Southland Tales
Director: Richard Kelly

Director: Dee Austin Robertson

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

Southland Tales In the very near future (or in a parallel world/alternate history of 2008), according to Southland Tales (2006), America has become a dystopia. This change occurred in the wake of terrorist-caused nuclear catastrophe that eradicated Abileen & El Paso.

State & federal governments' primary role has become that of watching closely every citizen's every move, with no useful rights remaining to anyone who for any reason falls into the government's interest. This has given rise to an underground rebellion for some odd reason populated exclusively by serious nutters.

If none of it makes any sense it could be because you're suppopsekd to read a trilogy of graphic novels before seeing the film, which serves as yet another graphic novel in movie form.

These comic books (or comic book when reissued in one volume) have all the earmarks of the sort of comix one expects to see self-published because amateurish, & add more confusion ratehr than clarity to the bad movie.

Boxer Santeros (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) is a Schwartzenager-like Republican official of California, son-in-law of a leading ultra-conservative senator (Holmes Osborne), whose wife (Miranda Richardson) runs the federal department devoted to restricting the rights of the spied-upon masses.

Santeros has been kidnapped & memory-wiped. He now thinks he's a filmmaker, & lives with Krysta Now (Sarah Michelle Geller) who has television talk show in which porn stars discuss the important issues of the day.

The cast is riddled with recognizable faces mostly in sketch-comedy cameos (Janeane Garofalalo, Christopher Lambert, Justin Timberlake, Bai Ling, John Larroquette, Zelda Rubinstein, many others, including Wallace Shawn as the arch villain manipulating time & space). If you rule out the Saturday Night Live alumni there are suddenly fewer faces of passing interest, but if someone pops up you're glad to see, he or she will soon be gone & interest will quickly wither.

Southland TalesThe promoters advertised this miscast mishmash of celebrities as an ensemble cast, but that implies actors with something to act in, not celebrities taking turns mugging from the sidelines.

A lot of the script seems inspired by SNL & might've made a half-dozen so-so two-minute bits for late-night tv. But the absurdism doesn't work at feature film length. A lot of it just seems like the rough-draft of a second-rate schoolboy satirist with a one-sided view of how evil Republicans are. This makes for piss-poor science fiction.

It's bewildering that the director of such a great film as Donnie Darko (2001) could be responsible for a film this moronic. He wrote it as well, so the blame can't be foisted off onto someone other than himself. It would seem to explain, however, why his filmography didn't erupt into activity after Donnie Darko. Potential producers must've been as bewildered as I am upon seeing the script, the awfulness of which indicates a trunkpiece.

It was understandably laughed off the screen at Cannes resulting in a series of emergency edits in a last-ditch effort to pound the square peg into the round hole of presentability. But changing the order of this collection of flash-cards couldn't possibly turn it into a film.

There's some really dumb stuff about time travel, not presented convincingly as science fiction (as it had been in Donnie Darko), & certainly not as funny as intended. The Rock with his tremendous physique is absolutely great when he twiddles with his fingers & acts like a cowardly frightened dweeb, but his charisma & surprisingly good comic timing can't save the bad material, nor make up for awful performances by the likes of Cheri Oteri & Amy Poehler & others who intrude upon rather than contribute to the film (though John Lovitz is extremely good in a funny & appalling cameo as psycho rebel cop).

Southland TalesThe Rock's decent performance kept me watching, but there was never a time I felt like I was watching of film with any actual merit.

The climax seemed influenced by the vastly better Repo Man (1984) with the magically flying vehicle, & there were moments toward the end that I liked enough that I kept hoping it would finally make at least marginal sense.

By the time it reached its stupid ending, however, I just couldn't help but wonder what it is that permits such lame projects to be green-lighted.

My suspicion is Kelly asked every actor or half-talented celebrity he ever got stoned with at a party to please oh god will you do a cameo in my next film. They agreed to it, & then dim-bulb producers with more money than taste or sense just fell in love with the lengthy cast list, for whom clumsy trivial scenes were written with a charcoal-tipped shoehorn. Anyone with half a brain, if they bothered to read the script, would've known it couldn't possibly be worthwhile.

The boxoffice for Southland Tales was exactly what it deserved, much less than a half-million earned by a film that cost considerably more than fifteen million to make. Kelly has had every excuse in the book for himself, except a confession of ineptitude. Though initially believing his Cannes edit might earn him the Palm d'Or, with hind-sight he decided it was a hasty incomplete edit; followed by conflicts with Soni over a final edit for theaters; followed by complete disinterest in doing anything for the DVD release.

But really this should've been a career-ender. I can't imagine anyone ever again intentionally checking out a film by Richard Kelly. Iif he ever regains viewers' interest, he'll have to hide his involvement to remove the stigma of having been writer, director, and editor of one of the worst films ever to debut at Cannes, indicating he had blown all the creativity he would ever possess on his first film, with none left over to fuel a career in filmmaking.

This is the Way the World EndsAmong the extras is the animated short This is the Way the World Ends (2007).

It shows a series of scenes of the world after a great deluge sank everything. We then see the social order under the sea with talking sea creatures, some still normal, others retarded & deformed by the calamity that humanity caused & which resulted in human extinction.

There's a rift between "normal" & "retarded" creatures of the sea, & a new policing authority to keep the castes from mixing, the implication being, I suppose, that the social order of the oceans will eventually result in the same kind of destructive outcomes as the humans achieved.

Bad art design, mediocre storyline, & the lamest moral lecture you can imagine, make this trivial cartoon the perfect extra for the equally bad feature film.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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