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The Salton Sea More at IMDbPro »

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

It's just not quite for me...

Author: Andrew Nixon ( from Santa Barbara, CA
12 October 2002

It's well made, looks good, pretty decent acting, but is about a subject matter that is a bit of a turn off to me. It starts off showing the world of crank from the users perspective and then moves into the dealers. If course, there is a story that brings it all together, but that's probably the weakest part of the movie. It's not bad, but just nothing new. There are some things in this movie I'd venture to say have never been seen before...the scene with the badger comes to mind...or the pigeons...or Bob Hope's stuff. I'm sure there are some that like this movie more than I, but it's just not quite for me.

**1/2 (Out of 4)

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

A rough, but very cool, stylish film with great performances that's worth catching at the theater

Author: paul_supercala from Dallas, TX
17 May 2002

Director D.J. Caruso escapes TV land and gives us a big, beautiful (yet very whacked out) film about "tweekers" (speed users). It's a little deeper than that, though. Without giving away too much, a little more about the complex lead character Tom (Val Kilmer) is revealed a little at a time, as with the rest of the characters. Part of the pleasure of seeing this film is the new twists that unfold as the film rolls along. There's murder, suspense, intrigue, and every other good Hollywood element and it's done very well.

This is a pretty dark movie, though. Not exactly one to bring the kids to, this film faces the dark side of the drug underworld. There's plenty of violence, drugs, and other things going on that upset a few people in the screening enough to leave. With that in mind, it's one that's enjoyable on another level for it's style, story, and solid performances. Kilmer embodies his character as usual and Vincent D'Onofrio ("Full Metal Jacket") is fantastic as drug kingpin "Pooh Bear", who wears a prosthetic nose due to the result of his excessive cocaine habit. Adam Goldberg and Luis Guzman are also notable in supporting roles that round out the odd cast of characters.

While some of the other supporting performances seem a little fake, it's also a little hard to portray a "tweeker" without coming off as comical. Writer Tony Gayton saves face from his dreadful "Murder By Numbers" script and gives us the same kinds of twists and turns, only this time it really works. The non-linear story isn't too hard to follow and is interesting enough to keep the viewer engaged.

This one is worth checking out if you're a Kilmer fan or if you don't mind a little edgy stuff. Again, it's intense, but very well done. Catching it in the theater would be a good idea. The mix of the style, soundtrack, and overall feel are worth experiencing on the big screen.

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Actors you love, acting in unusual parts

Author: Hollycon1 from United States
29 October 2005

This is a sleeper. Not many of my friends have seen this film. Now that Law and Order "Criminal Intent" has proved itself, watch this film and you'll see actors who are playing on television at this time, 10-2005. Vincent D'Onfrio (I hope I spelled correctly) is fabulous as this geeked out guy who is over the top as a drugged out gansta, I am not giving the plot away, just a little about "Goren" on Criminal Intent. Man, can he act! I loved him in this film, and Val Kilmer is cool too. If you get a chance. watch it. If you like creepy crime drama, with twists and a somewhat unpredictable ending, you might like this. It's a little off the beaten path.

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

A revenge story with less action

Author: MLDinTN from TN
20 April 2003

This movie follows the mold of most revenge tales. Val Kilmer plays a guy who has become a speed addict. He is a police informer, but is always chasing the demons that haunt him from his wife's tragic death. She was killed at a meth house by masked gunman. Throughout the story, we learn how Kilmer goes from his life as a meth addict to a musician. The character, Pooh - Bear is really disturbing, not only by his actions but by his face. As he works to get the goods on Pooh-Bear, he runs into some gunmen and puts 2 and 2 together.

This is definitely one of Kilmer's better roles in a while. This film does lack a lot of action. I mean, since it is basically the same story as in Gladiator, but there are no sword fights, etc... But, it is still good.

FINAL VERDICT: A good portrayal of a speed addict. We get to see the dark drug world and how this one guy handles it as he searches for the answers concerning his wife's death. I recommend it if you are looking for a good drama.

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:


Author: ween-3
3 January 2003

Quirky little film noir about the lovely world of speed freaks. Good performances by all..(Vincent D'Onofrio refuses to look the same in any two movies---the Zelig of the cinematic world)..but the plot lines get almost too tangled for their own good, and the ending is a bit over-the-top. Worth watching, however, despite some obvious flaws. The opening montage about the history of methedrine provides the perfect intro to the wacky antics to follow. And one look at D'Onofrio's make-up will keep "crank" off your kids' to-do list for the foreseeable future.

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4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Not very Accurate

Author: blondeaj from Canada
14 April 2006

The film itself was entertaining enough, but the portrayed "meth lifestyle" was extremely inaccurate. The "tweakers" acted more like stoners, and I tend to lose interest in unrealistic movies pretty quickly. Not once does Val Kilmers character look or act like he is on speed. He was quite the opposite, almost slow moving. The only convincing meth addict was Adam Goldberg as "Kujo". Shalom Harlow as was also convincing as the addict "Nancy", but mainly because she was so thin. Vincent D'Onofrio did a brilliant job as his entertaining, but disturbing character "Pooh Bear". He was the only reason I kept the movie on.

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5 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

The "so what" movie...

Author: lunanegra-2
14 January 2006

It was supposed to be a good movie... The truth is it never gripped my attention. I tried to watch it twice, few years apart. The first time I watched it to its end, quickly forgot, and recently I tried to watch it again... I could not remember anything from the first time, so it was OK, like seeing it for the first time ever, but I quickly realized that I don't recalled anything just because there was nothing worthy recalling! So, I turned it off after 50 minutes of this tiresome experience. I just didn't care for the story, for the suspense (was there any?) and for the hero. I like Val Kilmer but he was quite unconvincing in this movie, anyway, he couldn't probably make it any better as his character was so untrue. (I wanted to say "phoney" to be honest;)) This movie also contains its share of boring hip topics: the drugs, bad drug-lords, big guns, big tattoos, sweaty and fat guys, cheap sunglasses, serious faces and ugly/rusty cars. "Just for the video" formula, and I would add: Video times are over!

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5 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Competing Films

Author: tedg ( from Virginia Beach
5 November 2002

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Spoilers herein.

Movies are like nothing else in life. They have a large hand in creating reality for us, and so we give them personalities just like we do to religious forces.

So we have the comedy and noir and so on which often take on the same sorts of stereotypical characteristics we give to people. At some point, clever filmmakers, writers and actors started playing off the stereotypes of the film genre as they had been for decades with character stereotypes. Then after a long string of films that had films in them in different roles, David Lynch came along and made a film which consists of two film genre stereotypes battling it out: `Blue Velvet.' The Capra goodness becomes a film Mother nature and an evil noirish thriller type becomes a Satanic deity. They battle for control over what is on the screen, what is in our minds. (The end is a draw.) The actors and characters are mere tokens for the larger battle between two metacharacters.

That reinvented the world of possibilities for clever writers, and every one is now trying some sort of battle between film stereotypes that happens behind the scenes. And in doing so, they often play a common dirty trick on the actors involved. Actors are relatively stupid about the big picture because they have to have extraordinary focus on what they do. Their concerns are just different than the filmmakers. So we have a growing practice of filmmakers taking advantage of the cluelessness of the actor in a particular role.

We have, for instance Harrison Ford in `Bladerunner.' He's the kind of actor that is genuinely stupid and as a person has no idea of the forces that control his life. Scott puts him in a character where that underpinning, though subtle, helps make the film a masterpiece. The Cohens do this a lot, and the practice is spreading as a major extension of typecasting.

Now we have this clever film, `Salton Sea,' that goes halfway toward the film type battle by investing the battle in two method actors, Kilmer and D'Onofrio. One lives in a Tarantino (actually Welles) film, the other in an Aronofsky (actually Tarkovsky) film. Kilmer pretends to be in the Pooh Bear film as a personal conspiracy, consistent with Tarantino-like motives. The `mystery' is in where all the surrounding characters fall, in which film, and ultimately with which film will `win.'

Following the Lynch formula (Gayton and Caruso are clever but no artists) the end is a merger of the two film types. Chaos meets self-destruction.

I imagine that Caruso worked hard to balance the two film genres, probably talking to each actor separately. Probably keeping a scorecard: one `thriller' plot twist = one comic drug hallucination.

Along the way, we get a few self-referential devices. These are also requirements of this new form: a reference to Zapruder -- a film that supports two truths and by extension the fabricated documentary of Stone and his plastic realities. A reference to Bob Hope's crap (read: films) and a plot to coopt it. Lot's of references to other films: `Do you feel lucky?' A `performance' within: Guzman and Unger work their own little embedded film. Another: Kujo creates his own embedded heist film.

Its all fun if you love movies. A little sad to see Kilmer's commitment taken advantage of so, but that's the tragedy of the thing. These guys are doomed to unhappy lives unless they cease to act, like DeNiro.

It's a fun and clever example of a new type of synthesized, self-referential film, but there's nothing new or particularly lifealtering here.

Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 4: Has some interesting elements.

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9 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

Ridiculous, completely illogical, waste of time

Author: the_hamburger_man from west coast
20 August 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This review will gloss over the basic plot to show just how ridiculously illogical it is. The only reason that this movie is considered "clever" is because the main character's background/circumstances are slowly fed to us during the movie; however, I'm going to give it to you in chronological order. I recommend that you read this review and then decide whether you really want to see this film. If you do choose to go ahead and watch it, keep these points in mind...


1) Clean, average-Joe, main character takes his wife to a meth lab for no reason indicated, where she is killed in a police raid/robbery shoot-out.

2) Main character comes up with a revenge plan which requires himself to become a hardcore drug addict so that he can pose as an informant to the police who conducted the raid.

3) The FBI works with our hardcore drug addict hero to assist him in his revenge on the police -- because making such wise decisions as becoming a drug addict wouldn't lessen your credibility with the FBI one bit.

The meth cook is a nose-less redneck freak who lives out in the desert and spends his free time recreating the Kennedy assassination with pigeons and toy cars, when he isn't feeding people's genitals to his pet badger.

Other reviewers say that this film accurately portrays the lives of meth addicts and meth cooks. I think they are on meth if they believe that. 1/10 Just plain bad!

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Delivers A Lot More Than It Promises

Author: seymourblack-1 from United Kingdom
4 July 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In this movie's opening scene, a man surrounded by money, photos and flames sits on the floor of a small room playing his trumpet. What's most noticeable is the deeply melancholic sound of his music and his total lack of concern about the obvious danger he's in. Both of these things are important pointers to his state of mind as he begins to describe the events that led him to this point in his life. His story of love, loss, revenge and redemption features a variety of low-life characters, a certain amount of brutality and many moments of dark humour. The action takes place in the squalid surroundings inhabited by drug addicts, dealers and corrupt cops where life is cheap and the atmosphere's always threatening.

Speed freak Danny Parker (Val Kilmer) is a man with an identity issue. He used to be a happily married jazz musician who dressed conventionally and was known as Tom Van Allen. His life changed dramatically when, during an unpredictable incident, his wife was shot dead and he was left devastated, heartbroken and consumed with guilt about his inability to prevent what happened. Having used drugs to numb his pain, he then morphed into the heavily tattooed character who became known to his fellow addicts as Danny and his life became a series of binges where he got high followed by periods where he involved himself in various drug deals to fund his habit.

Danny had also been recruited by a couple of undercover cops to help them catch drug dealers. This work was dangerous and he knew that one group in particular called the "Mexicali Boys" were out to kill him for his part in the successful arrest of their leader. A meeting that he has with a drug dealer who carries a spear-gun proves to be absolutely terrifying and he's also fortunate to survive another deal with a sadist called Pooh Bear (Vincent D'Onofrio) who specialises in torture as well as trading in crystal methedrine. Surprisingly, despite his dangerous and destructive lifestyle, Danny still manages to enjoy reasonably normal friendships with the simple but good-natured Jimmy the Finn (Peter Sarsgaard) and his neighbour Colette (Deborah Kara Unger) whose life is miserable because she regularly gets beaten by her abusive boyfriend Quincy (Luis Guzman).

All is not entirely as it seems however, because it gradually becomes clear that Danny's involvement in the "tweaker" subculture is not simply to ease his pain but more importantly to avenge the death of his wife.

For a movie that appears to be so unappealing in many ways, it's a pleasant surprise to find that "The Salton Sea" actually boasts a good story, some wonderful cinematography and a way of delivering its narrative that's quite novel. With its catalogue of eccentric characters and exemplary performances, this is a movie that certainly delivers a lot more than it promises.

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