Film review by: Witney Seibold
“Southland Tales” is like watching a dump truck full of vomit exploding in slow motion. It’s utterly gross, few would think to film something so bizarre, and it’s undeniably awesome. It’s not just messed up, it’s seriously insane.
So here’s the story, and boy oh boy, is it ever a doozy: In 2005, Abilene, TX was destroyed by a terrorist nuclear bomb. The USAPATRIOT act went into a horrific swing, allowing, in 2008, the formation of USIdent, a 24-hour surveillance network that polices everything from streetcorners to the Internet. There are armed guards stationed throughout town. Also, the entertainment industry has compressed into an amalgam of reality TV, wargames, and porn. An extreme leftist resistance has spring up, calling themselves Neo-Marxists. The Neo-Marxists (led by the likes of Nora Dunn, Amy Poehler, and a surprisingly cut Cheri Oteri) have two plans to discredit an upcoming Neo-Con vice-presidential debate: 1) they will frame and blackmail an action-film star named Boxer Santaros (Dwayne Johnson) with a sex tape featuring porn superstar and reality-show host Krysta Now (Sarah Michelle Gellar), discrediting Mrs. Santaros (Mandy Moore), who is the daughter of the vice-presidential candidate (Holmes Osbourne). Oh, incidentally, the wife of said candidate is Nana Mae Frost (Miranda Richardson) who controls USIdent. And his assistant is played by John Larroquette. Also, Boxer and Krysta have written a screenplay which could possibly be an accurate prophecy of things to come. 2) The Neo-Marxists will also frame a racist cop (Seann William Scott) by implicating him in a staged shooting using the cop’s twin brother. Oh, and the government has ties to a great big offshore drilling rig run by a mysterious man known as the Baron (Wallace Shawn) and his cadre of kooky mad scientists (including Bai Ling, Curtis Armstrong, and Zelda Rubinstein) where they produce renewable energy nicknamed Fluid Karma, but are also secretly producing a powerful drug there by the same name. Hooked to the drug is the film’s narrator, a veteran of Fallujah (Justin Timberlake), who patrols the beaches with a big, big gun. He is also a buddy of the aforementioned racist cop. Oh, and Christopher Lambert appears as an ice-cream truck driver/arms dealer.
Not content to merely play things out like a complicated political satire, writer/director/masturbator Richard Kelly (“Donnie Darko”) also starts a strange science-fiction story that leads to the very apocalypse itself. Boxer is able to be manipulated because he returned from a desert trip with amnesia. It turns out that, somehow, he was forced through a time rift (!). And the rift has something to do with the Fluid Karma guys. And there’s a big finale on board a flying superblimp on July 4th. And the blimp is flown by an aged man played by director Kevin Smith in age makeup. And John Lovitz appears as a racist cop. And if two characters meet, the world will end. And Justin Timberlake has a song-and-dance number to a song by The Killers. And endlessly, endlessy repeated throughout the film are two dubious catchphrases: “Pimps don’t commit suicide,” and the unpoetic “This is the way the world ends: Not with a whimper, but a bang.”
The film is two hours and 24 minutes, which is a full 20 minutes shorter than the notorious Cannes cut which elicited boos from the audiences there.
Dear Lord, this film is totally batcrap flipping insane. Richard Kelly, obviously listening to all the Darko-heads that repeatedly kept telling him he was brilliant, decided to go way, way off the rails with “Southland Tales.” Every bit of paranoia he had about the Bush administration, the end of the world, celebrity, porn, war, renewable energy, modern politics, American ideals, and underground resistance are all thrown into meatgrinder and ground into fine plump sausages of bloody confusion. Then he ties you to a chair for over two hours and forcefeeds you the sausages, telling you all the while how great they are.
This film is fantastic. Fan-fucking-tastic. It’s worth every jaw-dropping, oblong forcefed sausage of weirdness. It is an epically awful film, the kind of horrible that only great ambition could produce, and therefore awesome to behold. “Southland Tales” could honestly become a new standard by which other bad films are measured, a new “Showgirls,” if you will.
See it. I dare you.