So I'm reading over my past reviews, and I realized that I never posted my review of Southland Tales on this site. I talked about the odd casting, but never talked about the movie. So, I dug into my archives and found the review I wrote for Critics Rant. Enjoy!
There are many levels of bad movie. There are good bad movies that you love watching because you enjoy making fun of them. There are bad bad movies that you are so mad you wasted your time and money seeing that you are offended by the thought of them. Then there’s Southland Tales. It’s the kind of bad movie that you want every single one of your friends to see so that you can all discuss the atrocity to which you’ve just subjected yourselves.
I believe the only way to truly enjoy Southland Tales is to be tripping on some pretty good acid. Even then, though, I think you might get bored after about thirty minutes and resort to watching static on television.
It’s truly not a boring movie; that’s definitely not what’s wrong with the film. It’s got nuclear war, Big Brother, political corruption, crazy drugs, time travel, and midgets in SWAT gear. What bored me is that I didn’t care what the hell anyone did or didn’t do.
In 2005, a nuclear bomb was dropped on Texas. This, of course, led to World War Three. Now, three years later, the government has reinstated the draft, issued nationwide identification cards, and controls the Internet. The Republican Party has a good chance of winning the election, and there’s an extremist Marxist group that doesn’t want that to happen.
Dwayne Johnson is Boxer Santeros, an action star who’s married to Madeline Frost (Mandy Moore), the daughter of Senator Bobby Frost (Holmes Osborne) who happens to be on the Republican ticket. Senator Frost’s wife is Nana Mae Frost (Miranda Richardson) who is not only the head of the NSA (I think), but she also runs the USIdent office, a Big Brother operation that controls the Internet and every other thing going on in America.
Still with me? I’m not done yet.
So Boxer gets kidnapped and taken into the desert. Somehow, he gets back into California with a case of amnesia and has been shacking up with porn star Krista Now (Sarah Michelle Gellar). He and Krista write a screenplay that oddly emulates what’s going on in the world, and they get wrapped up in what I believe to be a conspiracy that involves the Marxist movement, a German who’s created a power station operated by ocean water (played by the hilarious Wallace Shawn), and some strange time-space continuum whatnot. Oh, and a drugged-up war veteran played by Justin Timberlake narrates.
The movie plays as if too many ideas crawled onto the page, and Richard Kelly didn’t want to let any of them go. There are scenes that actually had my attention. I thought, finally, this movie is going somewhere and getting interesting, but no. As soon as some semblance of a storyline would show itself, the film would stumble and fall right back into an immature statement about American politics and war.
Richard Kelly definitely has ideas buried in the muck that is Southland Tales. Peppering the film with news footage that looks like it was plucked directly from C-SPAN is perfect. He’s poking fun at our country’s need for sensory overload in every sense of the word. Having one of your main characters be a porn star who is trying her hand at singing, television, and her own energy drink is spectacular. But either he concentrated too much on jamming every concept in, or he didn’t let the actors in on the joke.
Mandy Moore is surprisingly interesting as the whiny senator’s daughter, but I know for a fact she can do better work. Christopher Lambert, Miranda Richardson, and hell, even John Laroquette should be ashamed of themselves. I wouldn’t think it was so sad to see them play such horrible characters if it didn’t look like they were trying so hard.
Dwayne Johnson is the only one who gives a convincing performance. And it’s really only because he’s playing a confused, half-wit of a man who can’t quite figure out what his purpose might be. He does know one thing, though. He’s a pimp, and pimps don’t commit suicide.
Yeah, I don’t know what it means either, but it was the funniest damn line in the entire movie.