Reviewed by Steve Rockamaniac Wilson of www.MainEventRadio.com
Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales starring The Rock and Sarah Michelle Gellar has travelled a rather rough road since it’s debut at the Cannes Film Festival in 2006. As it screened, people walked out of the theater, rounds of boo’s followed and the press tore the movie to shreds. After the Cannes disaster, Kelly worried that the film was dead in the water, and the only way he would ever get it released was if he agreed to basically create a whole new film by cutting it down from a nearly 3 hour presentation to an hour and a half for US audiences. Despite this, Sony Films and two other companies presented Kelly distribution offers for the film. Ultimately Sony picked up the film, and Kelly faced a daunting task of trying to make this film better. Somehow he convinced Sony to sink another million dollars into it to upgrade the special effects, and re-shoot some scenes, but he got away with not cutting out more than about 20 minutes from the film before it was released into theaters late last year. Despite the work done, a lot of negative reviews were sent Southland Tales way. Famed movie reviewer Richard Roeper declared it one of the worst films of 2007, while his partner Roger Ebert said “I recommend that Kelly keep right on cutting until he whittles it down to a ukulele pick.” Meanwhile a few tried to defend the film, but the negative reviews piled up, and for me it got to the point where you hear something is such a piece of crap so many times that you just have to see it for yourself, so with Southland Tales now out on DVD I sat down and found out what all the hoopla was about.
On July 4th 2005, The US is hit by a terrorist attack in the form of a nuclear explosion in the heart of Texas, World War 3 begins, and 3 year’s later (where the film begins), the US is still locked in that battle, they have reinstated the draft and have bombed the hell out of the middle east. The conflict has caused the US’s access to foreign oil to nearly cease, because of this an alternative feul source is desperately being seeked. The country is in shambles. The country thinks its unable to fight a war on terrorism unless they control cyberspace, so a government agency called USI-Dent has been formed under an extended Patriot Act, Travelling between states without a passport is against the law, people are watched 24/7, and as you would expect there is those who want to rebel against it. A new energy source has been created by a renegade scientist, a hydro electric energy field that would run machines by remote and thus not need refueling, its called Fluid Karma.
Looking at the characters, and there is a lot of them, but the main players include the rock playing Boxer Santaros, a man who went missing and was later found with his memory erased in the Arizona desert, he is an actor, who is married to the vice-presidental candidates daughter. Because of his importance, the search for him is a big one. The film begins with Boxer spending some time with “Krysta Now”, a porn star, played by Sarah Michelle Gellar, who is hoping to expand her career as she along with the rock’s character have written a screenplay predicting the end of the world and is trying to sell it. Meanwhile The 2008 presidential election is underway and because of Boxer’s relationship with potential new vice president, a group opposed to USI Dent have set Boxer up to film him in a compromising light in hopes of blackmailing the vice president. Add in Sean William Scott, who is playing two characters, Roland Williams, and Ronald Wiliams, played off as twin brothers, the second is actually a doppelganger, created bya tear in the fourth dimension, which was created by this new perpetual motion energy source mentioned earlier. Starting to sound a bit weird right? Add in a ton of other characters, many played by SNL Alums such as Cheri O’Teri and Jon Lovitz and you’ve got a hard to follow mess.
That’s the problem with Southland Tales, it does have a interesting idea that it explores, that being the possible end of the world due to the US’s addiction to oil which causes World War 3, However at two and a half hours, it’s a very complicated story that quite frankly is nearly impossible to follow, less than an hour in, I felt rather lost so continuing through the last 90 minutes was hard for me to do, in the end it made a little bit more sense than I thought it would, but I was sill scratching my head, the plot lines tie into eachother but at the same time don’t at all, The acting is decent, but there is so many characters to deal with that getting familiar with any of them is undoable. I cant recommend a buy on this, perhaps if you are as curious as I was before watching this, then head out and rent a copy and spend a night in the southland and if you can help make more sense of it for me then drop me a line one day.
DVD Extras include, a “about the film” featurette, and a animated short entitled “This is how the world ends”
Southland Tales is now available on DVD from Sony Home Entertainment. You can pick it up at your favorite DVD retailers or online at places such as amazon. To read any of my previous reviews head on over to http://www.maineventradio.com/reviews.htm