Southland Tales (2006)

southland tales poster 2006 movie
3.5 Overall Score
Story: 3/10
Acting: 4/10
Visuals: 3/10

Potential, 9-11 political stuff

Bad story, annoying characters, so-so visuals

Movie Info

Movie Name: Southland Tales

Studio: Darko Entertainment

Genre(s): Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Action/Adventure/Comedy

Release Date(s):  May 21, 2006 (Cannes)/November 14, 2007 (US)

MPAA Rating: R

southland tales dwayne johnson

Pretty much everyone’s sentiment by the end…

Nuclear attacks on El Paso and Abilene led to World War III, and the United States found itself cut off from the majority of its energy supply.  US-IDent monitors the U.S. for homegrown terrorists and a wave of Republicans take the country.  When an inventor named Baron von Westphalen (Wallace Shaw) claims to have a new energy source called Fluid Karma that takes power from the ocean currents, the “war” could be over…but Shaw is hiding a secret that cause the collapse of all reality.  Meanwhile, Boxer Santaros (Dwayne Johnson), the son-in-law of Senator Bobby Frost (Holmes Osborne) and husband to Madeline Frost (Mandy Moore), has gone missing and shown up in the care of internet and former porn celebrity Krysta Now (Sarah Michelle Gellar) who with the help of Neo-Marxists and an amnesiac officer Ronald Taverner (Seann William Scott) could become the key to a change in the political tide…if the world doesn’t end first.

southland tales wallace shaw bai ling curtis armstrong zelda rubenstein

Now this is a movie I would watch…in the theater

Written and directed by Richard Kelly, Southland Tales is a science-fiction comedy drama.  The film premiered at Cannes and was released in the U.S. to largely negative reviews.  The movie also has prequel tie-in graphic novels which were collected as Southland Tales:  The Prequel Saga and has gained a small following since its release.

I loved Donnie Darko.  I saw it a bunch and was interested in what Kelly would do next…then I saw trailers and reviews of Southland Tales.  Getting a cheap copy on Blu-Ray, I started the movie multiple times but was unable to finish it…not so much due to the unnecessarily complex plot, but more do to the annoying characters in the film.  I finally powered through Southland Tales.  It had its moments, but largely, I still think it is a pretty poor film.

southland tales justin timberlake

Got soul by I ain’t a soldier

The movie thinks too highly of itself.  The plot which involves time vortex (apparently a theme with Kelly) and duplicates is mixed with the social commentary on the post-9-11 world.  While I find some of the social commentary kind of interesting and compelling, the core tale of manipulation, blackmail, undefined power sources, and amnesia is pretty tiresome…and at two and a half hours (which is scaled down from Kelly’s original run time), the movie isn’t worth watching repeatedly to clean up parts of the plot that are hard to follow.

The cast is also a big question.  Kelly wanted to hire people he felt were pigeonholed in their acting and ends up with a lot of fresh faces combined with some classic ones, but it feels like no one knows exactly what they are doing.  The film is noted for the first time “The Rock” just became Dwayne Johnson and features performers turned actors Justin Timberlake and Mandy Moore.  Seann William Scott has a dual role, and Sarah Michelle Gellar tries to kick off her Buffy persona.  The supporting cast includes Miranda Richardson, Bai Ling, Nora Dunn, John Larroquette, Kevin Smith, Wallace Shaw, Amy Poehler, Zelda Rubinstein, Cheri Oteri, Jon Lovitz, Curtis Armstrong, Will Sasso, Homes Osborne, Janeane Garofalo, and Christopher Lambert.  I do like the mini-performance of Mulholland Dr. stand-out singer Rebekah Del Rio performing the National Anthem.

southland tales seann william scott

We’ll both die…and by this point in the movie, that’s ok

Like the story, the visuals also try too hard.  The movie is frequently interrupted by news broadcasts including picture-in-picture videos that didn’t age well and were too busy even back then to look high tech.  The movie also attempts to have kind of a cyberpunk feel, but it doesn’t feel like it commits to this…Akira it is not.

Southland Tales is experimental, but some experiments fail.  Kelly argues that it is misunderstood and still wants to create a Southland Tales “universe”, but I hope that he leaves well enough alone and doesn’t try to recreate the “magic” of this movie.  The feel of the movie and its scope does remind me of Cloud Atlas which I think does work in the bigger picture, but even that film is debatable.  Kelly’s vision falls flat instead of feeling expansive.  Leave Southland and never return!

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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