Southland Tales (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner06/12/2007

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 145 mins

A glorious, sprawling mess of a film that delights and infuriates in equal measure and is certain to achieve cult status as a result.

What's it all about?
Richard Kelly's long-awaited follow-up to Donnie Darko is set in Los Angeles in 2008, shortly after a nuclear attack on Texas kicks off World War III. The ensemble cast of characters includes: action star Boxer Santaros (Dwayne Johnson), who disappears and is found in the desert, suffering from amnesia; Boxer's girlfriend, porn star-turned-TV-host Krysta Now (Sarah Michelle Gellar); and police officer Roland Taverner (Seann William Scott), who's kidnapped and replaced by his own twin as part of a plot by a group of neo-Marxist revolutionaries.

Meanwhile, a repressive government regime is monitoring the internet, a scientist (Wallace Shawn) is testing a new form of wireless energy and a soldier (Justin Timberlake, whose character also narrates) keeps watch on Venice Beach, where snipers pick off anyone who looks suspicious.

The Good
The film is extremely difficult to categorise, being part comedy, part sci-fi thriller, part Twin Peaks-style TV show and even part musical, with Timberlake's character doing an impromptu music video to a Killers song for no apparent reason. The plot is brain-numbingly complex and large parts of it make no sense at all, but it's still a lot of fun trying to figure out what's going on.

Kelly has assembled a wonderfully eclectic cast that includes Miranda Richardson and Christopher Lambert alongside nominal stars Johnson and Gellar. Johnson, in particular is fantastic as Boxer – his actorly tic of playing with his hands whenever he's confused is just one of many delightful touches.

The Bad
To be fair, Southland Tales won't be to everyone's taste, as it's both self-indulgent and frustratingly rough around the edges, despite Kelly spending the last 18 months re-editing it since it was booed at Cannes.

Worth seeing?
Essentially, Southland Tales should be filed under fascinating failure. Is it a work of genius or a total disaster? You decide. At any rate, the good definitely outweighs the bad and there are moments of genuine brilliance amongst the badness. Worth seeing.

Film Trailer

Southland Tales (15)
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Content updated: 23/09/2018 14:44

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