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The Salton Sea
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Reviews & Ratings for
The Salton Sea More at IMDbPro »

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99 out of 115 people found the following review useful:

A Crystal Meth Film Noir

Author: Craig McPherson from Montreal, Canada
20 March 2004

I avoided watching this film for quite some time after its release. In part this was because what little I knew about the story hit a little too close to home in terms of substance abuse problems, and equally so because I'd generally read negative reviews about how bleak, depressing and meandering it was.

Boy was I wrong. As it turns out this is a stylishly photographed, atmospheric little film noir set in the world of crystal meth junkies and hoods. Val Kilmer registers a most impressive performance as a musician turned junkie turned.... well, I won't give anything more away.

The film's story line just seems to flow out toward the viewer in a languishing, yet engrossing stream, sucking you along in its undertow. Couple that with enough plot twists to catch your interest and this film makes for a perfect evening of quiet movie watching over a bowl of popcorn.

Give this little gem a chance. Odds are you won't be disappointed.

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77 out of 91 people found the following review useful:

A true attention-getter of a film.

7/10
Author: gridoon
3 March 2004

Excellent adult thriller. Stylish, intense, funny and unexpectedly moving. Intricately plotted (it will always be one step ahead of you) and fluidly, inventively directed (including a unique twist on Eastwood's classic "Did I fire six bullets...or only five?" line). Well-acted, especially by Kilmer. The less you know about it beforehand the better, though, so I'll just add this: this film is not always pleasant to watch, but it has personality and will take you on quite a journey. Don't read about it, see it. (***)

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47 out of 53 people found the following review useful:

Great movie, it's just that simple...

Author: dcobbimdb
2 July 2004

This movie was great, this time I'm actually glad I took the Blockbuster guy's advice and rented it. It's not like LOTR or a Rocky movie where you come out feeling like you're on top of the world, but you will feel spun like by a great rollercoaster. I wouldn't say it starts off slow, but it definitely eases you into things, then move on to the drug fests and the story starts to take shape, but without really revealing itself all at once. As you watch more, you get that much more involved and gripped. I found myself really captured by the movie to the point of having anxiety myself in some of the Poo bear scenes. So towards the end I was strapped to my chair waiting to see what was going to happen, I did care about Kilmer's character, and I loved it how the movie keeps you guessing and on your seat till the end. Being such a dark movie though, it wouldn't have been so memorable for me if the ending had been different.

Kilmer's performance was good and he held his own, but Vincent D'Onofrio was brilliant in his role of Poo bear. I also liked the scene with Bobby `hobby' as it was definitely memorable.

I loved this movie, but as other reviews have said, if you are faint of heart then this movie is not for you. It is dark, druggy, very pawn scum of life kind of thing, and you watch it with your guts in a knot for some of the movie, but it's worth the knot I tell you! Did I mention that I liked the ending too? Even though it was a dark movie overall, I left with the sensation of `Damn that was a good movie…'

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51 out of 63 people found the following review useful:

...A decent mystery, darkish thriller, some noir, drugs, love lost, and cops...

7/10
Author: HuckDJ from Australia
25 January 2005

The Salton Sea is an interesting film. It is a film that looks initially to be about drugs and the people who take them. Val Kilmer is in the lead role as a tweaker of crystal meth, and other substances, as well as a quite good sounding trumpet player. He begins by telling the viewer, via narration, explaining that he does not know who he really is and asks you to decide as we wind back through a recent period of his life to see how he came to where we first meet him.

The movie gets its title from a key event to the film occurred at the Salton Sea and Kilmer's character has a huge tattoo in memory of this.

What unravels is an intricate mystery that holds the viewers' attention but only just. The story is quite good but it is not in your face as one might expect a film of this acting calibre. It sunk at the cinema but maybe due to its art-house feel and advertising did not communicate this.

Vincent D'Onofrio is nearly unrecognizably as unpredictable drug dealer Pooh Bear, named as such because of his flat nose, and Danny Trejo is here as one of his scary henchmen.

If you are looking for a decent mystery, darkish thriller, some noir, drugs, love lost, and cops, then you could not go far wrong renting The Salton Sea.

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37 out of 45 people found the following review useful:

Kilmer's best yet

Author: lagapalooza from vancouver, canada
25 May 2003

This is the back shelf treasure that everyone hopes for when browsing the not-so-recent releases at the video store. Pay attention to the other reviews posted here - they're not kidding. This is a very well made film on every level. Great script, acting is standout, direction is thoughtful and involved. Not for kids.

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36 out of 48 people found the following review useful:

A real classic

Author: Tom (tlazar@freetimes.com) from Cleveland, OH
9 February 2004

Although having seen this seemingly obscure movie for the first time a few months ago, I truly feel like it makes my Top 15 list. Val Kilmer is convincing as a tweaker and has a crew around him that is priceless for their absolute comedic value (of course this is all with their brains on chemical overload). Also, Vincent D'onofrio is brilliant as Pooh Bear (especially when you consider his Law & Order CI character "Goran").

I like this film becuase of the complexity of the story, the graphic and sobering nature of Danny Parker's drug culture and the intermittent comedic value with Pooh Bear, Kujo, Finn and Creeper.

A must see if you have the chance to find this hardly publicized film.

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17 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

Stylish neo-noir.

8/10
Author: Latheman-9 from USA
4 June 2003

The Salton Sea is a hypersaline artificial body of water accidentally created when engineers lost control of the Colorado River flow with which they were replenishing irrigation canals in California's Imperial Valley. For two years (1905-1907), the Colorado River was uncontrollably diverted from its natural course, filling the Salton Trough (part of the San Andreas Fault) before finally being set back on course. Since then, the Salton Sea continues to be replenished by irrigation runoff with no means of outflow except evaporation. It lies approximately 130 miles northeast of San Diego at the lowest point of the Sonoran Desert (278 feet below sea level). In that part of the world, the temperatures in summer, effectively April through November, can reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit, or even higher. In recent years, it has experienced massive fish and bird kills. In short, the Salton Sea is an apt metaphor for Hell ... which is just where Danny Parker/Tom Van Allen (Val Kilmer) finds himself at the beginning of this film, surrounded by flames. "The Salton Sea" is a highly stylized movie in which nearly all elements are executed well. The acting is generally excellent. Kilmer in the lead role does his best work since "Tombstone", and Vincent D'Onofrio, an actor for whom I don't ordinarily care, is utterly convincing as the demented crank dealer Pooh Bear. He was so good I forgot I was watching D'Onofrio. Excellent supporting performances are contributed by Peter Sarsgaard as Danny/Tom's best friend, Doug Hutchison and Anthony LaPaglia as the two L.A. County Sheriff's deputies for whom Danny snitches, and Adam Goldberg as tweaker-in-residence Kujo. Even the minor characters of Creeper (Ricky Trammell), Big Bill (Josh Todd), and the gun seller (Mpho Koaho) are portrayed to perfection. My only complaint is that Deborah Kara Unger simply wasn't able to pull off her part as the strung-out lowlife Colette, perhaps because she's just too beautiful to be convincing in such a role. As an anti-parallel, imagine Danny Trejo cast as James Bond.

Cinematography and editing were top notch, and the production design for this film was fantastic, from the diseased walls of Danny/Tom's apartment to the Level 4 biohazard lab in the 'Kujo's Big Heist' segment, with technicians wearing space suits that look like they came directly from Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey". Even the smallest details were done with style, such as the flames cascading down Danny/Tom's arm from the sunburst tattoo centered on the scar of his shoulder wound. The intricate plot of Tony Gayton's script requires the viewer's suspension of disbelief at some points, but not enough to detract significantly from the overall merit of the movie. This is a very strong feature film debut for director D.J. Caruso, and I look forward to his future work. One of the best films I've seen in the last three years, "The Salton Sea" is definitely worth watching. Rating: 8/10

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22 out of 30 people found the following review useful:

Great Kilmer In A Great Flick

8/10
Author: Signet from Baltimore
15 December 2002

Val Kilmer has made some of the most peculiar and daring career choices of any actor now working. His decision to appear in the disastrous remake of "The Island of Dr. Moreau" with Marlon Brando could have sunk him once and for all, save for his exceedingly nasty (and accurate) impersonation of Brando, tics and all, late in the film. Now, as his features have thickened and he is well past his pretty boy phase ( something he can apparently give up, and Tom Cruise wouldn't dare: we might notice there was no talent underneath the face cream), he is assuming roles that make full use of this brutalized looks. SALTON SEA is a magnificent performance in a wholly satisfying film, with Kilmer being fully assisted by a dazzling supporting cast. There are elements of classical balance in this story that make it not merely intellectually stimulating but emotionally moving. It has everything: great acting, great writing, and great directing. Don't miss it.

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12 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

Kilmer captures me in Salton Sea

9/10
Author: monika-woods from United States
18 November 2006

Val Kilmer in Salton Sea is about as close to home as anything for me in this movie. He looks like just another guy on the streets of So Cal back in the 80's, looking for a quick high, with no idea of consequence. Salton Sea is a beautiful location that many don't know of. Kilmer's performance carries one through the movie effortlessly. From the intricacies of the actual life he portrays to the unshown details of the tenderness of the characters heart, "Salton Sea" delivers a complete package of salty and sweet. I would have never rented the movie had it been any other actor. The only reason I was drawn to the movie, was the title, because so few people know of the hidden gem in the California desert, and I had been there as a child. The theme was a place that I unfortunately also visited and I feel that the movie delivers a compelling reason for people to think before the act. To realize that there is always more than meets the eye.

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14 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

An Underrated, Dark Sea Of Mystery!

7/10
Author: TheAnimalMother from your daughters bedroom
5 November 2009

*Very Minor, Undetailed Plot Spoiler Warning*

Director D.J. Caruso has run into decent fame as of late after directing Eagle Eye, (Which I thought was pretty terrible by the way.), and the very popular Disturbia, (Which is basically a reversion of Hitchcock's classic thriller Rear Window.). However, I believe that he should be most recognized for this little gem of a film from his more distant past, 2002's The Salton Sea.

One of the greatest things about The Salton Sea is that it unravels in very unexpected ways. Wrapping up the viewer in some dark unknown mystery, that piece by piece becomes clearer and clearer as the intriguingly masked plot unfolds into a tale of drugs, dirty law enforcement, love and revenge. From the visuals, to the dialogue, from the acting, to the delivery, The Salton Sea really is a gritty, enjoyable, and somewhat unique piece of work.

Don't even bother with the plot hole scenarios that some people are conjuring up out of the thin air resting between their ears. The truth is that they just didn't pay enough attention to the details while watching this underrated little diamond in the rough. If you like dark, gritty mysteries, take your mind for a dive into The Salton Sea.

7/10

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