Classic Review – Southland Tales (2006)

Title – Southland Tales (2006)

Director – Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko)

Cast – Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Sean William Scott, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Mandy Moore, Amy Poehler, Justin Timberlake, Kevin Smith, Jon Lovitz, Christopher Lambert, Wallace Shawn, Miranda Richardson, Lou Taylor Pucci

Plot – Set in a futuristic vision of Los Angeles in the year 2008, where oil is a rare commodity and a heated presidential race is being conducted, actor and recent sufferer of amnesia Boxer Santaros (Johnson) and cop Ronald Taverner (Scott) may just hold the keys to the very existence of life or the imminent destruction of life as we know it.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the party is over. Have a nice apocalypse”

Review by Eddie on 13/05/2016

An oddly beautiful big old mess of a film that just so happens to be a masterpiece of ideas, visions and social commentary, Southland Tales remains to this day a decade on from its initial release, a barely spoken about oddity that marked what appears to be at present time the beginning of the end of the short but unique career of Donnie Darko director Richard Kelly, who on the back of his beloved cult debut seemingly had Hollywood right where he wanted it only to be shunned from the industry limelight after this opus of a future America was quite literally booed out of the cinema.

Premiering to a disastrous reception at the Cannes Film Festival in 2005 where it was ridiculed by a hate mongering audience, Kelly’s film was originally intended as a near 3 hour journey to the depths and underbelly of a United States where oil has all but disappeared, Karl Marx loving underground movements exist to overthrow the government, a drug known as Fluid Karma is taking over the streets, oh and there’s a rip in the time space continuum and vehicle advertisements have taken on a whole new level of odd.

Accompanied by a prequel-set graphic novel and armed with more ideas than even the eventually shorter 138 minute released version of the film can handle, there’s little denying Southland Tale’s bizarre narrative and attitude towards its themes are often off-putting but when one allows themselves to be taken into this vision of the Los Angeles landscape there’s both artistic merits, darkly humorous observations of human nature and dare I say it emotional payoffs that rewards repeat viewings.

Kelly’s grand vision attracted a name cast including Sean William Scott (in one of his better big screen turns), Sarah Michelle Gellar, Mandy Moore, Amy Poehler, filmmaker Kevin Smith, Justin Timberlake (who delivers the films best singular scene with a rendition of The Killers track All These Things That I’ve Done) and in a turn that at the time suggested a much more interesting actor than his now become, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in one of his first truly hefty turns as the amnesia suffering celebrity actor Boxer Santoros. Each performer commits to their role and it’s quite obvious they all bought into Kelly’s vision, it’s just likely the studios did not, as after the notorious Cannes screening the film was left to die a slow, barely advertised released that saw it disappear without a trace and left Kelly’s career in tatters with only the highly disappointing Cameron Diaz starrer The Box attributed to his name since.

Nigh on impossible to explain and very much a film not made for everyone, Southland Tales is without question one of the most misunderstood gems of the modern era from its unique visual feel, intriguing performances, fantastic soundtrack from the one time chart topping Moby and ability to remain constantly engaging even with its overabundance of ideas.

Southland Tales is a film fans of cinema should try, and if they hate it their absolutely not alone but for the merry few that find themselves drawn into this odd yet exhilarating world, Southland Tales will make you wish Kelly can one day return to his directing chair to give us once more a film that carves out its own path and is all the better for it.

4 ½ floating ice-cream vans out of 5

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4 responses to “Classic Review – Southland Tales (2006)

  1. Wow, that’s a glowing review! I remember seeing it in the cinema back in 2006 and my friend and I were planning a double bill of this (and I believe) The Golden Compass, however after watching this imcomprehensible mess we were so shocked and stunned that we couldn’t take another film and just went home!!

    A decade later and I still have never rematched Southland Tales (despite being a big SMG fan) or The Golden Compass… maybe it is time to change that! 😂

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