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Review: Southland Tales

Southland Tales
11.14.2007
5 10

PLOT: When former action star and current political pawn Boxer Santaros turns up after suffering from amnesia, he is taken in by a porn star and a gaggle of SNL not ready for prime time players. He is taken in and begins to believe he is someone else with plans to write a script with his porn pal. At the same moment, two brothers, seem to be suffering from confusion over who is who with the fate of the world depending on the outcome. It’s the end of the world in Los Angeles and it may just be time for a party.

REVIEW: I was listening to the radio while I was driving to the screening of SOUTHLAND TALES. One song came on which I’m not necessarily a fan of, but it really resonated with my experience of watching the film. The song by 311 is called “Beautiful Disaster” which is close to how I felt about watching a slew of “Saturday Night Live” performers, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, The Rock and of course, Justin Timberlake. All living at the very end of the world, the apocalypse. Some of the performances were fascinating, while others were odd and felt out of place. Parts of the world that director Richard Kelly created were unforgettable, while others were ridiculous and pretentious. Sometimes if felt like a modern day episode of “Laugh In” on a drug induced journey of some bizarre soap opera with porn stars, military police and comedienne’s as violent hippies.

It is 2008, and Los Angeles is on the brink of disaster. The need for alternative fuel is imperative yet nobody has a cure, except possibly this loony scientist. It is the end of the world and one lone soldier watches from the sidelines, while occasionally lip-synching “All These Things That I’ve Done” by The Killers. He tells of a powerful man who has disappeared, a man named Boxer Santaros (Dwayne Johnson) who was an action star but now can’t remember his past. Yet he is soon discovered by a porn star named Krysta Now (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and a group of Left Wing activist who plan to use Boxer to blackmail the Senator whose daughter was engaged to be married to him. If you think this sounds convoluted, you don’t even know the half of it.

Also in this mess is Ronald and Roland Taverner (Seann William Scott), both of whom seem to be in a bit of a funk. One has been kidnapped, while the other takes on his personality which brings them to Boxer in what could be a strange episode of “COPS” with John Lovitz, and I literally mean John Lovitz. But Ronald and Roland’s story gets more complicated as the hours continue on in Tales and I won’t give anything away here. But needless to say, there is so much happening that if you check out, you may very well be lost. And frankly, much of the beginning of the film almost had me checking out. Whether it is exploring a typical American family though the lens of a home camcorder, to other bizarre sequences that made it feel like a propaganda film.

Richard Kelly has crafted a damn challenging watch. In fact, the several storylines take so long to connect that a few times I stopped caring why. I also found the SNL vigilantes to be a bit too comical. Yeah, I know, Cheri Oteri, Nora Dunn, Amy Poehler and a few others are comediennes, so they should be funny, but they weren’t funny here, they just felt odd and over the top. Aside from Nora Dunn, who is really quite good, many of them just felt false and kept pulling me out of the moment. Especially in one scene involving a staged family dispute. Yet, I still dug the outcome of said scene.

It’s incredibly strange, because I disliked much of SOUTHLAND TALES. The concept seemed quite brilliant, but the execution felt distorted and jumbled. But somewhere in this mess of insanity lies a powerful social commentary that could have made for a brilliant film. Although the beginning felt like stuff a film in a blender and see what comes out, the last forty-five minutes had me amazed. I’m not saying that it was all a beauty to behold, but once a few of the characters have been taken care of and it begins to focus on Taverner, Boxer and Krysta Now, it felt like something miraculous was about to be born. But getting there was the problem.

As far as performances go, the star of the show has to be Seann William Scott who is very likeable here. His confusion throughout the film was probably close to the audience reaction. He takes it seriously and gives a powerful show. Also quite good is Sarah Michelle Gellar as Krysta Now. It is interesting watching her play Krysta as a bimbo with a open heart. She even gets to sing again with a lovely song about teen horniness. Both of these two performances rank among the best while Dwayne Johnson gave a good show until he started with his hand tapping. It is annoying and distracting and feels like somebody in a high school play that has no idea what to do with their hands. Yes, it’s a deliberate choice and he runs with it, but it bothered me. Justin Timberlake also offers up a strange and one-dimensional performance with his constant “crazy look”. But he has a ton of fun with his Killers performance which sort of felt out of place here, then again, much of SOUTHLAND TALES felt out of place.

Richard Kelly’s strange and frustrating film is at the very least unique. Most audiences will be split down the middle, whether it is utter hatred or absolute joy. But as a viewer, I found myself at both ends of that spectrum many times throughout. If you are tired of the cookie cutter Hollywood films to come out than I recommend this with warning, it is a pompous and bizarre social satire that often felt smarter than it’s audience. And maybe it is. Or maybe it just thinks it is and really has no idea what it’s trying to say. Not quite as audience friendly as DONNIE DARKO, TALES is a convoluted, awful, wonderful, pretentious and brilliant film all at the same time. My rating 5/10 -- JimmyO

Source: JoBlo.com

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