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Southland Tales

Posted on

Sarah Michelle Gellar, Dwayne ''The Rock'' Johnson, ...

Southland Tales

Current Status:
In Season
144 minutes
Wide Release Date:
Sarah Michelle Gellar, Dwayne ''The Rock'' Johnson, Curtis Armstrong
Richard Kelly
Samuel Goldwyn Films
Richard Kelly
Sci-fi and Fantasy, Drama, Comedy

We gave it a B-

When Southland Tales, Richard Kelly’s apocalyptic futureshock age-of-terror satire, played at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, it received such an unholy critical drubbing that the bad reviews actually made me want to see it. (So did the egghead minority who hailed it as a masterpiece.) The movie, which begins with a nuclear attack on Abilene, TX, is set in a rancid, paranoid-crackdown America where porn, news, reality TV, and music videos have merged into an omnipresent media glob; where the Internet has become a fascist tool of corporate/government control; and where the Venice Beach party culture remains — big laugh! — more or less the same. Familiar stars keep popping up in bizarro-world roles, like Jon Lovitz as a brutal cop, Seann William Scott as a man who may be the Messiah, and Dwayne Johnson as an amnesiac who twiddles his fingers with anxiety. It sounds like the brainiac Idiocracy, and pretty much is, except that Kelly, in his first feature since Donnie Darko, is also working in the visionary scorched-earth mode of William Burroughs, Don DeLillo, and Infinite Jest. Southland Tales has a mood unlike anything I’ve seen: dread that morphs into kitsch and then back again. It’s a film that tried my patience, and one I couldn’t shake off. B-