A rambling and incoherent vision of the near future, Southland Tales proves a major disappointment from the talented Richard Kelly, who developed a significant following after his first feature Donnie Darko, a belated and surprise hit.
Set in the futuristic landscape of Los Angeles two years hence, we are offered a city on the brink of what looks like social, economic and environmental disaster. Boxer Santaros (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) is an action star stricken with amnesia. His life interweaves with Krysta Now (Sara Michelle Gellar), a porno actress developing her own reality television project, and Seann William Scott, a Hermosa Beach police officer who, we are led to believe, holds the key to a vast global conspiracy. Set over the course of three days, the story culminates in a huge Fourth of July celebration—but it’s a long time coming.
The complications of the elaborate narrative may have been intentional yet will defeat even the most attentive audiences, who will find their patience tested to the limit. Perhaps something may be salvaged if it’s all divided into video games—and it looks suspiciously as if that might have been the intention.
It’s often been said that "If the world's going to end, it's going to happen in L.A. first," which makes the city the ideal backdrop for such an enterprise. And Kelly clearly is preoccupied by current dilemmas, such as concerns about alternative energy and terrorism, as well as civil liberties and the potential effects of pollution on the environment and on human behavior, not to mention its neurological impact and the consequences for global warming.
Kelly has said he wrote the original idea for Southland Tales at a time five years ago when he was depressed that no one appeared to want to distribute Donnie Darko. Apparently it was a way of cheering himself up. Southland Tales, unless he is able to take drastic action on it post-Cannes and before it hits theatres, will not be anyone’s idea of fun.
Boxoffice reviewed Southland Tales out of the Cannes 2006 film festival. The film has been reworked and special effects have been added since then.—Ed.
Distributor: Samuel Goldwyn
Cast: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Seann William Scott, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Miranda Richardson, Kevin Smith, Lou Taylor Pucci, Mandy Moore, Janeane Garofalo, Jill Ritchie, Cheri Oteri, Amy Poehler, Justin Timberlake and Christopher Lambert
Director/Screenwriter: Richard Kelly
Producers: Sean McKittrick, Bo Hyde, Kendall Morgan and Matthew Rhodes
Genre: Science-fiction fantasy
Rating: R for language, sexual material and some drug content
Running time: 160 min.
Release date: November 14, 2007 ltd.