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Southland Tales
Review written on: November 18th, 2007

Southland Tales Review

As I write this, my mind is racing. Considering this film has multiple plots, subplots and allusions, it’s going to be difficult to pinpoint what the whole thing is about. But I’ll give it a shot.

In 2005, there is some big nuclear attack in Abilene, Texas, which throws the United States into World War III. Now set in circa 2008 Los Angeles, right before the Presidential election, the country has been reduced to a state much like George Orwell’s controversial novel 1984, where we are constantly being monitored by a “Big Brother”-like faction. On another note, there is a corporation that wants to introduce a new kind of energy to the masses that is propelled by the movement of the ocean. Combating against the government is a neo-Marxist movement hell bent on national revolution.

The central characters are strangely connected: Boxer Santaros (Dwayne Johnson) is a film star married to the daughter (Mandy Moore) of the politician running for Vice President. Santaros has been stricken with amnesia and has been shacking up with former porn star Krysta Now (Sarah Michelle Gellar). Krysta is trying to go straight and renew herself as a serious journalist and celebrity. However the round-table discussions with her fellow adult film stars on her television show sound more like a teenage sleepover. In a nutshell, she’s a complete ditz. The two of them have written a screenplay about the inevitable impending apocalypse. LAPD officer Roland Taverner (Seann William Scott) is trying to do his duty as a law enforcement official, but his twin brother has a different plan. Pilot Abilene (Justin Timberlake) is a veteran of the war in Iraq, and he spits out Biblical quotes as he narrates the film. Is your head spinning yet?

The thing is, this is an overly ambitious picture, both in material and concept. I consider that to be both strength and weakness for this kind of film. Actually, in this case, it’s more of a drawback. I like a number of things going on at the same time as much as the next person, but when everything gets so complicated that you start taking notes in your head to keep everything straight, then it’s time to put the brakes on. It also didn’t help that the action kept dragging and a random musical number that tried to be reminiscent of The Big Lebowski was just thrown in.

As for the performances, I can’t help but visualize Scott in his career-making role as Stifler or Justin Timberlake as a pop singer, but I will admit that both of their ranges are certainly growing. Gellar has not impressed me in the last few films that I’ve seen her in, and this “airheaded porn star” deal didn’t change that. Johnson has pretty much abandoned his wrestling persona (Good idea? Bad idea?), and is starting to get the hang of the subtle nuances of film acting, so his performance showed that.

One fellow moviegoer sitting behind me apparently fell asleep during the feature and was snoring, and after the film was over, I overheard some others talking about how “painful” it was to sit through. Not exactly what you would call a ringing endorsement, but I would have to agree. To me, it was excruciating to sit through almost 2 hours of over-inflated ostentation. Thank goodness I will never have to see it again.

 

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