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.
Aging screenwriter Felix Bonhoeffer has lived his life in two states of existence: in reality and his own interior world. While working on a murder mystery script, and unaware that his brain is on the verge of implosion, Felix is baffled when his characters start to appear in his life, and vice versa.
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
The film makes various literary references: T.S. Eliot (The Hollow Men), Philip K. Dick (Flow my Tears the Policeman Said) and Robert Frost (Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening). See more »
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 »
Note well and full: my rating of 10/10 is for the combination of the graphic novel "prequel saga," which is nothing less than the *first half of the story*, and the movie itself. I'm not sure if it makes sense to rate the movie as a separate entity, but it is wildly entertaining enough, I think, to rate a solid 7/10 or 8/10 for anyone who can lock into its satirical mode.
A word on that: it's amazing how tone-deaf some critics can be. I've read numerous reviews that criticize the movie for attempting to make deep or profound statements that instead fall flat because they are in fact trite, shallow, or stupid. Duh! I think it fair to say that at no point does any character say anything that Kelly thinks is profound; what we hear is a steady and very funny parody of exactly that. Maybe because the tone of the movie, its vision, is fresh and unique, that those who don't get it just assume it must be serious. This is part of the reason the movie is getting such wildly mixed reviews. Half the critics don't get the tone at all and hate it. Half the critics get it, and about 1/3 of those think the movie still isn't coherent enough to recommend, while the other 2/3 of the 1/2 think it's got just enough coherence to make it a treat.
So how coherent is it? *Without it's first half*, I think it's fair to say that it's confusing as hell and a challenge to follow. But we are given enough of the back story that the pieces can be put together reasonably well *by someone with decent experience seeing and reading complex science fiction stories*. I can certainly see how someone could regard the story as wholly incoherent, but that's their inexperience with this kind of story. Anyone who has "gotten" ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND, PRIMER, or, yes, the original cut of DONNIE DARKO on the first viewing, gotten them enough to figure out the broad outline of the plot, should be able to do the same here (as did my companion at the theater).
There is a big difference, though, between the movie half of SOUTHLAND TALES and these other flicks. The broad understanding of the story that you can get from a first viewing is an understanding of the WHAT of the story, but not of the WHY. In particular, it is impossible to understand the motivations of the movie's most important characters, the Treer Corporation, without having read the first half of the story.
Now, here's the astonishing part. Usually when a movie is widely dissed as incoherent, the best argument its defenders can muster is that some decent sense can actually be made of it after all. Often that involves inventing plot points that the actual story omits! However, the complete SOUTHLAND TALES, the graphic novel first half and the movie second half, is not just adequately coherent, not just satisfyingly coherent, it is *thrillingly* coherent. It's every bit as coherent as its reputation for the opposite. The big reveals near the end make numerous pieces of the puzzle fall into place, and once you leave the movie theater the pieces keep on locking up, bit by bit by bit. It's one hell of a science fiction story.
In short: if you have any strong interest in this movie, do yourself an immense favor and read the graphic novel. (Ideally, read it first, but I think that seeing the movie, reading the graphic novel, and seeing the movie again would be highly satisfying).
I still cannot figure out what Kelly was thinking when he decided to split this huge story the way he did. There's one alternate universe where this is a 600 page Hugo-Award winning novel, standing in the precise relationship to 2007 as John Brunner's brilliant STAND ON ZANZBAR did to 1967. And there's another alternate universe where it was a 6-part HBO miniseries that was universally regarded as doing for sci-fi on cable TV what the Sopranos did for crime and family drama. It's our sucky luck that we live in the universe where it was a mostly unread graphic novel plus a widely misunderstood motion picture. Then again, it's the point of the story that we do live in a sucky reality, so maybe there's perverse ironic sense in that.
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