Southland Tales (2006) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
270 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
Richard Kelly craziness unleashed
SnoopyStyle24 July 2014
On July 4, 2005, nuclear explosions devastate Texas. It's the start of WWIII. America turns militaristic. Three years later, California is the key to the presidential race. Republicans are generally winning politics. There is a leftist neo-Marxist movement. There is a new government force USIDent which controls cyberspace and surveillance. Middle east oil is cut off and scientists have developed a new power source Fluid Karma using quantum entanglement. Boxer Santaros (Dwayne Johnson) is a key republican who goes missing and returns with amnesia. He has info with Krysta Kapowski (Sarah Michelle Gellar) who is reality porn star Krysta Now. Roland Taverner (Seann William Scott) is a cop or a copy of the cop who is giving Santaros a ride-along.

This is an ambitious movie from Richard Kelly who made Donnie Darko. He's allowed to be let loose and that is its major problem. It has so much that it becomes quite a mess. It has way too much. It is unexplainable and illogical. It's a conspiracy nut's wet dream. Somebody needs to hold him back. There are bits and pieces that I really like. I love SWS watching his delayed reflection. I like some of the silly humor. Generally, I don't like the cinematography or directing style or the overly complicated world. It looks like a cheap compromise. I appreciate the ambition but this is not a good movie in most sense. It is a mishmash of weird ideas.
2 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Has elements of social satire but they are lost in such a mess that it is hard to enjoy or engage with even if the base elements show the potential
bob the moo15 June 2008
In 2005 a large part of Texas was wiped out by a nuclear blast. Three years later and America is deep in wars all over the globe and has become a police state with near total control on the populace. California is now the hub of everything but is also HQ of the underground Marxist movement with which the powers are in a constant battle. In the midst of this, action movie star Boxer Santaros becomes sought after when he goes missing and turns up with amnesia; however all he is trying to do is get his film project off the ground with his porn star girlfriend. To help with this he travels with LA cop Roland Taverner – unaware that Taverner has been replaced by his twin brother, a Marxist terrorist. Meanwhile a German company prepares to launch a device that will head off the energy crisis, but of course nothing is as it seems.

Southland Tales is the film that everyone lined up to kick and this for me was enough to justify seeing it because I found it hard to believe that the man behind Donnie Darko could make a film as bad as everyone was saying. The truth is that he has not but he is not a million miles away because the good in the film is lost in a mess that makes it so hard to watch, engage with and enjoy that it genuinely is hard to defend. What the film is trying to do is satirise the way the western world is today in 2008 in regards obsession with celebrity, the disposable culture, the wars, the invasion of privacy, the war on terror, the willingness of science to find out whether something is good or bad by trying it and so on. And it does do these things to some degree but the problem is that it does them within such a mess of a film that the value of them is lost. Some have said that the messy, incoherent and frantic film is just another comment on the state of western media and I guess this might be the case but it still doesn't mean that it is a good idea.

I have to mention Donnie Darko because although that was a film that took many viewings and also much reading to get close to what it was about, at least it held out hope to the viewer to get something from it. Here though the film is just incoherent and messy – not to the point of me throwing it all in and switching it off but certainly to the point of me leaving it having taking away very little other than bemusement. The film has its defenders and, not to start a fight but I do think that some people love things that the majority hate. For me it is really hard to like and trust me I would like to be here saying that I found lots of value in it. However it doesn't succeed at what it sets out to do and Kelly's ambition does seems to mean that he has just totally lost control of it.

Celebrity is part of his film and so he has a lot of recognisable faces in here, although many of them are pushing against material they don't understand. I think Dwayne Johnson is actually pretty good in the lead. He is not a great actor but he can do "solid" while also taking direction well – I never had a problem with him the whole film. Gellar is less engaging as a presence and that is important because for the majority of the cast, presence is important because without the material there is not a huge amount of performance. Ling is stunning as always and this works for what it is; Timberlake works OK; Harris, Armstrong, Lambert, Lovitz, Shawn, Smith and others are all OK finds but not brilliant. Scott had to carry a lot of the film and I'm not sure he was either up to it or did it.

Southland Tales has its moments of creativity, insight and interest but without doubt Kelly lost control of his project and ending up with lots of parts but no whole. The "making of" film on the DVD confirms both his ambition and his failure but to be honest just watching it for yourself will tell you the same. Kelly is still someone I will watch because without a doubt he has creativity but I really hope that he gets someone to work with him who can act as a channelling influence because I'm not sure how many more "Southland Tales" his very young career can stand.
6 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
seemingly couldn't be, but is
lee_eisenberg19 May 2008
Having seen Richard Kelly's work so far ("Donnie Darko" and "Southland Tales"), I'm very eager to see what his third salvo will be.

If you just hear a little bit about this movie, it would probably sound like something that either couldn't exist as a movie, or would have to be something starring Leslie Nielsen. It would likely be hard to envision The Rock (billed with his real name Dwayne Johnson), Sarah Michelle Gellar and Seann William Scott co-starring in a movie set in a future in which the War on Terrorism has officially become World War III, and every part of everyone's lives in monitored in a way that puts Orwell to shame. But yes, this movie is just that, and even more.

There are a couple of things to interpret (at least as I interpreted them). Boxer Santaros (Johnson) is a movie star who married into a politician's family (possibly a reference to Arnold Schwarzenegger?). Krysta Now (Gellar) is a former porn star who has her own reality show, on which she pontificates about current issues; ah yes, wouldn't every news show just love to have movie stars on as commentators, whether or not they know a damn thing about the topic? Anyway, the setting is that there was a nuclear attack on the United States on Independence Day 2005, and so the government used that as an excuse to turn the country into an ultra-police state (while invading every "enemy country" except Cuba). Ronald Taverner (Scott) is an agent of UPU, the secret police; he also has a twin brother Roland, who is a member of a neo-Marxist group. Meanwhile, German company Treer has invented a device to use the ocean currents as energy...with unexpected results. As the third anniversary of the attack approaches, Los Angeles gears up for the release of a zeppelin into the sky while the authorities battle the neo-Marxist group. But all is not what it seems...

At times, there's so much going on that the movie is a little hard to follow, especially in the scenes with the multiple TV screens. But in the grand scheme of things, I recommend this movie. As I said earlier, I would have never imagined The Rock, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Seann William Scott co-starring in a movie dealing with things like the PATRIOT Act, but they all did a good job. I wouldn't be surprised if some of the events depicted here come true. And like I said, I'm eager to see Richard Kelly's next movie.

Also starring Justin Timberlake, Wallace Shawn, Beth Grant, Miranda Richardson, Mandy Moore, Kevin Smith, John Larroquette, Jon Lovitz, Rebekah Del Rio, Nora Dunn, Bai Ling, Cheri Oteri, Amy Poehler, Lou Taylor Pucci, Janeane Garofalo, Christopher Lambert, Zelda Rubinstein and Will Sasso.
5 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A mess. But I love messes.
BandSAboutMovies28 February 2020
Warning: Spoilers
Much like how I never got It Follows and worship Under the Silver Lake, Richard Kelly followed up Donnie Darko with the impenetrable Southland Tales, a movie seemingly designed to appeal to literally a handful of people.

How did this happen? Was no one saying no? And more importantly, where are the people obsessing over this movie?

As for me, I'm just as guilty. I've had the blu ray in my possession for nearly a decade and kept saying, "Well, I'll get to it."

On a cold Sunday morning at 5:45 AM - my favorite time to watch films - this mess of a movie blew my mind up real good.

Kelly wrote this movie before 9-11. Before he became someone Hollywood would throw money at. And after the attacks and the fame, he started revising it until it became not unlike the zeppelin that flies at the end of the film - sure, it gets airborne, but it's awfully bloated. But dammit, I kind of love this ridiculous movie that feels like the 90's never ended and has the audacity to include musical numbers and Jon Lovitz as a racist cop not played for laughs.

For his part, Kelly said that the movie was a "tapestry of ideas all related to some of the biggest issues that I think we're facing right now ...alternative fuel or the increasing obsession with celebrity and how celebrity now intertwines with politics."

Man, I love when filmmakers go crazy. I love when they have multiple graphic novels to explain their messes of movies. And I love when ensemble casts get dragged into a shaggy dog of a film, trying to act their way out of something that at times makes no sense. Is that the point?

I mean - this movie somehow was influenced by Phillip K. Dick - characters outright say titles from his books in casual conversation - and Pulp Fiction, Dr. Strangelove and the nuclear doom of Kiss Me Deadly. This is a place where Biblical verse walks hand in hand with song and dance set to the music of Moby and The Killers.

That said - the director's cut has been referred to as "the ugliest mess I've ever seen" and "the biggest disaster since The Brown Bunny" and worst of all, "so bad it made me wonder if Kelly had ever met a human being." And you know what? I want to see it. I want to see it with all my heart. Richard Roeper said that it was "two hours and twenty-four minutes of abstract crap." I want all of it and more.

Oh yeah - those graphic novels. Southland Tales was initially planned to be a nine-part "interactive experience", with the first six parts taking up a hundred pages in comic book form, with the movie as the last three parts of the story. And oh yeah - there was a website. Audiences can barely care about anything these days and here's this movie demanding you do your homework.

Then again, this only played 63 theaters.

On July 4th, 2005, El Paso and Abilene were destroyed by nuclear attacks, which leads to America being under non-stop surveillance. While this is all going on, a company figures out how to make non-stop energy called Fluid Karma which is ripping holes through the fabric of space and time. And oh yeah - there's a neo-Marxist terrorist plot involving the missing and amnesiac Boxer Santaros (The Rock, who was out of his depth when this was made but would be perfect now), a psychic porn star and singer named (Sarah Michelle Gellar), the twin Taverner brothers (yep, another Philip K. Dick reference; Sean William Scott plays them) and a screenplay that portends the future.

Somewhere in all of this is Mandy Moore as Boxer's wife, Justin Timberlake narrating it all (he once said the movie was performance art and claimed to have no idea what it's all about), Miranda Richardson as the nemesis behind it all, Bai Ling as Serpentine (she's all film noir here), Wallace Shawn as the Baron who is trying to get the new energy out to the world (when he's not watching commercials where trucks have sex), Nora Dunn as a terrorist and porn director, John Larroquette (!), Kevin Smith, Cheri Oteri, Amy Pohler, Curtis Armstrong (!), Christopher Lambert (!), Zelda Rubinstein, Will Sasso (of all people!) and a cut for time Janeane Garofalo.

This is a movie that desperately and hopelessly wants to be about something for someone. Let me be that someone. And let me have so many questions, like why do the police cars have the Caligula quote "Let them hate so long as they fear" on them? Why have Jane's Addiction lyrics come out of a character's mouth? Why cut the scene where Boxer gets blasted back in time to the 1920's? Why does Boxer have the same name in his prophetic movie - Jericho Caine - as Arnold in End of Days? What if Rick Moranis had really been in this?

Please watch this movie so I am not alone in my mania for it. Because man - I feel like I might watch this non-stop for a few weeks. Or months. Or years.
1 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Farce driven drama. Feel free to laugh.
michaelRokeefe10 April 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Richard Kelly writes and directs this funny farce driven drama set in the futuristic La La Land on the obligated picnic day July 4, 2008. Citizens of Los Angeles watch a mushroom cloud in the distance as they stand on the brink of environmental disaster. Some folks seem sillier than normal and others are dumber than ever. Boxer Santaros(Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) is an action star suffering amnesia and determined to collect some realism for his next movie script. He is married to Krysta Now(Sarah Michelle Gellar), an adult film icon, who is working on diversifying her image and most importantly developing her own TV reality show. Hermosa Beach police officer Taverner(Seann William Scott) along with his twin brother may have important information that possibly unlocks a major political conspiracy. Stupid or just plain silly? Be prepared to laugh your butt off. Also in this star-studded ensemble: Mandy Moore, John Larroquette, Holmes Osborne, Cheri Oteri, Justin Timberlake, Curtis Armstrong and Nora Dunn.
5 out of 13 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Karmic Fluid
tedg5 September 2008
I liked this enough to tell you in the first sentence that it would have been a candidate for one of only two 4-star ratings I give per year.

If you are an average viewer, you will be put off by the apparent narrative incoherence, the seeming lack of center and the childish nature of some of the devices. That's all fair enough. But let me point you to two things that make it for me.

The first is that it is inherently cinematic. It makes about as much sense when the sound is turned off. Indeed I watched the whole thing through this way once and it actually makes more sense. There's lots of cinematic nesting: movies about movies; videos, narratives and disguises within. There's lots of causality denoted visually. You will find scores of quotes from other films, many more than those "parody" teen movies. And you'll discover many of your favorite intelligent but not famous actors.

That would be enough for me, but there's something else. In fact, though the story is confusing, deliberately made so through how it unfolds, it does make complete sense. It makes as much sense as, say, "The Matrix." I wish it didn't, but there you are. But its the way the story slips about that is pretty wonderful. You see, a narrative works by the way the pieces connect.

Usually we don't have to work because the way the pieces connect is the way they happen in real life: the causal flow of the narrative telling is the same as in the story. But the detective story, and modern noir changed that and now we have a variety of causal connections that can glue the bits together. Even these you don't normally notice unless the writer — as here — makes the shifts between bits cover a greater distance than usual.

Pay attention to this. Greenaway uses reference to number sequence. Barney uses progress through the sexual encounter, clever that. Lynch provides these discontinuities by having characters shift selves — a technique of discovery. Joyce — who in a way is the gold standard because he reified this sort of art through cognitive plumbing connection — depends on notational congruence. All these are exciting as getout in the hands of their masters.

But this is different, more rooted in noir, in cinema. These elements are connected in ways that only read in film.

Here's what I mean: film has evolved a set of notions we call noir. These capture two worlds; the world of the story where the laws of the universe seem to be deliberately arranged by strange occurrences, "mistakes" and coincidences to play havoc with key characters. Then there is the (usually implied) second world where those laws are manipulated and we the viewers sit. In almost all noir films, this effect only occurs in the long form, meaning that it is apparent when seem over the whole story.

Now look here. For all intents, there is no long form here, just a sequence of medium- sized events, each of which contain rather than follow the previous ones. This form was pioneered (I believe) by Altman. The narrative glue of the whole is how the segments slip against one another. We have "Magnolia" that plays with this concept as well, this slipperage. Its the connection that conveys the world. Its subtle and homeopathically powerful as a result.

Now this. Its another step forward in that the connection between elements involves changes in the way the world works. Each shift is not just between story segments that don't make sense, they don't make sense BECAUSE of the nature of the transitions. Many of these transitions involve a change in the laws of the universe. Its as if you were playing chess as a chesspiece, and the rules of the game changed according to the patterns of the pieces on the board. The whole thing would make sense afterward when seem as a whole, but the chessmen will be baffled.

What this does is build an ordinary noir with the two worlds: story, and gods. But it cleverly puts the viewer on the chessboard as someone at the mercy of the rules. Its no accident that the inspiration is Philip K Dick (who invented this sort of reverse introspection), that the key magical plot device is the magically named "fluid karma," and that the mascot is Bai Ling, who was our Béatrice Dalle surrogate for a while.

I want to give this a four, but I do think that the two others from this year are more important.

Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
30 out of 47 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Exponentially Exasperating
LeonLouisRicci21 September 2013
If you don't get it, no worries, no one did. Those who say they did are reaching or at best taking bits and pieces of this impenetrable Picture and making something out of it. That's an exercise in thought process and that alone is a good thing. One might say, hey, it makes you think. But this just makes you think you think. It's more like a Rorschach Test, a glob of goo for you to make something out of, and who's to argue. It is free association, but it comes at a heavy price.

This is incomprehensible and daft. A presumptuous mess of Quotations and Character Names that are Ha Ha. To be kind, the Movie has a few Funny Lines and looks rather Cool. But if you are going to have so many Ideas, why make them indecipherable. A lost language of sorts, that has no Rosetta Stone. The Secrets to the Universe are there, one thinks anyway, but unfortunately it is buried forever, or at least until that Psychedelic kicks in. Or not.

Truth be told, even the Director, after the Film was made, was clueless. The first release was 2 hours and 45 minutes as it was proudly unleashed on a not so forgiving Cannes Audience. It was Booed relentlessly and was one of the lowest rated Movies in the Festivals History. So, Richard Kelly (Writer/Director) cut 20 minutes and added Narration. Didn't help. It was still a headache inducing, jaw dropping, Soul Less, catastrophe.

It remains so to this day, with even a few Years for it to catch on and acquire a Cult Audience, its intention. Nope. Trying to make sense of the senseless is still its greatest challenge. You might want to give it a try. You know, that Rorschach thing. Good Luck.
3 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Its not four days long, it only feel that way
dbborroughs24 December 2007
Long rambling slice of life in an alternative America just before the end of the world by the creator of Donnie Darko. Surprisingly well acted by everyone except Sean William Scott, this film is so out there as to be in another galaxy. Truly operating in a world not our own, you either have to accept it on its own terms or you'll go mad. At times hysterically funny in an uneasy "is this a comedy or not?" sort of way it comes off more or less like a huge joke on everyone from the studio heads to the audience. Richard Kelly can't be serious.... Watching it I was both drawn in hoping at some point something would make sense and not seem like we were being put on, while at the same time ripping it apart as nothing made sense and it just got weirder and weirder for no good reason. Running at a length something akin to 4 days long I can't imagine what this was like in its longer cut. I think the best description of the film is Roger Eberts screaming venom filled rant. While I do not have that much bile to cover it I completely understand where he's coming from.
9 out of 20 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Nobody rocks the cock like Cyndi Pinziki!
lastliberal9 January 2009
What in the world did I just see? Why in the world would anyone make a movie that is part 2 of a story? I want to see a movie without having to read a comic beforehand to understand why things are happening. Is that too much to ask? That being said, Dwayne Johnson was riveting in an over-the-top performance.

The music was great.

Wallace Shawn was fascinating.

Bai Ling was as hot as ever and worth the price of admission.

Seeing John Larroquette get zapped was precious.

Seeing the two hummers making it was a great statement on the f*cking we all got from the Bush administration, the oil companies, and the car manufacturers. May they all rot in hell.

Basically, this is just a collection of YouTube videos strung together, visually stunning by themselves, but making no sense together.

When the sh*t hits the fans, it all smells the same.
1 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Random, boring, pretentious and far too long.
grantss11 April 2015
I think the producers' idea with this movie was that if you have an artsy sci fi basic plot, add a well known director in Richard Kelly and add in a host of recognisable actors, people will flock to see your movie. Whether people were actually sucked in by this and went and saw it in theatres, I don't know, but I just saw it on cable and it sure did suck, big time.

The plot, if you can call it that, is random at best and generally quite boring and pretentious.

The actors are mostly 80s/90s has-beens, eg Christopher Lambert, John Larroquette, or B-grade idols of teens, eg Justin Timberlake, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Seann William Scott, Sarah Michelle Gellar.

And then, the crowning glory - the movie is 2 hrs 24 minutes long! No marks for editing either.

Only thing preventing this from being a 1/2-star movie is the Justin Timberlake dream sequence in the middle, involving JT lip-synching The Killers' "All these things that I've done", with an army of nurses. Very cool.
3 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
*This* is the way? Really?
TBJCSKCNRRQTreviews15 September 2009
I haven't read the comics. Instead, I used the FAQ, which is a nice source of interpretation for this, to supply the info. Hey, I have no problem with telling a story in multiple mediums. I do take issue with forcing an audience to take them in, simply to follow it. For anyone still wondering, no, The Matrix sequels can be watched without playing the game, or getting the DVD of the Animé shorts; those are supplements, and the trilogy still makes sense without them. Heck, Donnie Darko, Kelly's first, does not itself provide enough to allow you to piece everything together on its own(if I recall, you have to go to the website, and do a bit of puzzle-solving), and yet that one did manage to entertain and engage. It did for me, anyway. This, this is just alienating, and it doesn't provide any fleshed out and credible characters that we can identify with, or, at the very least, feel something other disinterest about. Look, being abstract is not a negative in and of itself. I *love* pieces that challenge and provoke us to think, that dare to be unique, that refuse to abide by formula. But... provide a protagonist. It's not a new concept, it's one of the oldest conventions of story-telling, and you're doing yourself and us a major disservice by not following it. When DD ended, I was confused, yes, however, I was also intrigued, and I wanted to understand what I had witnessed. This, I honestly didn't particularly care. There are a lot of concepts and ideas in this, and none of them get enough screen-time to develop them. I dug recognizing the Philip K. Dick influence, now if it made an impact on the viewer, that would have been swell. Judging this as a comedy and/or a drama, it comes up short. Most of the "humor" is silly, cringe-inducingly overdone and frankly not funny, leaving little that garners laughs, and while there is certainly material in this that is meant to be involving and gripping, it never had that affect on me. This is well-produced, looks good, well-lit and professionally done, if the cinematography is fairly standard stuff. The cast is impressive, and the acting does hold some solid performances. This is ridiculously convoluted and dense, packing the two hour, ten minute running time to the limit, and somehow fitting in sequences that seem out of place. I'm not going to pretend I can sum up what goes on in this, so I'll stick with saying that it's an attempt at satire(over many, many things), with Orwellian themes and sci-fi. This would have gone over better if it wasn't all so muddled and the commentary didn't lack subtlety. I haven't given up on Richard. His name will remain a blip on my film-radar as "worth checking out". This contains relatively infrequent sexuality, strong language and drug content. The DVD I got(on sale) holds nothing other than a featurette, which I will review on its individual page here on the site. I recommend this solely to those who enjoy movies that can be described as "trippy". 6/10
1 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Kelly's folly in an attempt for a cult-classic is just jaw-droppingly annoying
george.schmidt4 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
SOUTHLAND TALES (2007) * Dwayne Johnson, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Seann William Scott, Justin Timberlake, Cheri Oteri, Jon Lovitz, Nora Dunn, Amy Poehler, Wallace Shawn, John Larroquette, Miranda Richardson, Holmes Osbourne, Kevin Smith, Curtis Armstrong, Beth Grant, Bai Ling, Mandy Moore, Christopher Lambert, Will Sasso, Zelda Rubinstein. Filmmaker Richard Kelly's folly of a dystopian future in America after a nuclear attack is one big crazy quilt of Lynchian madness and absurd satire with nary a head on its shoulders with its one 'colorful' (read annoying!) character after another and no sense of order except the nightmare it attempts to create is one huge yawn of indifference. Truly a jaw-dropping disbelief in a promising filmmaker (his freshman effort DONNIE DARKO is truly a modern day classic).
17 out of 36 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
This Is How the World Ends......Watching Reality T.V.
evanston_dad7 April 2008
Another invigorating mindf*ck from Richard Kelly, the indie darling who made an auspicious debut with cult fave "Donnie Darko." Like the previous film, I walked out of this one not necessarily understanding everything I had just seen, but feeling certain that I liked it, whatever it was.

The film reminded me of books by Kurt Vonnegut and Joseph Heller, and at times of Thomas Pynchon's "Gravity's Rainbow." It's earned itself a lot of hatred from audiences and critics alike, and it's admittedly not for everyone. But I appreciate Kelly's attempts to make films in a different way, eschewing some of the more conventional devices, like linear narrative, for more filmic ones, like dynamic imagery. If sometimes his movie feels like more of a mess than a movie, well that's the price you pay for being bold.

At the heart of "Southland Tales" is a simple and what to me felt like a very personal story about two friends who served together in Iraq, and the fact that this story is nearly buried by a melange of subplots involving political machinations, activist groups, doomsday prophecies, philosophizing porn stars and schizophrenic actors seemed to me to come scarily close to the way our world looks right now when you turn on the television set.

The film is full of second-tier actors doing very good work, and the movie is awfully funny, but it has a palpably emotional center, just like "Donnie Darko." If it didn't have that, I think it would have just come across as glib. I couldn't make sense of all of it, but I felt like those involved in making it could, and that makes all the difference in the world between a good movie and a bad one.

Grade: A
3 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Nonsensical? Yes. But definitely interesting, and worth your time.
zetes18 November 2007
Richard Kelly's followup to the cult classic Donnie Darko, which finally makes its arrival in theaters a year and a half after its legendarily disastrous Cannes debut in May of 2006. And what you heard about it is absolutely true: it makes little to no sense. You'll spend much of the movie wondering who people are, what they are doing and how they all fit together. It's not worth getting too deep into the plot in a review. After all, it's incomprehensible. But the film takes place in an alternate universe where a nuclear bomb exploded in Texas in 2005, starting WWIII. Now it's three years later, and political tensions are mounting as we near the 2008 election. The film takes place in southern California, a hotbed for political dissidents. The cast of characters is enormous. You might think Altman meets sci-fi (but don't think Quintet). The cast is filled with B-list stars (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Sarah Michelle Gellar may be A- level stars, and Justin Timberlake is, well, an A list music star, anyway), all of whom give fairly good performances. I especially liked Gellar, who probably delivers her best movie performance here, and Miranda Richardson as the head of this world's version of Big Brother. Even though I was wishing like hell the movie made more sense, I found myself enjoying it. It's an interesting look at the current zeitgeist (especially the lampoon of the 24 hour news cycle that pops up everywhere in the film, often providing us with information). Kelly is a talented filmmaker, there's no doubt. There is a host of memorable sequences and some beautiful shots (despite the occasionally ugly look of digital video, most obvious when the camera pans). And, heck, even as a writer, Kelly is hugely gifted. This is an original story, and, despite the fact that it is nonsensical most of the time, it's never boring. His imagination is boundless. It's a blessing and a curse. The medium also harms this work, I think. It may have worked better as a TV show or mini-series. Anyway, the bottom line is, after all, I'd rather see something I've never seen before, even if it doesn't always work, than the same old plots over and over. I sincerely hope Southland Tales doesn't destroy Richard Kelly's career. The future of cinema would lose something special if that happened.
10 out of 23 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Lynch Lite
tieman6430 November 2009
Warning: Spoilers
In Richard Kelly's "Southland Tales", a handful of colourful characters navigate an increasingly dystopian South California. Military checkpoints are everywhere, government surveillance is ubiquitous, and a new power source – an energy generator called Liquid Karma – has led to rifts appearing in the "fabric of space and time". These rifts lead to several of the film's characters splitting into two identical bodies, an event which will have apocalyptic ramifications if the twins meet, matter and anti-matter merging in a kind of giant fireball.

Kelly makes several attempts at both satire and social commentary (the Patriot Act has been expanded, terrorists are everywhere, his film's hero is a nod to Governor Schwarzenegger, his narrator draws heavily from the Book of Revelations, one character is named after Arnie's character in "End of Days" etc), but these mostly fall flat. Instead, the film works best as a quirky attempt at hyper-realism (not surrealism), "Southland Tales" playing like a cross between David Lynch, teen dramas and children's science fiction. It's all hokey, but in a world of cookie-cutter cinema, "Southland Tales" feels somewhat fresh.

Many have complained that Kelly's plot is incoherent, but this is not true. Told from the point of view of a drugged and intoxicated military sniper, "Southland's" narrative is deliberately fractured, Kelly's story coalescing as it draws to its conclusion. In fact, one of the film's big flaws is that it makes too much sense, Kelly tying up all his loose ends with an awkward "revelatory finale" that leaves none of the delicious ambiguities that better artists oft leave us with.

Still, what the film does well is capture the schizophrenic tableau that is postmodern America. This is a landscape subjected to cultural overload. The film's cast - Buffy, Justin Timberlake and The Rock (a rock literally being the audience's anchor point) etc - are depthless icons adrift in a hyper-link world that is too fast, too mediated (Kelly makes use of music videos, internet footage, head-cams, doc footage etc), too overloaded, to make sense of. Globalization as garish info-orgy, the film is itself filled with references to "fluids" and "fluid karma", characters always asking others "do you bleed"? (the film also has "chemical bleeders" who literally "bleed in time"), epitomising a world in constant flux, everything bleeding into something else, boundaries collapsing, overlapping and constantly transmogrifying.

On top of this zany landscape, director Richard Kelly applies a pseudo-religious myth culled from the Book of Revelations. With references to plagues, locusts, apocalypse, messiahs and the Bible, this all reads very silly, but the silliness is the point, as the film's narrator is a drunk redneck, misinterpreting what he sees and filtering it all through his mom's homespun brand of evangelism.

The film ends with its lead character saying "pimps don't commit suicide", a sentence which has baffled many. But if one follows the religious ramblings of the film's intoxicated narrator, the line makes perfect sense. Our hero, the false messiah whom everyone stalks, has sacrificed himself for the "true messiah" (the twins of the film) so that "all the religions in the world" (the tattoos on The Rock's back- a collage of all religious denominations) may "win" or "survive".

But forget about the film's religious allusions. What's most interesting is the way everything in "Southland Tales" "bleeds" into everything else, even Kelly's characters, who first exist in "The Power", a script-within-the-film. This is a highly mediated pop-world in which everything is cross-pollinated; our own contemporary/future hyper-capitalist cocktail, labyrinthal, overstimulated, vast and incoherent.......until the film's sell out ending.

7.9/10 – "Southland Tales" is one of a number of labyrinthal works released recently (Inland Empire, The Wire, Boarding Gate, New Rose Hotel, Summer Hours, The Black Dahlia, Miami Vice etc), most of which were unfairly bashed by critics. Worth two viewings.
1 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Convoluted and messy but still somewhat intriguing
KineticSeoul17 October 2009
This film has a lot of stuff jumbled in so if you decide to view this movie, I highly suggest you pay attention although some parts are just drivel so a lot of people are going to either like this film or hate it since this is not a movie for some audiences. This film also has a lot of political aspects to it, but it just isn't that deep and a lot of it is just absurd with some introspective meaning which may turn some people off. It also has a lot of stuff mashed in together that just doesn't flow that well, but it's somewhat creative which gives it some cult status. I however enjoyed it for what it is, it wasn't a great film but it was decent. The narrative given by Justin Timberlake may start off being a bit irritating but you get numb to it after a while. This film about random event that lead to a conclusion and goes out with a bang. It's one of the films even if you enjoy may not be able to recommend to your friends cause a lot of it is a mess with a lot of stuff going on but it's also straightforward, yeah that may be a bit confusing but you just have to see the film for yourself. Like I said it isn't for everyone but I enjoyed it cause the premise was interesting at times, it just tries to be deep but just doesn't get there cause just being convoluted does not equal a deep and intelligent film.

1 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The Worst Movie I've Seen In A Very Long Time
sddavis6326 August 2009
For many years I've been of the opinion that nothing could even come close to rivalling "Battlefield Earth" as the worst movie I've ever seen. Then I watched "Southland Tales." It put up a pretty good fight for that title. And it's too bad. For about the first 5-10 minutes I was thinking this would be interesting as we were made acquainted with an alternative timeline in which the United States suffered a nuclear attack by terrorists, found itself embroiled in a series of overseas war, with chaos on the streets and politics becoming increasingly dominated by both the extreme right and the extreme left (with the extreme right in the ascendancy.) Had that been seriously developed it would have made for an interesting movie, because it is so plausible (and, in fact, some of it's already happening.) But instead of treating the story seriously, it just became a ridiculous story filled with cartoonish characters, none of whom could be taken seriously. It goes on for almost two and a half excruciating hours, and in the last half hour or so suddenly introduces an unexpected sci-fi twist about a "rift" in the "fourth dimension," and the consequences of that rift in the story. Frankly, I never really did manage to fully understand where this movie was trying to go or what it was trying to say, probably because it was so hard to stay focused on it at all. It may not quite reach the depths of "Battlefield Earth" but it's certainly the worst movie I've seen in a very long time. 1/10
6 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
jaw-dropping fiasco
Buddy-518 May 2008
"Southland Tales," the latest film by "Donnie Darko"'s Richard Kelly, is like the movie equivalent of one of those whistles that only dogs can hear; it is pitched so far out of ordinary human range that most viewers will be left scratching their heads, wondering where the hell the joke is and why they just don't get it.

The movie, made in 2006 and released in 2007, takes place in Los Angeles in the not-too-distant future (July 2008), three years after a series of nuclear explosions have all but obliterated Texas and placed the rest of the country on a state of high terror alert. As in most post-apocalyptic scenarios, the threat to national security opens the door for a right wing cabal to take over the government and begin violating the privacy rights of its citizens. For counterbalance, there is also a group of loony neo-Marxists bent on wresting control from the aforementioned Fascists. The movie features Dwayne Johnson (aka The Rock) as a conservative movie star and future son-in-law to a Republican vice-Presidential candidate who becomes a pawn in the life-or-death match between the two clashing ideologies - the outcome of which might well spell the demise of the human race as we know it.

Despite the seriousness and topicality of the subject matter, "Southland Tales" is basically played for laughs, turning the end of the world into an absurd, over-the-top, dystopic farce that thinks it's being hip and knowing about life in a post-9/11/Homeland Security/ Patriot Act world, but which is actually only cheesy, smart-alecky and incoherent. For a satire to work it must have discipline as well as the kind of tethering to the real world that one finds in movies like "Dr. Strangelove" or "Network." Here, the film establishes no familiar reference point upon which to build any kind of compelling drama. As a result, we quickly lose interest and focus, while the enterprise itself spins ever increasingly out of the filmmaker's control.

Janeane Garofalo, Sarah Michelle Gellar, John Larroquette, Jon Lovitz, Mandy Moore, Amy Poehler, Miranda Richardson, Seann William Scott, Wallace Shawn and Justin Timberlake are just some of the actors who might want to seriously consider getting this piece of cinematic excrescence expunged from their resumes.

The greatest offense wrought by this eclectic and unholy mixture of sophomoric satire, comic book realism, grunge chic and apocalyptic paranoia is that it runs for an interminable two hours and twenty-four minutes, making this hands-down the most unendurable and unwatchable movie travesty of the past several years.
55 out of 106 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Probably would have made a better TV serial
bowmanblue4 December 2014
For those of you that don't know, 'Southland Tales' is the second film from (Donnie Darko-acclaimed) writer/director Richard Kelly. After the success of Darko, he was given a much bigger budget to play with for his next feature and the stars queued up to be in it. How could it possibly fail? It did.

And I was quite saddened by the reaction from viewers and critics alike (because I really loved it!). Yes, if you're thinking of watching Southland Tales, know that most people absolutely loathed it. They described it as unwatchable, too complicated and not making any sense.

And they're probably right. But I still love it anyway. For a start, it's set in the same 'Darko' universe and, like its predecessor, is a mixture of genres. Ultimately, it's an 'end-of-the-world' film, but it encompasses comedy, romance, action, musical, thriller, science fiction and even political satire on the constant 'war' on terrorism.

It has numerous characters, all of which are playing their part in the overall story. However, this is where the 'haters' start to build their argument. There are so many characters that none of them (bar Dwayne Johnson possibly) are really afforded the screen time they deserve. Hence we never really know an awful lot about them and then suddenly they're killed off and we're left none the wiser to what they were really about.

Then you have the narration. There's an old saying in the writing world: 'Show, don't tell.' Here, Southland Tales simply tells half of the important plot points through a narrator and various fictional shots from the internet. Again, this does give off the feeling of being a bit rushed.

But, if you can get over the many minus points, you'll find that Southland Tales is actually quite a novel story, told in a very slick and stylish way. Some of the scenes are almost visually hypnotic and the soundtrack (courtesy of Moby) certainly adds to the mood.

If you've seen Donnie Darko, you may know what to expect. Don't think you're going to get any quick answers to what's going on. You may find you're looking up answers on the internet as to what Southland Tales is all about. That prospect may not appeal to everyone, so, if you're one of them, don't bother watching this. However, I'll just sit back and enjoy the experience. I don't claim to understand everything and I'll never say it's a perfect film. However, I found it perfect for me.
1 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An Ambitious, Perplexing, Inspiring, and ultimately, a Great Science Fiction Experience like you've never seen before!
Red_Identity24 March 2008
There are many words to describe Southland Tales: Confusing and Convulted are two of them. But to say it did not serve a purpose, now that is false! BUT beware- Southland Tales is not for the faint hearted! I would lie if I tried to write a summary of Southland Tales. There are too many things going on, some say, maybe a little too much, but a lot of times you can't feel but still appreciate what you saw in every scene. The film centers on a Nuclear Attack, and its devastating events that followed in the years to come. Revolutionized Government and Politics are taking over, and this film tries to show how the world would turn out to be. Of course, that's one way to explain it. The film throws at you a bunch of necessary information, a bunch of witnesses and witnessing, and a bunch of over-the-top characters, which only help the film's cleverness! A lot of people hate it, and a lot of people, like me, fall in love with it! A lot of times, it tries too hard, but I believe only the really great and important films come with flaws.

The film centers around a lot of issues, most importantly, Religion, Politics, and the use of Time Travel. It serves as a sort of book for guides, and the film never slows down. Each scene comes by and by, and more and more we are launched into this post-Apocalyptic world! It fits together with all types of lines and meanings, together with Dark Humor. This film is hilarious, but to some people, might be offensive. It's humor is a sort of satire, and it it sort of making fun of itself, and trust me, this is a good thing. It doesn't take itself seriously, and this film works greatly because of that. The various actors, Dwayne Johnson, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Sean William Scott, Mandy Moore, and all the other actors do a great job. All the one-liners, and all the little homages to pop culture are fun to watch, but a lot of times, they do serve a bigger meaning.

See this film for yourself. My review won't really matter. Chances are, you will either despise this film, or absolutely love it! For those of you who didn't like it. I understand why. You might think it was stupid, confusing, and served no bigger 'meaning'. But to those of us who really cared, we know the bigger picture, and ultimately, this film ends heavy on religion, and light on aspects. But to those haters, it still had spark and ambition, and in a world of Hollywood, where horrible comedies and horrible repetitive, clichéd movies live, it tried to be different, so at least give it that credit. But it is one of the most original films ever made. One of a kind!
10 out of 21 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Terrible disappointment
Bored_Dragon25 November 2017
I barely forced myself to watch it till the end. First time I thought about giving up was after maybe ten minutes or so, and that urge didn't left me throughout the rest of the movie. It mostly looks like bunch of piled up random pretentious crap that leads nowhere. Here and there you can see something interesting, but overall movie is pointless and boring. I endured to the end only because it was written and directed by author of great Donnie Darko, so I hoped it could be one more mindfuk movie that pays off at the end. Yes, it was another mindfuk, and at the end I understood it, but wasting two and a half hours on this nonsense definitely didn't pay off. It's unbelievably stupid and the only thing in it worth seeing are Buffy the Vampire Slayer and several more interesting women.

7 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A Convoluted and For Some An Amazing Hallucinogenic Ride
tabuno11 May 2019
Director Richard Kelly followed up his classic strange sci fi thriller Donnie Darko (2001) five years later with this elusive and likely for a majority of audience members a mostly impossible to follow sci fi mystery thriller. It stars a lavish cast of known actors that amazingly many go against cast type, including Dwayne Johnson where it is one of his first movies where he drops his "The Rock" moniker; Sarah Michelle Gellar three years after Buffy the Vampire Slayer's last television season; Justin Timberlake; Seann William Scott; Amy Poehler; Kevin Smith; Miranda Richardson; Christopher Lambert from Highlander (1986); Wallace Shawn from The Princess Bride (1987); Mandy Moore; John Larroquette; Bai Ling; and Jon Lovitz in a really twisted and out of character role.

Incorporating at times loosely quoted Biblical sayings, the storyline weaves in and out jumping around so often that it's difficult to really understand what's going on. This is a weird, but strangely captivating film that experiments with various photographic and theatrical techniques that echo some of movie's great classics including: The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) David Lynch's Eraserhead (1977) and Twin Peaks (1990) The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984) Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange (1971) The multitude of musical scores from Moby, really syncs in and resonates with the movie, especially Memory Gospel where Sarah Michelle Gellar gets to perform and having a climatic, haunting element that lingers long after the movie ends. It's possible to fall asleep at times during this almost two and a half-hour long production, yet it also offers a tantalizing and, in some ways, a strong political allegory of the impact of the Iraq War and the declaration of military rule that was ushered in throughout the United States. For a few members of the audience, this movie could easily become a cult movie, one that encompasses a vast range of suggestive creative theatrical performances and technique well worth experiencing.
0 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Very strange and unique yet entertaining mess
Floated223 December 2010
Southland Tales is quite the unique and strange film. It is somewhat confusing because of all the different plots happening at once, and the genre switches quite often. This film is definitely not for everyone, and many people will hate this film. It started out pretty entertaining and straight forward than towards the 2nd half of the film it slowly gets boring (mostly the scene where Dwayne Johnson and SWS are not in) But it saves itself for quite a fun and interesting ending. The last 20 minutes are very entertaining and shows everything coming together. The ending, wherein all of the puzzle pieces and spare characters arrive at a singular destination somewhere between a mega-zeppelin and a levitating ice cream truck about to be thrust into a fourth dimension, is explosive in more ways than one, even as we wish that we could have connected on a more human level with those we had spent time with. The finished product may be riddled with trouble spots such as this-it wouldn't have hurt if the characters had actually reacted with a bit more authentic passion and dismay at the knowledge that the end of the world is nigh-but at least its occasional failings occur while doing something groundbreaking with the medium. In a world of mediocre, middle-of-the-road, formulaic fare that is like everything else that has come before it, "Southland Tales" stands invigoratingly apart from the crowd. To watch the film, you just need to have an open mind and enjoy. As a rewatch 03/15/20' and almost 10 years since the original viewing, opinions remain relatively same. There is much happening in this film and most of it does feel like a mess, but in an entertaining way. There is lots to digest and a lot can be confusing at times, and somewhat make you think, but in the end, it has a different feel and tone which makes it a good watch.
3 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A Big, Bold and Zany Masterpiece
eddie_baggins12 May 2016
An oddly beautiful big old mess of a film that just so happens to be a masterpiece of ideas, visions and social commentary, Southland Tales remains to this day a decade on from its initial release, a barely spoken about oddity that marked what appears to be at present time the beginning of the end of the short but unique career of Donnie Darko director Richard Kelly, who on the back of his beloved cult debut seemingly had Hollywood right where he wanted it only to be shunned from the industry limelight after this opus of a future America was quite literally booed out of the cinema.

Premiering to a disastrous reception at the Cannes Film Festival in 2005 where it was ridiculed by a hate mongering audience, Kelly's film was originally intended as a near 3 hour journey to the depths and underbelly of a United States where oil has all but disappeared, Karl Marx loving underground movements exist to overthrow the government, a drug known as Fluid Karma is taking over the streets, oh and there's a rip in the time space continuum and vehicle advertisements have taken on a whole new level of odd.

Accompanied by a prequel-set graphic novel and armed with more ideas than even the eventually shorter 138 minute released version of the film can handle, there's little denying Southland Tale's bizarre narrative and attitude towards its themes are often off-putting but when one allows themselves to be taken into this vision of the Los Angeles landscape there's both artistic merits, darkly humorous observations of human nature and dare I say it emotional payoffs that rewards repeat viewings.

Kelly's grand vision attracted a name cast including Sean William Scott (in one of his better big screen turns), Sarah Michelle Gellar, Mandy Moore, Amy Poehler, filmmaker Kevin Smith, Justin Timberlake (who delivers the films best singular scene with a rendition The Killers track All These Things That I've Done) and in a turn that at the time suggested a much more interesting actor than his now become, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson in one of his first truly hefty turns as the amnesia suffering celebrity actor Boxer Santoros. Each performer commits to their role and it's quite obvious they all bought into Kelly's vision, it's just likely the studios did not, as after the notorious Cannes screening the film was left to die a slow, barely advertised released that saw it disappear without a trace and left Kelly's career in tatters with only the highly disappointing Cameron Diaz starrer The Box attributed to his name since.

Nigh on impossible to explain and very much a film not made for everyone, Southland Tales is without question one of the most misunderstood gems of the modern era from its unique visual feel, intriguing performances, fantastic soundtrack from the one time chart topping Moby and ability to remain constantly engaging even with its overabundance of ideas.

Southland Tales is a film fans of cinema should try, and if they hate it their absolutely not alone but for the merry few that find themselves drawn into this odd yet exhilarating world, Southland Tales will make you wish Kelly can one day return to his directing chair to give us once more a film that carves out its own path and is all the better for it.

4 ½ floating ice-cream vans out of 5
3 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Doesn't make much sense, if any at all
Vartiainen20 October 2019
From the director of Donnie Darko comes another lurid tale of difficult concepts presented as edgy, pretentious characters being pretentious and of course time travel is involved. What more did you expect?

The basic (if you can use such a word with this movie) story goes that it's soon to be the 4th of July in the good old US of A. It's a few years into the future and a scientist has solved the energy crisis by harnessing the power of the ocean. But at the same time a politically minded action star played by The Rock wanders around with amnesia and hooks up with a porn star turned social media celebrity played by Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Apparently the Third World War is also going on, while at the same time anarchist hippies (or was it disgruntled soccer moms, it has a bit hard to tell) are trying to overthrow the government. Oh, and something about a cop trying to kill his twin, who's also wandering around with amnesia. Or something.

As you can probably tell, the movie is one big glorious mess. This is the kind of movie that causes people to go mad and build crazy people walls full of red string and mugshots of people. And that could be fun and grounds for a minor cult status. But unfortunately this film doesn't manage that. And I think that it's because it doesn't have any cohesion. At all. Even the most craziest films need at least the illusion of a red string. Something your mind can latch on to and start building from there. This film has nothing.

It's also more than a bit preachy, which doesn't help. Donnie Darko was bad enough in that regard, with the director trying to so show how much smarter he was than everyone else, but this film is even worse.

Not a good movie. You could say it was fascinating, which is something, I guess, but I can't really say I got anything from watching it.
1 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews

Recently Viewed