34 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
Will Blow Your Mind... If You Want It To, 4 Jan 2008
Southland Tales is a film that i have always had faith in. Since i heard about its conception in late 2005 and having just watched Richard Kellys other film and debut Donnie Darko, I was eager to see what the mind behind this amazing film would do next. Despite its infamous reception at the Cannes film festival in 2006 i was determined to judge it myself. Critical reception of the films early release was almost entirely negative. Critics complainet the film was overlong, confusing and hopeless. A year later in December 2007 the film was finally released in the UK with an added 90 effects shots and an inflated budget. The film had also been trimmed and restructured, with a new animated opening known as the "Doomsday Scenario Interface" shedding light on the films backstory previously kept in the dark to viewers of the innitial, unfinished cut. What i must say about the film is i could see why most people would have a problem with it. Kelly has filled the film with ideas, comments on almost every aspect of our culture, genre hops and casting against type (i will come back to that last one later).
The film opens with a cheerful barbecue in Abilene, Texas. Shot on home video camera by a kid the timer informs us that it is the 4th of July 2005. That camera takes us through a happy american independance day party. Fireworks crackle, children laugh and play and adults chat eagerly. Suddenly the festivities are shattered by a massive nuclear mushroom cloud tearing out of the horizon as the people look on in horror. An animated slideshow called the "Doomsday Scenario Interface" then appears. We learn that the nuclear atttack we witnessed was one of two, the other in El Paso. The interface slides through dates as a solem voiced man describes americas descent into war and paranoia. We are told that the patriot act has formed a think-tank known as USIdent, taking control of the police and monitoring everything. We also discover that the war that broke out as a result of the nuclear attacks has restricted American access to oil. The film then cuts to Los Angeles where a man named Boxer Santaros has woken up on a beach. The man narrating the film is then shown to be "Pilot Abilene", a disfigured gulf war veteran played by a wonderfully creepy Justin Timberlake. He narrates the film from his post atop a large gun. The film also follows a man named Roland Taverner played by Sean William Scott. Teverner is trying to find his identical twin brother. Other characters include a psycic ex porn star played by Sarah Michelle Gellar, Christopher Lambert as an arms dealer selling guns from an icecream truck and Wallace Shawn as a mad german scientist known as Baron Von Westphalen.
I will not bore you with a detailed description of the entire plot as we will be here all year. Other concerns of the film are a massive machine called Utopia III, designed to produce an energy source from the ocean called Fluid Karma, a Time-Travel conspiracy and a Neo-Marxist revolution against the police state, ph and lest we forget THE END OF THE WORLD!
Kelly made a great move in casting actors against type, almost every character in the film is recognisable and the cast consist of comedy actors and singers etc. An example being the casting of John Lovitz (Saturday Night Live, Rat Race) As a racist, murdering police officer.
Standout elements of this film are:
suprising performances from its cast (Justin Timberlake in particular who i now respect as an actor)
beautiful atmospheric music from Moby
a dreamlike finale
a wonderfully shot musical sequence
I deepy urge you to ignore negative responses to this film and pass your own judgement, as a wise man once said "Don't knock it 'till youv'e tried it", don't worry if it doesn't make sense to you the first time round it is truly made to be watched more than once. Watch it and be amazed if you aren't amazed then rest knowing you jsut watched the most original film we have had for a very long time.