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

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19 out of 31 people found the following review useful:

Pretty good

7/10
Author: Lupercali from Tasmania
29 August 2004

This is a moody, creepy thriller which reminds me a great deal of Philip K Dick's 'A Scanner Darkly' in some respects. Val Kilmer isn't exactly amazing (is he ever?) but he gets the job done. Most of the movie's high points come from the portrayal of the mindset of the drug subculture. Again, I'm reminded so much of PKD's comment about kids "playing in the road" even after they watched their friends getting run over one after another.

A couple of the flashback/hallucination sequences were a little confusing, but I got the general drift. The film has a seedy, nasty, slightly hallucinogenic quality to it. Kilmer seems slightly out of place - not messed up enough. Actually, that ends up making sense, but I won't give anything away.

Not a great film, but different and stylish enough to deserve the 7.2 average it currently enjoys here. That's about what I'd give it.

Also nice to see a drug/crime thriller where everything isn't blowing up every 30 seconds.

Oh, I forgot to mention: there are a few scenes in the film that are really darn funny. How that doesn't ruin the mood of the thing, I don't know, because it's a bit like laughing at a car wreck.

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28 out of 51 people found the following review useful:

****1/2 out of 5

Author: casey_choas66 (casey_choas66@hotmail.com) from Toronto, ON
15 September 2002

Val Kilmer stars as Tom, a trumpet player, or is that Danny, a low life tweaker? I don't know, you decide. This film is a tense crime drama or was that a journey through the human mind with comedic overtones like Fight Club, or could it have been a drug analogy like Trainspotting? I don't know, you decide. The theme of the film involves one mans quest for vengence or was it one mans quest to renew himself, maybe it was one mans quest to find his identity? I don't know, you decide. Get the picture yet? Val Kilmer is one man with two identites. As Tom he is out to hunt down the men who killed his wife. As Danny he is helping a pair of cops make their drug busts to keep him out of jail. Both men are walking down the same path but they come to a fork in the road. Path one, forget everything and take the easy way out. Path two, the long hard road to success filled with corruption, greed, scandal and drugs galore. At the end of either path, Poo Bear, a fat, psychotic, rec-neck drug dealer with no nose. The story is very complex and director D.J, Caruso does a fabulous job od weaving together the life of Tom and the life od Danny and brings them together very nicely in the end. I also like how he portrays Danny as a guy who isn't really in tune with reality. Curaso's camera movement make it seem like the world is going on around him, but Danny doesn't seem to be living in it. Val Kilmer is finally given a role that he can shine in and Vincent D'Onofrio is either an idiot or a genious for taking one the role of Poo-Bear, one of the most original villians I have seen in years. The film is brilliant in how complex in which the story is told but that is also the films biggest downfall. It has so many genres rolled into one that it is often tedious until about half way through when the film finally finds itself and steadies out. It's original, it's complex, it's compelling, it suspenseful, it's funny and it's honest, it's everything you could ask for but is it worth checking out? I don't know, I haven't decided yet, but I like it's odds.

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7 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Nicely turned thriller about speed

8/10
Author: pksky1 from Northern California
10 August 2003

This movie is all about speed or meth, the synthetic stimulant used as a recreational drug. It's a bit of a parable too, but it's rather hard to figure out what it all means. The story focuses on one character who finds himself deep in the speed drug scene, but as the story progresses we find that he is more then he seems to be. ... or maybe it is less. It is an unusual film with some nice bold strokes in cinematography.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

My name is Tom Van Allen. I'm a trumpet player.

8/10
Author: Spikeopath from United Kingdom
20 September 2012

The Salton Sea is directed by D. J. Caruso and written by Tony Gayton. It stars Val Kilmer, Vincent D'Onofrio, Peter Sarsgard, Doug Hutchinson, Anthony LaPaglia, Debora Kara Unger, Adam Goldberg and Luis Guzmán. Music is scored by Thomas Newman and cinematography by Amir Mokri.

Danny Parker (Kilmer) is hanging out with a bunch of methamphetamine users, apparently in an effort to numb the pain of his one time life that saw his wife murdered. Or is he? The word of mouth for it was strong, but no sooner did it hit cinemas than it disappeared off the face of the earth. However, the cult cinema world is often a vibrant place to lurk, enter there and you find The Salton Sea, a wonderfully tricksy and off beat neo-noir awash with misery, revenge, redemption and odd ball characters that are either stuck in purgatory, or heading to nowhereville.

Protagonist Danny Parker leads the film, a man whose identity is fractured after being dealt a blow from the hands of fate, very much in limbo mentally, he none the less has goals to achieve, nothing is never quite as it seems until director Caruso wants us in on the side-shifts. Danny is often in the company of danger and weird characters, from a hopped up harpoon wielding loon, to a no nose psycho (too much meth up the nose will make you lose it kids), via dirty cops and meth heads, it's a world of unease, the twisty plot drawing the viewer in with a kinky smile on its face.

Caruso also pulls off the neat trick of placing humour in this off kilter world without hurting the dramatic harshness of the thematics. There's a quite brilliant sequence that shows a botched crime being attempted by the meth head crew, this we watch at the same time as they discuss about actually pulling the crime off. That it involves a stool sample from Bob Hope should tell you all you need to know about the intelligence of the wannabe perps! Caruso's camera is fluid and he uses certain neo-noir visual tricks of the trade as well (time lapses etc), and he also has a knack for varying the mood without avertying the slowly bubbling to the surface pace that the story requires.

Kilmer is superb, perfectly low-key, there is no need for rage, the yearning for revenge and redemption, for identity, is brought out via calmly delivered dialect, and it's very affecting. D'Onofrio as Pooh Bear, the afore mentioned no nose fella, steals the movie with another of his off the planet nut-jobs. Elsewhere, Sarsgard is as appealing as he has ever been as Danny's stoner best mate, Hutchinson and LaPaglia cut fine figures as dirty cops, while Guzmán and Danny Trejo leave an impressively grungy mark. The only disappointment is the lack of screen time for Kara Unger, a fine actress, she is playing what turns out to be a critical femme fatale role, but really we needed more of her. It's a rare misstep in an otherwise cracking neo-noir that is highly recommended to fans of similarly devilishly fun pictures. 8.5/10

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Wow...I thought this movie was going to suck.

8/10
Author: cdygrn from United States
11 October 2006

The synopsis and inclusion of Val Kilmer wasn't promising, but this movie turned out to be very entertaining and I recommend it for anyone looking for a decent action/drama. I think Kilmer does an amazing job. I don't want to give details away, so I'll be brief. Whether or not it is a work of genius, I don't know, but I do know that it is worth renting. It has it's weaker moments, using narration and flashback ineffectively (in my opinion). I think they could've changed up the order of many of the scenes. Really that is just being picky, everyone will enjoy this movie. I watch a lot of movies. This one is better than most.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Hollywood Glamour. This film's technique is hot!

10/10
Author: kristoffe brodeur (kristoffe.brodeur@verizon.net) from New York, NY
30 May 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This film is a hidden gem, and if you've seen it, Trainspotting, Fight Club, and others of this shiny Hollywood dirty, then you know what I mean. Everything is perfectly dark, muggy, and setup for us to believe it. I've made film for about 10 years, and helped in every level of cinema. This helps when I see films of this nature and stylization.

Val Kilmer's jewelry, add on tattoos, green hair dye mixed with his placement inside of the tweakers, addicts, in this film is great. Similar to Moulin Rouge, the setting is introduced to us in a lar, quick montage, and everything is carefully placed, or their talent to do this is inherient even in quick editing and set decisions. Look for everything you can, including a passed out tweaker under a tree in the hot noon day light as the characters leave for more gank. It reminds me of the tiny things you'll see watching over and over with FIght Club in the first half of the film.

Great political references, perfect prop usage, and very believable character development, Hollywood style albeit, is what makes this film so good to watch. I can't help but to constantly reference other films with this, because it reminds me so much of all the great moments of others I love so much. ANother film that has this lone Elvis like character and the whole drug scenario is True Romance. The use of abused women as a character focus seems to parallel as well.

I hope this film gets more play and recognition, or maybe I don't. This has a certain bad taste about the whole thing, because there's no real hero, and nobody wins in the end. I believe that's what holds it back in the limelight of American cinema, where we are spoon fed simple answers of happy or sad endings with concrete answers. This film, like that of Memento, has a formula that is not unique, but allows the viewer to investigate their own interpretations of the piece at hand. Maybe that's why the allure to it's dirty, unfinished environment is so captivating, because when the story let's you decide some parts even if it's extremely well illuminated, you can come back time and time again to enjoy the mystery that this film is.

Is it the best film ever? Certainly not, but then again, almost every piece of cinema has flaws and is unfinished, even the greats, so I have to say from the viewer to the producer, watching this film and taking it in is both a pleasure for craft, style, and emotional string pulling.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Much better than average neo-noir, beautifully shot.

7/10
Author: Stephen McMenamin
23 July 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Val Kilmer gives us Tom Van Allen, a jazz musician embarked on a quest through the world of methamphetamine dealers, users and other predators. Kilmer is wonderful, as usual, in this alternately harrowing and hilarious post-Pulp Fiction noir thriller.

The whole cast is pretty wonderful as well. I especially enjoyed Vincent D'Onofrio as an eccentric drug dealer who has clearly been too long in the high desert.

The real standout element of the film, however, is the photography by Amir Mokri. Unlike some neo-noir, Mokri and director D.J. Caruso effectively balance high-key daytime shots with the darker interior and night shots, and all of them are excellently done.

The best elements of the screenplay are the many funny scenes, including a might-have-been heist gone wrong, a recreation of the JFK assassination, and a wonderful update of the "Easy Andy" scene from Taxi Driver.

The Salton Sea is worth seeing for fans of Kilmer, noir or both.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

About as dead and polluted as the lake it was named after.

6/10
Author: acearms from San Antonio, Texas
1 January 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

After the first 10 or so minutes I was almost ready to turn it off. The repetitious scenes of a drug den just did not appeal to me. Obviously I watched the entire movie. It turned out that Kilmer is playing the part of a man looking for his wife's killer with out the aid of the police and was doing the drug world as well as interfacing as a rat, stool pigeon for older folks, with bad cops to catch him. The bad cops turn out to be the killers he is seeking. Multiple flash backs blend the past with the present to reveal what has happened and connect the story line. The FBI gets involved and confirms the suspicions as to who the real killer was. Then they set up a sting operation, however, Kilmer's character goes off on a tangent and does his own thing. In the end he does do in his wife's killer, but almost gets killed by another hostile druggie in his own apartment. Get past the first 15 minutes and its worth the time to watch.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Completely freaky ending

9/10
Author: e_tippett from eastern canada
12 November 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I had a hard time at the end figuring out if he died or not or if it was all just some speed freak dream. I found the imagery disturbing-it was definitely a new trick for Val and he pulled it off pretty well except for the hair some of the time. He is older than the other freaks and tweakers in the film but he never seems out of place. But please, some low level user is going to get that close to big time dealers in a year or less? He looked way too healthy for one thing-that should have been a tip-off to Pooh-bear. I just never bought how fast he went from Joe Average to the poster child for Gak Anonymous.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Very Underated

Author: blake1979 from Bowie, Maryland
6 October 2003

I saw this movie for one reason Val Kilmer, he has a gift of bringing characters together in interesting ways. It was a great film that I wish there was more buzz about. The "tweakers" are very interesting especially with their schemes. Also Vincent D'Onofrio as Pooh Bear is great! Definately worth seeing twice.

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