Southland Tales (2006)

R   |    |  Comedy, Drama, Mystery


Southland Tales (2006) Poster

During a three day heat wave just before a huge 4th of July celebration, an action star stricken with amnesia meets up with a porn star who is developing her own reality TV project, and a policeman who holds the key to a vast conspiracy.

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5.5/10
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  • John Larroquette in Southland Tales (2006)
  • Southland Tales (2006)
  • Wood Harris and Amy Poehler in Southland Tales (2006)
  • Richard Kelly in Southland Tales (2006)
  • Kevin Smith in Southland Tales (2006)
  • Bai Ling in Southland Tales (2006)

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Reviews & Commentary

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User Reviews


2 December 2007 | snow0r
6
| big, messy, but enjoyable
You can get a pretty good idea of Southland Tales from a quick description of its characters. Dwayne Johnson plays Boxer Santaros, a movie star in Richard Kelly's all-too-near dystopian future. But it's not that straightforward. Johnson plays The Rock playing Boxer Santaros, while Boxer is playing the role of a character he's researching, one Jericho Kane. Sarah Michelle Gellar plays an ageing porn-star with a business portfolio that includes energy drinks. And Sean William Scott? Well, he plays a cop's amnesiac twin brother, as part of a neo-Marxist scheme to overthrow the government. Or does he? And you thought Donnie Darko was confusing. Welcome to Southland...

The year is 2008. Justin Timberlake - did I forget to mention him? He plays a drugged-up Iraq war veteran with a huge scar on his face. Who sits in a huge chair with a huge rifle, guarding "Fluid Karma", an ultra-valuable perpetual motion wave machine that is the new form of power since oil has become rare and therefore massively expensive. Politics, anyone? Anyway, JT (who might be telepathic) narrates over an introduction comprised of graphic novel slides and MTV-meets-FOX news bulletins that guides us from our present to the "present" of Kelly's 2008 Southland. The passage of time has not been kind to the US; a nuke has gone off in Texas, and the country has become a police state. The most "recent" clip reveals that Boxer (played by Dwayne Johnson playing The Rock) has disappeared without a trace, which is where the movie begins. Or does it? By this stage, you just might have gotten the impression that Southland Tales is a bit of a mess. And you'd be right. Kelly's attempt at a politically-charged all-encompassing comment on the world that can also appeal to the youth of today does ultimately fall flat, but that's not to say it's without its merits. The satire's often sharp, and the way the movie skips from genre-to-genre (dystopian conspiracy to Scooby Doo farce to musical to action movie) works surprisingly well without jarring too much. The music, while not perfect (I'm pretty sure Black Rebel Motorcycle Club won't have the kind of comeback that allows them to host LA's 4th of July weekend party next year...) creates some of the movie's more memorable moments, such as JT's Killers dance number and the captivating three-way dance toward the end.

The deliberately exaggerated performances are, for the most part, very good, with Johnson capturing the action man (playing an action man - going through a crisis - playing an action man) role very well. The way he switches from the kind of guy who pours beer over himself as a form of refreshment to jittery neurotic mess is both funny and engaging, allowing you to see a little of the man beneath the steely facade.

Unfortunately, this is as close as you'll get to the characters. While the overplaying is amusing, it excludes you on an emotional level. Donnie Darko worked so well because it drew you in, but Southland seems to deliberately keep you at arm's length lest you miss out on some of Kelly's political messages. For all its mystery, intrigue, and action, it feels a bit soulless, and goes out with a whimper as opposed to the bang it so desires.

Southland Tales is an ambitious film, but a messy one, and while it may not work on the kind of level it's aspiring to, in a movie climate where so many films play it safe, at least Kelly tries. Very flawed, but entertaining nonetheless.

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Did You Know?

Trivia

The rabbit head logo from Donnie Darko appears on a poster on the side of the building from which Sean William Scott jumps to escape the UPU.


Quotes

Private Pilot Abilene: In the aftermath of nuclear attacks in Texas, America found itself on the brink of anarchy.
Private Pilot Abilene: World War III had begun.
Private Pilot Abilene: The accelerated conflict in the Middle East placed significant restrictions on American access to oil. Alternative fuel sources ...
USI Dent Reporter: ...


Goofs

After Pilot Abilene (Justin Timberlake) sings "All These Things That I Have Done", Roland Tavener (Seann William Scott) is found lying on the ground. He gets up and starts to run, leaving his radio on the pavement. Later, we see Roland Tavener walking down the sidewalk with the radio back on his belt.


Crazy Credits

After the credits, a logo appears of a thumbprint over an American flag with the words: "DON'T TOUCH ME"


Alternate Versions

Originally running for 160 minutes, Southland Tales premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2006 to a disastrous reception. Because of this, it was re-edited and shortened in length as part of the distribution deal. Since the shortened version was shown theatrically and released on DVD, the Cannes cut has been shown on Cable TV and DVD releases in Europe. Some of the changes between the theatrical cut and the Cannes cut are as follows:

  • Opens the same as theatrical cut, with home video in Abilene, except with music ('Water Pistol' by Moby) and runs longer. Video is also shown in its original aspect ratio, instead of cropped for 2.35:1.
  • Doomsday Scenario Interface is not present in the original cut, it was added to provide background information present in the graphic novels. Instead we have narration from Pilot Abilene explaining the present situation and Treer Corporation.
  • The meeting between the Baron and Hideo Takehashi takes place much earlier in the film, Pilot explains the Baron dislikes Takehashi.
  • The character of General Teena MacArthur is more fleshed out in original cut, she mainly communicates with General Simon Theory and the Baron.
  • Many scenes with dialog between main characters have been extended i.e. scenes with Boxer & Roland, Krysta & Cyndi, Boxer & Starla, Cyndi & Vaughn Smallhouse etc.
  • Pilot explains that Bart Bookman is an 'angry man' with a willingness to die.
  • Some events that take place are better explained in original cut e.g. Boxer ringing Fortunio before meeting him, Serpentine explaining her actions at the end.
  • Features additional effects of the blimp not in theatrical version.
  • Features music by Moby not present in theatrical version i.e. 'Ceanograph' is heard in scene giving information on the rift, 'Hotel Intro' is heard as characters visit different sections on the blimp.


Soundtracks

Blue Paper
Written and Performed by
Moby
Courtesy of V2 Records/Mute Ltd.

Storyline

Plot Summary


Synopsis (WARNING: Spoilers)


Genres

Comedy | Drama | Mystery | Sci-Fi | Thriller

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