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5.0 out of 5 stars Treated as a work of FICTION, it rates five stars, but...
...if this book were rated on its believability, it would rate one star or lower. While there are no doubt some grains of truth to the incidents it describes, other parts of it are utterly insane. Either there is a heavy degree of fabrication and embellishment, or Oliver Stone and company are COMPLETELY FREAKIN' NUTS! My money is on the former simply because so much of...
Published on Aug. 6 2002

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars .
I give 'Killer Instinct' this much: it was a quick and entertaining read -- a fun ride. The type of book you tear right through in a night. However, I find it difficult to take seriously Jane Hamsher's account of events. I find it curious that every single woman in this book is portrayed as a sweet, strong-willed, honest-to-goodness saint, worthy of enormous sympathy --...
Published on Jan. 19 2003 by iamademonfromhell


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars ., Jan. 19 2003
This review is from: Killer Instinct (Paperback)
I give 'Killer Instinct' this much: it was a quick and entertaining read -- a fun ride. The type of book you tear right through in a night. However, I find it difficult to take seriously Jane Hamsher's account of events. I find it curious that every single woman in this book is portrayed as a sweet, strong-willed, honest-to-goodness saint, worthy of enormous sympathy -- (not least of all, Jane Hamsher herself!) -- while almost every single man (save for one writer friend of hers) is portrayed as, more or less, an utter demon (at times, almost literally.)* Even her "partner in crime," Don Murphy is shown, at times, in a critical light -- but never Iron-Willed Jane. She is the very picture of patience and professionalism, often beset upon, but rarely (if ever) in error. It's interesting that at several points, particularly on the production of NBK, it is implied that a lot of people on the set are losing patience with her and are irritated by her presence -- but unfortunately, we don't have their side of the story, and as far as Jane is concerned, it is (always!) all miraculously due to their inability to handle the fact that she's a woman. (!!!) Don't get me wrong, I don't doubt there's plenty of sexism in Hollywood, but Hamsher's account, with its suspiciously unfailing tendency to portray every single woman as a flawless, tough-hearted angel, leads me to believe that this is not just a one-sided account, but quite possibly entirely out-of-whack, the rays of truth refracted wildly through Hamsher's "feminist fairytale" vision of her own experiences.
Additionally, I find it interesting that while initially very smitten with Tarantino's ideas and scripts, that as their professional ties go south, he magically turns into a thoroughly talentless hack, milking stolen ideas for all they're worth. But then she remembers that NBK is her dream project, and it was, of course, scripted by him -- drats! Thinking fast, she asserts that by far the best part of the script -- the TV sitcom parody -- was the work of her writer friend, not Tarantino. Well, uh ... OK.
Particularly priceless, though, is her initial (and I think only) direct encounter with Lawrence Bender, Tarantino's producer. They meet at a party, he says hello and is perfectly friendly and polite to her, and that's pretty much the extent of her experiences with him. Given that, it's pretty amazing (and terribly questionable) exactly how much hostility she has towards him and how much dirt she shovels in his direction throughout the rest of the book. Upon meeting him, she feels "queasy," shakes, and has to immediately leave the room for some air when they part! Why? Because she feels intuitively that she has just been in the presence of -- I believe she uses the term "jackal" -- but given the incredibly over-the-top way she describes it, the impression is more that of a "demon."* And why does she feel that way? Well, it's not one of those things you can explain, see, but essentially, it seems to mainly have to do with the fact that his eyes have a distant look to them. (They "recede into an emotional abyss when he speaks" according to Hamsher.)
I've never met Lawrence Bender, and I have no trouble believing that Quentin Tarantino and Oliver Stone and the host of other male Hollywood stars and hopefuls that appear in Hamsher's tale have their fair share of shortcomings and ballooned egos. Maybe a few of them really are even bad, dishonest people, through and though. Maybe. What I find more difficult to believe is that Hamsher and her coterie of oppressed agents and starlets and mother-figures are half as immaculate as they seem in the version of events she gives us here.
I also question the motivation for writing this book. A fun ride through the Hollywood system, or just an excuse to trash-talk people who've gone on to have more successful careers than she? Looking through Hamsher's filmography, I notice her unfailing tendency to grab interesting projects and turn them into mediocre films with mediocre earnings. It seems unlikely that Hamsher would ever deign to admit to an emotion as base as jealousy, but one wonders all the same.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Treated as a work of FICTION, it rates five stars, but..., Aug. 6 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Killer Instinct (Paperback)
...if this book were rated on its believability, it would rate one star or lower. While there are no doubt some grains of truth to the incidents it describes, other parts of it are utterly insane. Either there is a heavy degree of fabrication and embellishment, or Oliver Stone and company are COMPLETELY FREAKIN' NUTS! My money is on the former simply because so much of it is unrealistic: towards the end of the book, Jane tells about how Quentin Tarantino hit on her in Italy, and includes a picture of his letter to her, written in childish scrawl and including ridiculous misspellings of common words. It looks like it was written by a five-year-old! Either Mr. Tarantino was taking drugs, or he is in serious need of psychiatric help! Also, Oliver Stone is portrayed as a philanderer and a drug addict. However, there are plenty of other accounts of the productions of his films. The kind of behavior attributed to Mr. Stone in this book would stick out like a sore thumb. Why none of those other accounts have revealed more than a shade of those characteristics of his personality is beyond me! In other words, I believe Jane's account is heavily exaggerated.
Anyway, I don't mean for this to be completely negative, because the book is truly funny--the ominous buildup to meeting Oliver Stone after Jane and Don hear that he is interested in the project, the funny captions on the pictures, the crew doing psychedelic mushrooms during location scout in the desert, the prison riot, the film festival in Italy, etc. (Don't read this book in a library. You will die trying to stifle your laughter.)
This book is worth buying... but take everything it says with a heaping bowl of salt.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Too one-sided to be a trustworthy "behind-the-scenes" book., Feb. 12 2001
This review is from: Killer Instinct (Paperback)
The key to a really great "Behind-The-Scenes" book is an impartial perspective, and perhaps that is the one area this book falls short. Unfortunately, it isn't the only area.
Jane Hamsher can possibly be forgiven for not taking a step back and telling the facts without a personal slant to them; after all, she isn't a journalist, and this isn't really a straight forward making-of book (as the title says, its about the producers). What I can't bring myself to overlook is how badly one-sided and self-serving the book actually comes off as. To beleive this book to the fullest, you would have to go along with the idea that Jane Hamsher was the not only the sole reason this movie ever got made, but that it would have been a complete disaster if it wasn't for her. I really would have a problem with that, if she wasn't the one who kept underlining it as fact.
According to Jane, she was the lone sane voice amongst the madding crowd. She was responsible for the artistic choices that made the film great, and all of the decisions that made them happen. Of course, everybody else was wrong, so each choice she made was an uphill battle. Not just because she was the only smart and sane person, but also because she was the only woman amongst a crowd of stupid men.
Its sad, but it seems she spends half the time painting the ultimate feminist picture on how it took a woman to do a man's job. I'm sure in some cases that was true, but she makes it as if the weight of all responsability was resting on her shoulders. She seems to take great pleasure in repeatedly pointing out that she has to dress her own production partner, and shows contempt for the men that were afraid to let her on the set where convicted murdurers and rapists were running around loose "pretending" to riot. She also spends a great deal of time obsessing on Oliver Stones questionable attitude towards women, and successfully transfers those insecurities to most of the crew as well. Whenever someone disagrees with her, they are either stupid or afraid of a woman in power. Those silly men!
Between the holier-than-thou attitude and hear-me-roar male bashing, there was some great info on the shooting of the film, but not nearly enough. And what info there is must be taken with a grain of salt, when you realize that its all told to make her look good (see: perfect). If you want to hear a producer pat herself on the back (at the expense of everybody else involved in the film) over and over again than this is the book for you. If you want the real story on the making of Natural Born Killers, you might want to look elsewhere.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Sometimes outrageously funny, sometimes uselessly mean, Oct. 17 1999
This review is from: Killer Instinct (Paperback)
The book of Jane Hamsher relates how two inexperienced "producers" fresh out of a film school acquired the rights to "Natural Born Killers", the screenplay of an obscure aspiring filmmaker named Quentin Tarantino. It goes on describing brilliantly how this modest acquisition (10.000 $) became suddenly hot property when Tarantino hit the jackpot in Sundance with his first feature, "Reservoir Dogs". And becomes outrageously funny when it shows how agents, "passionate" directors and screenwriters are all at cut throats with each other trying to put their hands on that treasure, which (not surprisingly) Quentin Tarantino does not want to be made as a film any more. But there is no way they will let Quentin getting back his rights, because even Oliver Stone has now in mind to direct it. Yes, as the book says, "the" Oliver Stone. Thanks for the description of the antics of this "three Oscar celebrity" and how he succeeded in turning a disturbing but modest "Tarantino movie" into what most qualified a hopelessly overblown mess. But the book could have left aside the internal disputes in the production staff, which will not remain in Hollywood's hall of fame. More than anything else, it should have abstained from attacking endlessly Quentin Tarantino for being what he is, an extremely gifted screenwriter and director. (After all, why did they buy HIS screenplay in the first place?)
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5.0 out of 5 stars Page-turning book about on-the-edge Hollywood movie-making., March 2 1998
This review is from: Killer Instinct (Hardcover)
KILLER INSTINCT is the best, most revealing book on Hollywood I've read since William Goldman's ADVENTURES IN THE SCREEN TRADE. It covers the development of a movie from the script being written, to its release in the theaters. The first draft of the script Hamsher (the author) and her partner are producing ("Natural Born Killers") was written by Quentin Tarentino. And Hamsher refreshingly reveals Quentin Tarentino's egomania, pettiness, and pathetic belief that he deserves everything that has come his way, despite--as Hamsher shows--his actually quite minor talents. Oliver Stone (director of the film) comes across as egomanical and controlling, but not quite as amoral as Tarentino. These are two of many interesting personalities in the book, some not famous when you come across them, but that you will remember after you've finished the book (like the author's film school class-mate who ends up killing his wife and daughter, then himself after his dreams of success crumble.) One of the flaws of the book is Hamsher's pointing out the down-and-dirty maneuvering of other people, and identifying it as the wretched behavior it is; but when she and her producer partner engage in similar behavior, she admirably fesses up to doing it, but often excuses it--at least to some degree--in a way she doesn't excuse others' such acts. When they write a letter under someone else's name, and FAX it around, knowing the letter will do this other person damage, Hamsher acts surprised that the victim of this act doesn't "see it for the joke it was meant to be." It wasn't meant to be a joke at all. It was a lousy trick, meant to hurt someone, and that she doesn't admit to the purely petty impulses behind her doing it is phony, dishonest and self-serving. But the honesty elsewhere in the book seems like true honesty, and it's one of the book's major appeals. Her admission to a raw, burning, and overtly selfish ambition to succeed in Hollywood is refreshing when compared to the majority of Hollywood personalites who have the same raw, selfish, burning ambition, but claim publicly to be benevolent saints because they happen to wear AIDS ribbons to ceremonies that will further their careers, and, gosh, they only vote for Democrats, so they must be wonderful human beings (right?) KILLER INSTINCT is not for the faint of heart, and that's what makes it so good.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Killer Bite Propels "Killer Instinct", Dec 28 1997
This review is from: Killer Instinct (Hardcover)
Behind the scenes dirt on the tumultuous production of "Natural Born Killers"? A post publication brawl with Quentin Tarantino? This book definately sounded too juicy to miss- and didn't disappoint! The conversational tone of the tome sucked me in completely. It read as though Jane Hamsher was plopped beside me on the couch, telling her hedonistic, bash em all account.
Wild tales about almost every film leak to the press-it's like Hamsher needed to let everyone know that all the zany anecdotes about her movie were absolutely true. The stories are so far removed from the reality of most people that the book should prove to be (at least) slightly shocking, entertaining, and laugh out loud funny for nearly every reader. What a great thing! Especially now, with QT's face popping up everywhere to promote his new movie, it's super to see him referred to as a "one trick pony". I also expected Hamsher to pansy around saying anything honest about Oliver Stone, (he hired her, which got her out of debt, helped her earn enough power to do things...like to write a tell all memoir) but it's like she deliberately tucked away every slight implication of a bad mood he (and everyone else on the set)experienced, just to tell someone else "later".
The never give up gumption that took Jane where she is now is more than inspirational, the dirt endlessly amusing, but did the mood carry an entire book? Almost. It a compelling read until the last chapter. After reading accounts of Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis's fights, the crew doing 'shrooms in the desert, Oliver Stone's many girlfriends, it's disappointing that certain truly life affecting stories that popped up are glazed over. Jane's bout with breast cancer that she believes was brought about by too much stess is barely discussed in terms of the affect on her job, the deaths of people she knew are mentioned in a "huhm, how bout that" manner and dismissed, and, well, she does seem a bit too into herself.
All in all, the book is good fun and completely worth reading. I just wish that Jane's producing partner Don would've contributed as well. So much is said about him, it would be nice to hear his voice in this story too. Actually, after THIS account, it would be hysterical to hear the same story from a whole lot of people- once they pick themselves up off of the floor their faces were just used to mop.
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5.0 out of 5 stars IF THE STORY SURPRISES, YOU AREN'T TOO NAIVE TO WORK IN LA, Jan. 29 1998
This review is from: Killer Instinct (Hardcover)
Killer Instinct is a shattering novel for any one yearning to be a young, aspiring producer. I read this book after finishing producer Lynda Obyst's Hello He Lied. While both novels give great insight into the production process, Hamsher's book is more down to earth from the standpoint that she and her partner Don Murphy had to actually struggle to get their dream project made. The book describes in details their headaches with partnerships, lawsuits, intellectual property burglery. Obyt's book is piece of work meant for one who is already an accomplished producer and has many connections in the business. Hamsher's book is striking from the standpoint of how two lowly people achieved the American Dream of making a film with a great director. While the book does trash a lot of high brow people, this information whether it is true or not, is just part of the daily B.S. that independent producers have to deal with in Tinsel Town: other people's egos.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Guts, Aug. 8 2000
By 
Peter Kahn (Seattle, WA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Killer Instinct (Paperback)
I loved this book. It takes you on a wonderful journey from the depths of living the unrealized dream through the real nightmare of producing a big budget Hollywood film. While books like this have been written before, Killer Instinct is unique in two ways: it chronicles the making of one of the most controversial films of the 90s and the writing is fantastic. Hamsher throws all the emotions of the moment into her writing; despair, madness, anger, joy, hope and a multitude of others. Most important for me were Hamsher's conclusions at the end of the book, particularly the lesson of finding and keeping a good partner for the perils ahead. Hamsher is my hero; for her bravery, her courage of convictions, and her "never-give-up" approach in being able to make it in the "Boy's Club". Well written, fast paced, funny and inspiring, "Killer Instinct" is my solid recommendation for any aspiring producer's bookshelf.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great read - I couldn't put it down, May 31 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Killer Instinct (Hardcover)
Although it's told from Hamsher's perspective (giving a somewhat biased view of events), this book gives some very revealing insights into the way that movies really get made. As an example, she describes Richard Rutowski, one of the individuals who received screenwriting credit for "Natural Born Killers" as merely the person who provided Oliver Stone with a steady supply of drugs and women during production! (she said that the crew nicknamed him "Pimpowski"). If you ever wondered how a studio can spend $50 million producing a film, this book will open your eyes...
The book doesn't really have any socially redeeming value, but if you liked the movie "Natural Born Killers", you will find it fascinating and amusing - especially her descriptions of the off-camera activities during several key scenes in the movie. I started it at 10pm one night and read it all the way through without stopping.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Wake Up!!!, Oct. 1 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Killer Instinct (Paperback)
Why do we need a book about the evil insides of Hollywood?? Not only is this book flooded in self-promotion and third-rate insights, it serves no purpose. Bravery isn't writing a book about how bad the Hollywood film industry, bravery is DIRECTING that movie and taking the heat from THE PRODUCER if it fails. Remember, society judges by the auteur theory, which means the director takes full responsibility for the film.
Plus, like an earlier review stated, if you need to read a book about this sort of thing, you probably don't realize the following: there is no Santa Claus, Rosebud was his sled, and soap opera stars don't exist in real life. "Killer Instinct" serves as a way for a typical producer to get more of what they're REALLY after -- money and attention.
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Killer Instinct
Killer Instinct by Jane Hamsher (Paperback - June 1 1998)
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