Movie Review: Southland Tales

In 2001, Richard Kelly became the new David Lynch with his indie cult sensation Donnie Darko. It lef the audience scratching their heads, but at the same time was hilarious and ultimately intriguing. After six years, imagine my excitement that Kelly’s second film Southland Tales, a dystopian thriller, was coming out. Imagine my dissapointment when it fell closer to Waterworld than Blade Runner or A Clockwork Orange.
Not to say it didn’t (or doesn’t) have the potential to be one of those films. It’s set in the summer of 2008 in los Angeles. After a nuclear explosion, the US has turned into a land of paranoia ruled by the patriot act, drugs, and violence. An actor (The Rock) is preparing for a role in a film about the apocalypse and discovers that the film’s ending could potentially predict the true ending of the world and be used to stop it. Also, something with The Rock being brainwashed by the government. That’s as much as I can tell you because that’s basically all that makes sense in this never-ending muddle.
This film had the potential for greatness but falls short, way short. Kelly could have cut off about 40 minutes. Also, it’s ok for a psycological thriller to confuse the audience, but they should have some idea of what the plot is. I still couldn’t tell you what this movie is supposed to be about and don’t care to find out.
Among some of the film’s finer points is the cast. It is one of the strangest casts of random actors I’ve ever seen. It ranges from SNL stars (Amy Poeler, Cheri O’Teri), third rate comedians (Jon Lovitz) and Justin Timberlake. They do their best with the awkward jokes and make them somewhat funny.
Now, I want Southland to be good, I really do. It’s a plot of political relevance concerning the dangers of paranoia and man’s destruction of themselves. If only it was told clearer. The film also lacks the charms of Darko which displayed spot-on suburban satire amongst its story of time travel and alternate universes. That charm is missing from this film. If Kelly takes a trip to the editing room with this film, I think it has the potential to be a masterpiece. But until then, Southland Tales is far from it.