“I'm a pimp... and pimps don't commit suicide.” – Boxer Santaros
Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales messes with your mind – I’m sad to say. I love a movie that puzzles and baffles like when David Lynch pulls the rug out from beneath your feet (Lost Highway) or from beneath the entire living room (Mulholland Dr) or even out from under the whole world (Inland Empire). But Southland Tales isn’t messing with my mind in a good way. The puzzle I’m facing here is trying to figure out how someone gave Kelly permission – and money – to make such a mess in the first place.
I’ll simply say that Southland Tales is inept in every way imaginable. Technically it is graceless and ugly. It is horribly acted even below my expectations based on the chops of The Rock, Justin Timberlake, and Mandy Moore. And the script sets new standards for stupidity well beneath any Golden Turkey ever celebrated.
Try this line out and see if it stumbles from your tongue as gracelessly as it did from The Rock’s: “My character... he realizes that the apocalyptic crime rate is because of global deceleration. The rotation of the earth is slowing down at a rate of point zero, zero, zero, zero, zero, zero, zero six miles per hour each day disrupting the chemical equilibrium in the human brain causing very irrational criminal behavior.” (Okay, I’ll admit that line did make me laugh.)
As for Kelly’s direction, hmm... the tone and style of the film was scattered in so many directions – often at the same time – that I don’t even know by how far he missed the target. (Maybe he never had a target to begin with.)
Against my better judgment, I’ll try to give Kelly a fair trial and see if I can clear him of all charges:
I really enjoyed the first few scenes of Southland Tales. It opens with an outdoor barbecue being captured by a hand-held camcorder when suddenly there is an explosion and a huge mushroom cloud forms in the distance. I thought, "Cool — I’ve always found mushroom clouds to be highly photogenic." It then moves into a sort of mock television newscast segment where we learn about how the Republican party is evil and their opposition is something called the Neo-Marxists. (I thought, “That’s pretty simplistic and muddle-headed,” but, heck, I was still going along with it.)