During a three day heat wave just before a huge 4th of July celebration, an action star stricken with amnesia meets up with a porn star who is developing her own reality TV project, and a policeman who holds the key to a vast conspiracy.
Southland Tales is an ensemble piece set in the futuristic landscape of Los Angeles on July 4, 2008, as it stands on the brink of social, economic and environmental disaster. Boxer Santaros is an action star who's stricken with amnesia. His life intertwines with Krysta Now, an adult film star developing her own reality television project, and Ronald Taverner, a Hermosa Beach police officer who holds the key to a vast conspiracy. Written by
In the introductory titles, as Pilot Abilene narrates, there is a white map of the United States that implodes towards the screen as he says "Interstate travel visas were required for each state." Right before the map implodes, you can see that the state of Wisconsin is unaligned. See more »
Private Pilot Abilene:
In the aftermath of nuclear attacks in Texas, America found itself on the brink of anarchy.
[overlapping news reports]
Private Pilot Abilene:
World War III had begun.
Private Pilot Abilene:
The accelerated conflict in the Middle East placed significant restrictions on American access to oil. Alternative fuel sources became a lucrative commodity. Americans were transfixed by the terrorist's threat, and were willing to prevent another attack by any means necessary. Military checkpoints were erected at each State line. ...
[...] See more »
After the credits, a logo appears of a thumbprint over an American flag with the words: "DON'T TOUCH ME" See more »
This is the way the world ends. Not with a whimper, but with a bang.
This is a film about all of the seemingly random events that lead up to the end of the world. And it's also a comedy.
That says it all right there, doesn't it?
When this film ended, I ran to tell every one I could find about it. The odd thing I found about it was that I ended nearly every one of these conversations with the following:
"It was amazing, but don't see it. You won't like it."
It's strange to hope that a film I feel so passionately about should not be seen by the very people I want to discuss it with. However, that's exactly the way I feel here. This film is not for everybody; in fact, there are only a precious few out of all of the people who see it that will even tolerate its existence. But you know what? That really isn't important.
Art is subjective, and no matter how many times I bother to explain a difficult concept to somebody who hated this film, I realize that it will never work long before the conversation ends. The problem is that these difficult concepts are actually very simplistic: Richard Kelly had Dwayne Johnson spoof the stereotypical, apocalyptic action-hero throughout the film. This included over-dramatic readings of his lines, delayed reactions and odd vocal dynamics.
What? You say that it wasn't intentional, and that it was just Johnson's poor acting skills?
This is where the small-minded fail to grasp the most simplistic of concepts. The great analytical film student will analyze a crooked frame and declare the brilliance of its intent; they will say that this intentional error supports the themes of the piece. So why does the same not go for Southland Tales?
Each one of these already-marked actors has broken out of their shells for this movie. The fact that everybody stereotypes them attests to Kelly's genius in assigning them the roles; however, it also proves how unfortunately small-minded today's modern audience has become.
Was this film a mess? Absolutely, in every sense of the word. But was it a coherent mess? That's the real question, and I think that I can safely say that it is. This film is nowhere near as difficult to understand as anybody would have you believe. The concepts are straightforward and are practically dictated to you by the narrator; this becomes essential to the understanding of the story, as there is just way too much going on to take in on your own. However, instead of hindering the film, it makes these seemingly unrelated scenes string together into a true tapestry that is worth exploring.
So, you know what? I'm going to go against my own advice and advise anybody and everybody who reads this review to go out and see this film. If you don't like it, don't come back to this website whining about it, because nobody here has the tolerance to explain things to you that you will never understand. No amount of discussion of cinematography, lighting or the fantastically haunting score by Moby is going to change the mind of an already jaded viewer.
But maybe, just maybe, you will like it. You'll get a chance to experience something you're likely to rarely, if never, experience again. Because as all of us who enjoyed the film know:
It had to be this way.
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