Southland Tales - just as feared

Southland Tales
So I watched Richard Kelly's Southland Tales this weekend and it turned out to be pretty much exactly as I previously suspected - not good. I can only imagine the studio pressure to put out something magnificently epic after the sleeper success of Donnie Darko but this is absolutely a case of trying to do way too much at once.

The casting looks impressive on paper but in reality it ends up being distracted. Almost every character is played by someone recognizable - even Cheri Oteri and Jon Lovitz make the cut, as two subversive badasses. Doesn't that sound any alarms for anyone else? Cheri Oteri and Jon Lovitz as mercenary types? Though that's the least of a movies casting problems when The Rock, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Seann William Scott are your lead protagonists (though I will admit, Seann William Scott was quite good for the part). Justin Timberlake, Amy Poehler, Mandy Moore, Nora Dunn, Miranda Richardson (aka poor mans Julianne Moore) and Kevin Smith are also amongst the cast. Impressive on paper, distracting in execution.

But none of that speaks to the plot of the film that was nothing if not entirely ambitious. And by that I mean it was trying to tell a six-part story by delving into parts 4, 5 and 6 with a crap load of narration up front to help catch you up. It's a lot of information to take in for a plotline that's convulted to begin with. Your basic plot points are: 1984 style government security takeover being attacked by subversive Marxist movement, high-profile actor with amnesia attempts to research a role while unknowningly fulfilling a prophechy and a pair of police officers possibly unraveling the fabric of space and time. That's a lot to stuff into 144 minutes. In fact, too much.

In this case I think the movie studios did the right thing by burying this and, hopefully, it will see a quiet DVD release and no one will need speak of it again. My fingers are crossed that the next Kelly film will deliver the way Darko did - not with a bang but with a quiet, building initial whisper.


  • I'm tempted to think it's a bad thing that every movie people think will be bad does, in fact, suck. Perhaps it was always this way.
    david on Monday, March 10th, 2008 @ 2:44pm
  • I would have been elated to report that the movie wasn't convulted and too much.. but it just wasn't so.
    Michael on Monday, March 10th, 2008 @ 2:46pm
  • sound great!
    jeremy on Monday, March 10th, 2008 @ 3:00pm
  • truly terrible. I don't have much hope for the next either considering it seems to follow the same casting southland had, with Cameron Diaz and James Marsden. Hopefully I am wrong.
    mike on Monday, March 10th, 2008 @ 3:25pm
  • Saw it this past weekend too. I made it about 25 minutes in before my bullshit meter rose to level orange. It makes me wonder, was Donnie Darko a fluke? Was it accidentally good? My answer is yes. I come to that conclusion based on the "Directors Cut" of Donnie Darko. Have you seen it? HORRIBLE, cheesy, overdone graphics and a tainted story line. Donnie Darko is an amazing film when cut like it was in the theatre. As much as I hate the studio, focus groups, etc. that's one time it actually helped. Southland Tales was fucking laughable. The graphics alone in the intro are so cheesy it makes me want to write a letter.
    M.A. Turner on Monday, March 10th, 2008 @ 4:08pm
  • i was really hoping this movie wouldn't be as bad as i've been reading. i'll probably catch it on dvd, but i'm not expecting much. sad.
    davis on Monday, March 10th, 2008 @ 4:50pm
  • wait ... it's out ?!?! where ?!!? fuck i wanna see it so bad & won't read the review you gave michael until i do. i refuse to believe it's bad ... please say it's not so. but yeah, how did you see it ? i will search new york head to toe right now ...
    caspar on Monday, March 10th, 2008 @ 5:27pm
  • I think it had a super limited run in theatres and now I believe it's probably being mulled over if it should be released on DVD or not. Fortunately, BitTorrent does not care if it's out on DVD or not.. screener copies to the rescue. So, yea, I just downloaded it and watched it on the TV via the Mini.
    Michael on Monday, March 10th, 2008 @ 5:30pm
  • i can't believe this. it's out of theatres already in new york. what. the. fuck. i am seriously unhappy about this. how can this have passed me by. damn.
    caspar on Monday, March 10th, 2008 @ 5:32pm
  • Probably because there is zero advertising because the film is terrible. Now that I've set your expectations to an all time low - you will probably love it.
    Michael on Monday, March 10th, 2008 @ 5:35pm
  • MA Turner nailed it. Darko was a fluke. Kelly is a complete hack saved by a producer who re-edited Darko for release.
    Fred on Monday, March 10th, 2008 @ 6:44pm
  • I wish I could argue with that but I have zero evidence that says otherwise. The 'Directors Cut' of Darko was completely lame / un-needed and Southland Tales was.. well.. you all know how I feel about it. That's two strikes and The Box could easily be his third. Fortunately I've got the non-directors cut Darko on DVD and I still think it is fantastic.
    Michael on Monday, March 10th, 2008 @ 10:31pm
  • Ah shit. I had my copy of DD stolen and on repurchase I picked up the Director's Cut. Bad Idea.
    Mat on Tuesday, March 11th, 2008 @ 3:48pm
  • thanks for the scoop, michael. i will do whatever i can to see it in the cinema. despite the poor reviews i'm determined to give this director the respect he deserves. i still think the director's cut of DD was just fine. we've all had this argument before, but from a fan's perspective it was just more goodness & i relished it. also, for the record, it didn't reveal anything the website by hi-res! hadn't done so previously. richard kelly let them have all the extra texts, info & cut scenes to make that site a good companion to the original release. he then just merged them more for the directors cut. it's still one of the best websites ever made too.
    caspar on Wednesday, March 12th, 2008 @ 5:29pm

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