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Reviews & Ratings for
The Salton Sea More at IMDbPro »

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:


Author: loriincali from southern cali
3 November 2002

i've now seen this film 3 times, and i just love it. i even drove out to the salton sea the day after i saw it to see what that place is all about. it's a gorgeous film - the filmwork is exquisite, the story has some great twists and turns. val and vincent are simply brilliant. why is it that the indies are always better than the blockbusters?

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

So Close...

Author: noah645
2 November 2002

I really thought this movie was interesting. It had a nice neo noir thing going. The plot was interesting, the visuals, although not great had some interesting moments.

What really turned me off to this film was the humor they put in. I could not understand why they were trying to be funny in some parts. If they went into this movie thinking that it was going to be a pure drama it would have went over much better. There was too much kitsch and I thought it compromised the story. Some of the violent scenes and flashback scenes were super cheesy as well. All of this I think could have done much better by a much better director. It does not surprise me that D.J. Caruso has a television background. Movies should be better than T.V. .

I recommend this film because overall it was entertaining and had some very interesting parts but it could have been much better!

7 out of 10

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Good, dark crime film that could have been great

Author: snake77 from Portland, OR
10 October 2002

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed this movie. Val Kilmer gives a good performance as a drugged out (or is he?) ex-trumpet player searching the underworld trying to find out who killed his wife. The film has lots of things going for it: Kilmer's smooth acting, a fairly clever script, good seedy L.A. locations, and a really good soundtrack. All in all it added up to an enjoyable film - I still can't quite figure out why it never came to my local theater.

But the film does have some drawbacks. The inner L.A. meth crowd Kilmer's character hangs out with were a little too cute and smart and glammy, not the psychotic, crude, circling-the-drain losers they tend to be in real life. Also the rookie director (like most rookie directors of crime films) for whatever reason felt the need to include several meandering Pulp Fiction-esqe scenes that detracted from the story. The film was at its best when it maintained the mood and pacing of a straightforward crime drama, when it diverged into violent comic surrealism it seemed to lose its footing a bit. You can almost see that Kilmer somehow sensed this, and knew the only way to keep the film on track was for his character to play those scenes very straight and with little dialogue.

But the film overcomes these drawbacks and ends up being a good modern day thriller. Vincent D'Onfronio nearly steals the show with his inspired, lunatic performance as Pooh-Bear and Peter Sarsgaard is great as Kilmer's devoted druggie pal. If violent debauchery and ironic humor don't put you off, I highly recommend The Salton Sea.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

I give it an 8... or did I say 9? *Spoilers included.

Author: Justin Harris from Los Angeles, CA
6 October 2002

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

When I first saw the trailer for the movie many months back I awaited patiently to see it since it was one of my most anticipated movies for 2002. However, unlucky for me, it didn't play in my area so I didn't get to see it in the theatres. So after waiting more months I see that it finally would be released on DVD September 10th. Good for that, I picked it up, watched it, and enjoyed it. The movie lived up to all my expectations and couldn't be better.

Many people have concentrated on the fact that its content of drug use and cinematography is that of 'Pulp Fiction' or 'Requiem for a Dream' but I didn't see that really at all. What got me on it was the story in general, which consisted of a guy trying to avenge the woman he loves, by whatever means necessary. I liked the way that Val Kilmer's character really couldn't decide who he was anymore, in the end. It was a very good movie that I have enjoyed watching many times now. Highly recommended.

My score: 8 out of 10 (very good)

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

enthralling in a zoned-out kind of way

Author: JJCA
29 September 2002

wow! I had no idea what this film was really about when i sat down to watch it. Kilmer's performance is solid - you dont know whether he's lost it or not til the end, but D'onofrio is AMAZING!... didnt even know it was him until the credits. This actor is one of those who can really lose himself in the role.... This movie reminds me of 3 kings or Seven in the modern feel and originality in both the direction and the script. It's gritty without being mawkish about it. Good job!

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

fast-paced, hi-tech, well-casted, cleverly-written, heartless

Author: rzajac from Taichung, Taiwan
28 September 2002

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

*** slight spoiler ***

Started with promise, wound up being another "feely" (a la Aldous Huxley Jr.). This movie shot for everything; romance, bizzareness, adventure, "noir", redemption, emotional impact, social relevance, even cosmic significance. But it wound up selling out to plot twists, and revenge-as-redemption, and then expects us to believe in the hero's spiritual renewal at the very end, like Raskolnikov's last-paragraph redemption at the end of _Crime and Punishment_. Do you buy that? I saw this movie, and I didn't. Maybe it's just too subtle for me; another fable of Heavy Karma in the Big City, spun better than I can comprehend.

You be the judge.

I should mention a more specific example of the movie's failure to connect. The love interest was not compelling in the least; they just didn't manage it so as to bring it home. A hot babe with a "wuv yoo" look on her perfect face just isn't enough. That aspect of the story didn't "make the cut" in my guts. And that was dropping a major ball.

By way of contrast, _Jesus' Son_ and _Requiem to a Dream_ were better "war on drugs" movies.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

So close to being really good film it hurts.

Author: ortenzia from San Francisco, CA
22 September 2002

There are wins in this movie, and there are losses. The wins are the performances by the entire cast, especially good are Peter Sarsgaard and Vincent D'Onofrio, who play the roles with a chameleon honesty that is carefully and skillfully done. Val Kilmer gives his standard good performance-- he plays everything casual in this movie, and as a result, you believe his character and believe in his character. Plus, Val Kilmer's casual is always entertaining.

Another win in this movie is the overall look, it does draw upon an impractically swank Meth scene and the usual noir crime coloring, but it's presented in a way that's honest and enjoyable. Also, director Caruso makes his environment a character as well, so you never feel there's a want of anything to see in the film.

This is where the wins become hazy. The screenplay is interesting. On premise and basic plot structure, it's excellent (although you get the feeling it was heavily influenced by "The Usual Suspects") and compelling as a crime suspense film. In execution, it's a little fumbled and therefore lacking in dramatic punch and so the premise and well, beauty, is lost. Screenwriter Tom Gayton has some great ideas, all he has do is learn how to communicate them to their fullest potential.

The direction is also troublesome. I think Caruso bit off a little more than he could chew, and although I think he'll go on to do great things, he should have passed the torch on this one. Although there were moments when his vision was perfect, on the whole, it just wasn't there.

"The Salton Sea" is a good movie, the problem was, it could have been a great movie. It's worth seeing just for the ensemble acting and the production design of the film, as well as some funny and great scenes. However, don't walk in expecting a great suspense film, because the film will not give you that.

My bet is that if we're all still here in 2025, this film will be remade into a great film. Until then, enjoy what it does offer and try, while watching, to forget about what it could have been.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

One of the best films of the year!

Author: Nick Dets from US
22 September 2002

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

WARNING: although vague, there is a spoiler or two in this article.

Immediately, The Salton Sea plunges you into its fast-paced and dark underworld. It opens with a man sadly playing a tune on his trumpet in a room filled with money that is all on fire. His narration tells about his name being Tom Van Allen (or is it Danny Parker?). There is no telling where the story is going to go or what is going to be introduced next. After seeing some advertisement for director D.J. Caruso's The Shield (which had a shameless Memento rip-off scene on it), I thought he would take brilliant new writer Tony Gayton's (Murder By Numbers) script and turn it into a Memento duplication. I was pleasantly surprised at his stylish, slick direction that never goes over the top and even adds a punch to the material. It is beautifully filmed film noir with a knockout cast. Val Kilmer plays a completely different role from any of his previous work. He outstandingly portrays a vulnerable, confused man whose life is going down the drain with his multiple identities and use of crystal meth. D'Onofrio is excellent as always as the bizarre and scary villain; a nose-less drug dealer that calls himself Pooh Bear. Peter Sarsgaard is immensely likable as the loyal, but simple best friend of Danny/Tom. The two identities of the main character bring you into different parts of the story (pretty cool structuring). Tom Van Allen is one of the identities. He is a depressed trumpet player who grieves over the loss of his beloved wife. He always plays the tune he played for her, a `moody and haunting piece' (a good description for the film). The next identity is Danny Parker, a speed addicted scum-bag-looking man who.

The story twists and turns frequently, but fortunately never confuses or muddles. The ending probably won't be predicted by anyone, however. Any clichès in the story (they are scarse) are hidden by Caruso's creativity. There is a scene where a character is saved by a loss of one bullet in a gun (where doesn't this happen?) but Caruso goes back and shows where they were used and adds the numbers up as they go along onscreen. The music selected for the film fits it perfectly from Lou Reeds "Take a Walk on the Wild Side" to an effective use of The James Gang's "Funk 49" and The Chemical Brother's "Let Forever Be" to Tantric's "Mourning" and a good trumpet score. This one is hands down the best film I've seen all year and the best I've ever seen Val Kilmer.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

One of the best films I've seen

Author: MCD9901 from Philadelphia, PA
19 September 2002

This is a twisted story of how one man's quest for revenge leads him into a world where his real identity is blurred. I thought Val Kilmer gave an outstanding performance as the junkie/tortured soul who is trying to realize who he is.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

What women want.

Author: maria-ines from New Brunswick, NJ
18 September 2002

In "The Salton Sea" Val Kilmer plays Danny, a former musician turned tattooed addict with spiked hair and fashionable junkie clothes. In the dark, chaotic, and impossibly grim world where he and his friends prowl, nothing is as it appears, except perhaps for the outright vileness of most of the characters. In the style of the absurdly overrated Quentin Tarantino, murderers, thieves and junkies are given dialogue that is meant to be funny, ironic, self-mocking. We are shown flashbacks suggesting that Val used to be a jazz musician and a decent man who deeply loved his murdered wife. None of these devices, however, blunt the appalling nature of what we are shown, nor do they add coherence to the plot. Nevertheless, I was not prepared for the following (presumably) poignant flashback which I outline below. The quotations are verbatim from the film, but rest assured that nothing I write will in any way diminish the intrigue or reveal the essential mystery of the plot.


We hear Val Kilmer's voice, narrating, "My name is Tom Van Allen. I'm a trumpet player."

The scene fades to a setting sun by a lake (the Salton Sea?). Against the warm, orange glow stands the silhouette of a man playing the trumpet. He wears a fedora, belted trousers, pointy shoes, and we hear him playing a solo jazz piece. Next to him sits a beautiful woman on a blanket. She tilts her head back in rapture.

"Aahhhh, that hurts my heart. What a beautiful composition!"

He sits next to her on the blanket, and smiling, asks, "And the performance?"

"Tom Van Allen is nothing short of dazzling in his interpretation of Miles Davis' haunting, moody piece.

"I thank you."

"And he has a really hot ass with hardly any hair on it," she continues in a monotone.

"Again, I thank you," he answers politely and with surprising aplomb.

"No, I was talking about Miles Davis!"


They roll over in delight.

Becoming pensive, she asks, "What do you think of when you play?"

"I think about what life would be without you."


Unfortunately, I think of *hairy* bottoms when I hear jazz, which is why I stopped watching the movie.

I do have to give credit to Chandra West, who plays the wife. "With hardly any hair on it" is not easy to say intelligibly.

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