looking to use his phone. There is a brief flash back of Reed killing someone and you can only assume this is the reason he intends to commit suicide. But he puts off the suicide to find out what the couple want.


While Reed may be murderous, Jeff and Krissy are anything but rational as they act peculiar the entire time they are visiting Reed. While rummaging through his house, during the time he was calling a tow truck for them - Jeff finds a body in the bathtub and Krissy just rummages through Reeds personal affects. He subdues both before introducing them to his paraplegic wife Brenda (Diane Farr) who was having sex with the dead guy before her husband got home and killed him.


Despite that murder, things take a turn for the bizarre as we quickly learn there have been a string of murders at various truck stops where prostitutes and other evil doers were summarily offed. Because Reed hadn't left his home, the attention turns to an oddball tow truck driver (Mark Boone Junior) who is on his way to tow the Madison's Caddy. The story winds it's way through a couple of more murders before it lands on the doorstep of the real serial killer.


While "Natural Born Killers" relied on in-your-face practically non-stop violence, Adler's quirky kill-off actually has a nice foundation as a thriller with a decent build to the respectable climax.


"American Romance" will sate your thirst for the annual October slaughter fest with a fairly complex narrative and more subtle thrills. Zackary Adler's next film should be better!   -- GEOFF BURTON