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  • I avoided watching this film for quite some time after its release. In part this was because what little I knew about the story hit a little too close to home in terms of substance abuse problems, and equally so because I'd generally read negative reviews about how bleak, depressing and meandering it was.

    Boy was I wrong. As it turns out this is a stylishly photographed, atmospheric little film noir set in the world of crystal meth junkies and hoods. Val Kilmer registers a most impressive performance as a musician turned junkie turned.... well, I won't give anything more away.

    The film's story line just seems to flow out toward the viewer in a languishing, yet engrossing stream, sucking you along in its undertow. Couple that with enough plot twists to catch your interest and this film makes for a perfect evening of quiet movie watching over a bowl of popcorn.

    Give this little gem a chance. Odds are you won't be disappointed.
  • The Salton Sea is a hypersaline artificial body of water accidentally created when engineers lost control of the Colorado River flow with which they were replenishing irrigation canals in California's Imperial Valley. For two years (1905-1907), the Colorado River was uncontrollably diverted from its natural course, filling the Salton Trough (part of the San Andreas Fault) before finally being set back on course. Since then, the Salton Sea continues to be replenished by irrigation runoff with no means of outflow except evaporation. It lies approximately 130 miles northeast of San Diego at the lowest point of the Sonoran Desert (278 feet below sea level). In that part of the world, the temperatures in summer, effectively April through November, can reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit, or even higher. In recent years, it has experienced massive fish and bird kills. In short, the Salton Sea is an apt metaphor for Hell ... which is just where Danny Parker/Tom Van Allen (Val Kilmer) finds himself at the beginning of this film, surrounded by flames. "The Salton Sea" is a highly stylized movie in which nearly all elements are executed well. The acting is generally excellent. Kilmer in the lead role does his best work since "Tombstone", and Vincent D'Onofrio, an actor for whom I don't ordinarily care, is utterly convincing as the demented crank dealer Pooh Bear. He was so good I forgot I was watching D'Onofrio. Excellent supporting performances are contributed by Peter Sarsgaard as Danny/Tom's best friend, Doug Hutchison and Anthony LaPaglia as the two L.A. County Sheriff's deputies for whom Danny snitches, and Adam Goldberg as tweaker-in-residence Kujo. Even the minor characters of Creeper (Ricky Trammell), Big Bill (Josh Todd), and the gun seller (Mpho Koaho) are portrayed to perfection. My only complaint is that Deborah Kara Unger simply wasn't able to pull off her part as the strung-out lowlife Colette, perhaps because she's just too beautiful to be convincing in such a role. As an anti-parallel, imagine Danny Trejo cast as James Bond.

    Cinematography and editing were top notch, and the production design for this film was fantastic, from the diseased walls of Danny/Tom's apartment to the Level 4 biohazard lab in the 'Kujo's Big Heist' segment, with technicians wearing space suits that look like they came directly from Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey". Even the smallest details were done with style, such as the flames cascading down Danny/Tom's arm from the sunburst tattoo centered on the scar of his shoulder wound. The intricate plot of Tony Gayton's script requires the viewer's suspension of disbelief at some points, but not enough to detract significantly from the overall merit of the movie. This is a very strong feature film debut for director D.J. Caruso, and I look forward to his future work. One of the best films I've seen in the last three years, "The Salton Sea" is definitely worth watching. Rating: 8/10
  • Excellent adult thriller. Stylish, intense, funny and unexpectedly moving. Intricately plotted (it will always be one step ahead of you) and fluidly, inventively directed (including a unique twist on Eastwood's classic "Did I fire six bullets...or only five?" line). Well-acted, especially by Kilmer. The less you know about it beforehand the better, though, so I'll just add this: this film is not always pleasant to watch, but it has personality and will take you on quite a journey. Don't read about it, see it. (***)
  • This movie was great, this time I'm actually glad I took the Blockbuster guy's advice and rented it. It's not like LOTR or a Rocky movie where you come out feeling like you're on top of the world, but you will feel spun like by a great rollercoaster. I wouldn't say it starts off slow, but it definitely eases you into things, then move on to the drug fests and the story starts to take shape, but without really revealing itself all at once. As you watch more, you get that much more involved and gripped. I found myself really captured by the movie to the point of having anxiety myself in some of the Poo bear scenes. So towards the end I was strapped to my chair waiting to see what was going to happen, I did care about Kilmer's character, and I loved it how the movie keeps you guessing and on your seat till the end. Being such a dark movie though, it wouldn't have been so memorable for me if the ending had been different.

    Kilmer's performance was good and he held his own, but Vincent D'Onofrio was brilliant in his role of Poo bear. I also liked the scene with Bobby `hobby' as it was definitely memorable.

    I loved this movie, but as other reviews have said, if you are faint of heart then this movie is not for you. It is dark, druggy, very pawn scum of life kind of thing, and you watch it with your guts in a knot for some of the movie, but it's worth the knot I tell you! Did I mention that I liked the ending too? Even though it was a dark movie overall, I left with the sensation of `Damn that was a good movie…'
  • This is the back shelf treasure that everyone hopes for when browsing the not-so-recent releases at the video store. Pay attention to the other reviews posted here - they're not kidding. This is a very well made film on every level. Great script, acting is standout, direction is thoughtful and involved. Not for kids.
  • Val Kilmer in Salton Sea is about as close to home as anything for me in this movie. He looks like just another guy on the streets of So Cal back in the 80's, looking for a quick high, with no idea of consequence. Salton Sea is a beautiful location that many don't know of. Kilmer's performance carries one through the movie effortlessly. From the intricacies of the actual life he portrays to the unshown details of the tenderness of the characters heart, "Salton Sea" delivers a complete package of salty and sweet. I would have never rented the movie had it been any other actor. The only reason I was drawn to the movie, was the title, because so few people know of the hidden gem in the California desert, and I had been there as a child. The theme was a place that I unfortunately also visited and I feel that the movie delivers a compelling reason for people to think before the act. To realize that there is always more than meets the eye.
  • The Salton Sea is an interesting film. It is a film that looks initially to be about drugs and the people who take them. Val Kilmer is in the lead role as a tweaker of crystal meth, and other substances, as well as a quite good sounding trumpet player. He begins by telling the viewer, via narration, explaining that he does not know who he really is and asks you to decide as we wind back through a recent period of his life to see how he came to where we first meet him.

    The movie gets its title from a key event to the film occurred at the Salton Sea and Kilmer's character has a huge tattoo in memory of this.

    What unravels is an intricate mystery that holds the viewers' attention but only just. The story is quite good but it is not in your face as one might expect a film of this acting calibre. It sunk at the cinema but maybe due to its art-house feel and advertising did not communicate this.

    Vincent D'Onofrio is nearly unrecognizably as unpredictable drug dealer Pooh Bear, named as such because of his flat nose, and Danny Trejo is here as one of his scary henchmen.

    If you are looking for a decent mystery, darkish thriller, some noir, drugs, love lost, and cops, then you could not go far wrong renting The Salton Sea.
  • tlazar399 February 2004
    Although having seen this seemingly obscure movie for the first time a few months ago, I truly feel like it makes my Top 15 list. Val Kilmer is convincing as a tweaker and has a crew around him that is priceless for their absolute comedic value (of course this is all with their brains on chemical overload). Also, Vincent D'onofrio is brilliant as Pooh Bear (especially when you consider his Law & Order CI character "Goran").

    I like this film becuase of the complexity of the story, the graphic and sobering nature of Danny Parker's drug culture and the intermittent comedic value with Pooh Bear, Kujo, Finn and Creeper.

    A must see if you have the chance to find this hardly publicized film.
  • *Very Minor, Undetailed Plot Spoiler Warning*

    Director D.J. Caruso has run into decent fame as of late after directing Eagle Eye, (Which I thought was pretty terrible by the way.), and the very popular Disturbia, (Which is basically a reversion of Hitchcock's classic thriller Rear Window.). However, I believe that he should be most recognized for this little gem of a film from his more distant past, 2002's The Salton Sea.

    One of the greatest things about The Salton Sea is that it unravels in very unexpected ways. Wrapping up the viewer in some dark unknown mystery, that piece by piece becomes clearer and clearer as the intriguingly masked plot unfolds into a tale of drugs, dirty law enforcement, love and revenge. From the visuals, to the dialogue, from the acting, to the delivery, The Salton Sea really is a gritty, enjoyable, and somewhat unique piece of work.

    Don't even bother with the plot hole scenarios that some people are conjuring up out of the thin air resting between their ears. The truth is that they just didn't pay enough attention to the details while watching this underrated little diamond in the rough. If you like dark, gritty mysteries, take your mind for a dive into The Salton Sea.

  • I saw this movie for one reason Val Kilmer, he has a gift of bringing characters together in interesting ways. It was a great film that I wish there was more buzz about. The "tweakers" are very interesting especially with their schemes. Also Vincent D'Onofrio as Pooh Bear is great! Definately worth seeing twice.
  • Val Kilmer has made some of the most peculiar and daring career choices of any actor now working. His decision to appear in the disastrous remake of "The Island of Dr. Moreau" with Marlon Brando could have sunk him once and for all, save for his exceedingly nasty (and accurate) impersonation of Brando, tics and all, late in the film. Now, as his features have thickened and he is well past his pretty boy phase ( something he can apparently give up, and Tom Cruise wouldn't dare: we might notice there was no talent underneath the face cream), he is assuming roles that make full use of this brutalized looks. SALTON SEA is a magnificent performance in a wholly satisfying film, with Kilmer being fully assisted by a dazzling supporting cast. There are elements of classical balance in this story that make it not merely intellectually stimulating but emotionally moving. It has everything: great acting, great writing, and great directing. Don't miss it.
  • I like my wild rides tainted with some sentiment and civility - and this movie delivers.

    When confronted with the offer to participate in the absurd Bob Hope/Ebay caper, Danny Parker says "I'll pass, thank you" and Jimmy Finn says "I'm good."

    I love how polite Danny is - when talking to Quincy or to the cops or especially to his friend Jimmy Finn. In this wild wild world of the meth tweeker scene, I appreciated this bit of civility. This movie had some wonderful moments for me, and the scenes between Jimmy Finn and Danny are my favorites.

    Val and Vincent starred in two of my favorite movies - Tombstone and Household Saints and now I'm adding The Salton Sea.
  • most of the tweakers I have ever met were just not that sophisticated. by the time they got to that level of addiction everybody was slammin, they had sores all over their bodies, there teeth were rotted out, all of the women and men did whatever "it took" to score. Very sad.

    on the other hand it was pretty interesting. great tattoo's, cinematography was done very well, loved the soundtrack, what a waste of "Deborah Kara Unger's" acting abilities.

    Now on to the main reason I went to see this film "D'Onofrio"! What a fantastic performance. He made this movie. That wheeziness throughout his dialogue made his character beliveable. Plus his total disregard for morality.

    Overall this was a good movie, just not very accurate.
  • This film was an absolute treat! an amazingly enjoyable thrill ride! if your one of those that switches a film off, when you see drug abuse, i warn you, don't switch off this, because your sincerely missing an excellent, well casted, well directed film! a must see for anybody so long as none of the themes in the film could offend you, one of the best films here of 2002! an excellent cast of Val Kilmer, the Beautiful Deborah Kara Unger, Luis Guzmán, and Peter Sarsgaard, with an excellent character in the film called Pooh Bear played by Vincent D'Onofrio, He's wicked! With lots of twists and turns, and a solid story to follow, everything gets put together, with a great blend of humor. Don't rent it, when you see it, buy it, you wont be disappointed.
  • The synopsis and inclusion of Val Kilmer wasn't promising, but this movie turned out to be very entertaining and I recommend it for anyone looking for a decent action/drama. I think Kilmer does an amazing job. I don't want to give details away, so I'll be brief. Whether or not it is a work of genius, I don't know, but I do know that it is worth renting. It has it's weaker moments, using narration and flashback ineffectively (in my opinion). I think they could've changed up the order of many of the scenes. Really that is just being picky, everyone will enjoy this movie. I watch a lot of movies. This one is better than most.
  • Sinister_Motive29 November 2002
    Hollywood as a whole typically seems to steer away from any story that can realistically describe vengeance. It's either the hero comes out of his despair and kills 100 people, hell bent on righting the world. Or it is a movie that has the hero so full of idiotic cliches that it doesn't even work. A few movies used vengeance in a good way, like the Crow series, but the supernatural effect takes the feel of reality from the characters. I had always been a fan of stories about vigilantes and regular people that had a thirst for vengeance and dealing out their own form of justice.

    Well, The Salton Sea was a movie that actually surprised me. I had walked into Blockbuster and the new releases I did want were already checked out, so I just combed over the sections to find something that didn't look like total crap. So, I saw a movie with Val Kilmer on the front and sighed picking it up. I was never a big fan of Val Kilmer but the movie sounded interesting so I rented it. I was not disappointed. Val actually gave a great performance that didn't want me to shut off the DVD player and go to bed. The movie started out as a bunch of drug addicts just partying and living it up. As the movie went on, I loved the music, the visuals, the settings, the performances and most of all the story. It was a real down to earth take on revenge. I was pleasantly surprised with even the detail of the small characters that didn't even really have much dialogue. It was real and it was good. I really recommend this to anyone that loves to see vengeance or revenge movies.

    ***1/2 of ****
  • Going into this movie I had no clue what to expect, other than a solid performance from Val Kilmer, which he delivered. What I found was a very different character (or rather 2) than I would expect him to portray.

    His Danny Parker was a seemingly unstable 'tweaker', riddled with drugs, reflective, having only one goal in mind and not taking s**t from anyone...yet in his flashbacks as Tom Van Allen he was more laid back, totally in love, selfless and sensitive. Throughout the film I couldn't help but see similarities to Guy Pearce's character in Memento, with the struggle to avenge his wife's death, questionable people they encounter along the way, and the fact that they both see things in a surreal light (one being quasi-amnesic, the other 'tweaked' out on 'gack'); but none of these made Salton Sea any less entertaining or enjoyable.

    Vincent D'Onofrio played a great character in cracked-out, paranoid drug dealer Pooh Bear. And as always, you can never help but smile at Luis Guzman's character, even when he's yelling at and beating up his girlfriend.

    Overall I found The Salton Sea to be very thought-provoking, with great dialogue, intelligent/slighty sarcastic narration that is reminiscent of that in Fight Club (dare I even make that comparison?), and a depth and heaviness to it that continuously draws you in as the movie progresses.

    Oh the tatoos. 9/10 - rent it tonight.
  • I have two memories of The Salton Sea from before I ever saw it. First, it was always in the cheap box at the movie store, and second, I liked the cover.

    So one Christmas, I picked a copy up for a friend, having heard good things. I could not have imagined what a strong film it was going to be, and it has been a personal favorite of mine ever since.

    It has all the pieces of a great film: an original story told through intense direction, a unique, perfectly acted main character(Kilmer's best by far); a fantastic villain (Vincent D'onofrio's masterpiece performance) and a brutally powerful ending.

    If you are in the mood for a fast, entertaining, dark, powerful and stylish neo-noir vengeance story; The Salton Sea is for you.

    Get a copy, you won't be let down, everything is absolutely first rate; and the film approaches greatness.
  • Every so often you see a movie that leaves you feeling thoughtful, one with an atmosphere that has you so absorbed that you feel like you've lived the experience. The Salton Sea left me that way. This movie 'had me' from the beginning to the end, and by the end, I felt like I had been on a long, interesting journey. Something that might be found unlikable about the movie is the constant monologue, which some might find to be cliché, But Val Kilmer speaks them so well that not once did I find them to be so. The great story line and superb acting makes it a solid movie, one that does not evoke questions of credibility. It is the best movie I've seen in a long time. I give it a 10.
  • Lupercali29 August 2004
    This is a moody, creepy thriller which reminds me a great deal of Philip K Dick's 'A Scanner Darkly' in some respects. Val Kilmer isn't exactly amazing (is he ever?) but he gets the job done. Most of the movie's high points come from the portrayal of the mindset of the drug subculture. Again, I'm reminded so much of PKD's comment about kids "playing in the road" even after they watched their friends getting run over one after another.

    A couple of the flashback/hallucination sequences were a little confusing, but I got the general drift. The film has a seedy, nasty, slightly hallucinogenic quality to it. Kilmer seems slightly out of place - not messed up enough. Actually, that ends up making sense, but I won't give anything away.

    Not a great film, but different and stylish enough to deserve the 7.2 average it currently enjoys here. That's about what I'd give it.

    Also nice to see a drug/crime thriller where everything isn't blowing up every 30 seconds.

    Oh, I forgot to mention: there are a few scenes in the film that are really darn funny. How that doesn't ruin the mood of the thing, I don't know, because it's a bit like laughing at a car wreck.
  • The Salton Sea is utterly fantastic. It's amazing it took me this long to watch it, it's an instant classic.

    What makes the movie so fantastic is the amount of content and the variety of said content that is displayed. It's gritty, yet intellectual. Slow, yet paced perfectly. The story unravels slowly, yet the story happens to fast. I think it's safe to say, that the complexity of this movie can not be understated. What you are getting here is the total package. From the gorgeous delivery and beautiful cinematography, to the intricate details from the culmination of the plot. The thought engrossing script, and the perfectly acted epic story tells the tale of redemption, revenge, heartbreak, sorrow, loss, and glory.

    Val Kilmer delivers his best roll of his entire life. This movie will be relevant for the next 100 years. Do yourself a favor, and add this to your must watch list.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I had a hard time at the end figuring out if he died or not or if it was all just some speed freak dream. I found the imagery disturbing-it was definitely a new trick for Val and he pulled it off pretty well except for the hair some of the time. He is older than the other freaks and tweakers in the film but he never seems out of place. But please, some low level user is going to get that close to big time dealers in a year or less? He looked way too healthy for one thing-that should have been a tip-off to Pooh-bear. I just never bought how fast he went from Joe Average to the poster child for Gak Anonymous.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Val Kilmer gives us Tom Van Allen, a jazz musician embarked on a quest through the world of methamphetamine dealers, users and other predators. Kilmer is wonderful, as usual, in this alternately harrowing and hilarious post-Pulp Fiction noir thriller.

    The whole cast is pretty wonderful as well. I especially enjoyed Vincent D'Onofrio as an eccentric drug dealer who has clearly been too long in the high desert.

    The real standout element of the film, however, is the photography by Amir Mokri. Unlike some neo-noir, Mokri and director D.J. Caruso effectively balance high-key daytime shots with the darker interior and night shots, and all of them are excellently done.

    The best elements of the screenplay are the many funny scenes, including a might-have-been heist gone wrong, a recreation of the JFK assassination, and a wonderful update of the "Easy Andy" scene from Taxi Driver.

    The Salton Sea is worth seeing for fans of Kilmer, noir or both.
  • This film begins so much like the classic 1940s film noir - complete with the nightmarish setting, the slow, mysterious first-person monologue, and the flashback sequences - that at first it might seem almost too "imitation." But don't be turned off! This one sets new high standards for the genre.

    No matter how you define "film noir," this film offers the best of the classic style along with a brilliant, modern theme. Yes, it's one of those dramas in which all the players are "bad guys" in one way or another. And yes, it is also about squalid, tragic, miserable lives and situations that are fascinating on screen but where we wouldn't want to go in real life. And finally, it follows the time-honored plot formula involving treacherous motives, decadence and corruption, and double-cross -- and, of course, the surprise ending.

    I can't say this movie is for everyone. It's a film for adults who can appreciate a complicated, sinister thriller. The backdrop of urban slums and rural blight might be depressing to some, but I find it to be an absolutely brilliant and essential backdrop to the story. Is the violence excessive? Probably, but that's usually the case these days. In any case, it isn't pointless.

    The dialogue (and the continuous first-person narrative) is top-notch. The characters are morbidly fascinating and unforgettable. This film's trip into the seamy world of the tweekers (meth heads) and its ominous tale of revenge make for a truly great film.
  • Val Kilmer stars as Tom, a trumpet player, or is that Danny, a low life tweaker? I don't know, you decide. This film is a tense crime drama or was that a journey through the human mind with comedic overtones like Fight Club, or could it have been a drug analogy like Trainspotting? I don't know, you decide. The theme of the film involves one mans quest for vengence or was it one mans quest to renew himself, maybe it was one mans quest to find his identity? I don't know, you decide. Get the picture yet? Val Kilmer is one man with two identites. As Tom he is out to hunt down the men who killed his wife. As Danny he is helping a pair of cops make their drug busts to keep him out of jail. Both men are walking down the same path but they come to a fork in the road. Path one, forget everything and take the easy way out. Path two, the long hard road to success filled with corruption, greed, scandal and drugs galore. At the end of either path, Poo Bear, a fat, psychotic, rec-neck drug dealer with no nose. The story is very complex and director D.J, Caruso does a fabulous job od weaving together the life of Tom and the life od Danny and brings them together very nicely in the end. I also like how he portrays Danny as a guy who isn't really in tune with reality. Curaso's camera movement make it seem like the world is going on around him, but Danny doesn't seem to be living in it. Val Kilmer is finally given a role that he can shine in and Vincent D'Onofrio is either an idiot or a genious for taking one the role of Poo-Bear, one of the most original villians I have seen in years. The film is brilliant in how complex in which the story is told but that is also the films biggest downfall. It has so many genres rolled into one that it is often tedious until about half way through when the film finally finds itself and steadies out. It's original, it's complex, it's compelling, it suspenseful, it's funny and it's honest, it's everything you could ask for but is it worth checking out? I don't know, I haven't decided yet, but I like it's odds.
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