Justin Peterson’s review published on Letterboxd:
While I admire Southland Tales for going big, it is ultimately an incomprehensible mess of a movie.
"This is the way the World ends. Not with a whimper, but with a bang."
This review just like the movie is sponsored by Bud Light and Hustler. After hearing Southland Tales compared to my favorite film of 2019 so far, 'Under The Silver Lake', I had to check this notorious cult film out for myself, and I think the comparisons are a bit of a stretch. Yes they are both weird second films from Directors, set in LA that got panned at Cannes. But that is about it. It is really interesting to hear Director Richard Kelly talk about the film, by saying it got to big for him to handle and he considers neither the short or long versions to be complete. This story apparently starts in its fourth chapter, and has three prequel graphic novels that got into more detail to setup the movie.
Just hearing the cast list alone for this is hilarious:
Sarah Michelle Gellar
A shot of Janeane Garofalo
The Highlander himself Christopher Lambert
I think Eli Roth getting shot on a toilet
Seann William Scott
Zelda May Rubinstein
And Wallace Shawn just to name a few!
What the fuck are all these people doing in this movie?? It is like they assembled this huge list of typecasted actors, and dumped them all into the script ... no wonder they ran out of money.
So the film starts out with Richard Kelly doing his best impression of a Paul Verhoeven political satire, as he sets the stage with an atomic blast in Texas leading to WW3. This causes the United States to crack down on state border control and the Internet... but that does not really mean anything for the plot.
Let me do my best to try to explain the actual plot:
We go to LA where the Republican party must win California to win the White House. One of their spokesmen is an actor played by the Rock, who has disappeared. But then we see that he has turned up with amnesia and is with this Celebrity Porn Star played by Sarah Michelle Gellar. She is working with this extremist group that is trying to blackmail the Republicans with footage of the Rock and the porn star.
Let's go ahead and throw up that spoiler warning now, in case you want to take this all in fresh for yourself.
Did I mention Justin Timberlake was the narrator? Is this important, not really. All we know is that he was involved in a friendly fire incident in Iraq. Shoots people from this machine gun stand he sits on. And he breaks into this random song covered in blood halfway through the movie.
The Rock goes out to get ready for his new movie by filming a street cop played Seann William Scott, who has a doppelganger because he time traveled. At one point he jokingly starts saying the N word, which I guess was some kind of half-assed commentary about police being bad. They show up to this domestic disturbance, where another cop hijacks the situation and he guns down two people that were supposed to be getting fake killed. This event happening apparently had something to do with the extremist group.
Did I mention the wife of the Republican candidate is in charge of this Government surveillance organization, but her watching the events on all her monitors does nothing to advance the plot. Also now seems like a good time to mention the porn star is supposed to be funny because she is starting her own product line, and has a talk show where she talks about porn and dumb stuff with other porn stars. There is plenty of unnecessary profanity in this.
The Rock figures out who he is and goes to track down the truth. He figures out that he also time traveled, but his doppelganger did not survive. Also Wallace Shawn is this energy tech mogul who has created this new energy called Fluid Karma that can remotely power vehicles. Also this energy is slowing down the rotation of the earth and is causing the time travel stuff.
An Iraq War veteran takes over an Ice Cream truck that was being used as a gun store. The Ice Cream truck flies up to where the Republican's Zepplin is, and he shoots it down with a rocket launcher. The CGI of this guy standing on an Ice Cream truck high above the LA skyline was not very good, but the moment did remind me of 'Repo Man'. Seann William Scott's doppelgangers come face to face, and there is a bright light and apparently the world ends.
"I'm a pimp. And pimps don't commit suicide"
So what did this all mean? I am not really sure, but I think it is meant to be this silly mess of a narrative that pokes fun at different things along the way.
Let's talk about some more of the random stuff that Southland Tales services up:
- There was a scene toward the end on the Zepplin, of this gorgeous singer. And I was thinking this seems awfully familiar to the singer from 'Mulholland Drive', and sure enough it was the same lady, Rebekah Del Rio. She sings a patriotic song in Spanish, which I guess is commentary on immigration reform. I found that most of the symbolism in this film was obvious and on the nose.
- The very distinct font choice on the poster and title card is seen throughout the whole movie. I guess I liked it, since they may have been going for that graphic novel look they would later expand on
- There are several little people that work at the surveillance department, and at least one on a SWAT team
- The Rock has a Jesus tattoo on his back the bleeds at the end
- O ya, The Rock and the porn star say they wrote a screenplay called 'The Power'. But that goes nowhere
- Did I mention Kevin Smith is in this with a big white beard
- There is a lady that loves Cheetos who approaches the Rock and says she will kill herself if she can't give him a blowjob
- There is some drug use, that leads to these vision distortions. I guess the film in general is commenting on soldiers with PTSD. Kelly seems so bitter about the Bush administration in general in this movie
- The guy that was hired to help deploy the blood packs for the couple that was supposed to pretend to be killed, gets run over by a cop car while rollerblading, and that was really funny
- There is a car commercial of two cars having sex. Possibly poking fun at sex sells consumer marketing
- The Japanese Prime Minister wants to get his finger chopped off to get Fluid Karama, but instead they chop off his whole hand
- Lots of shots of computers zooming in on human skeleton/muscle structures
- These random guys, one in board shorts with orange hair guns down the lady in charge of the surveillance department
- There are plenty of references to the book of Revelations
- Seann William Scott's character appears to consume his doppelganger at the end, but I am not sure why that matters if the world is ending. I guess either him or the Rock represent Jesus
With as big of a CF as this movie is, I was still mostly entertained by it. And I am fascinated by the Director's intent, and how such a messy film came together. I would be curious to see the additional footage brought back in, but I doubt that it would improve it much.
Thanks for reading!
Happy movie watching ... SKOL!