SOUTHLAND TALES (Sony, 2006) D: Richard Kelly, w/ Dwayne Johnson, Sarah Michelle Gellar. Rating: NNN; DVD package: NNN
Not too many making-of docs feature actors telling you they have zero clue what the movie’s about or where their character fits into it, though the script, they insist, is “brilliant.” This is maybe no surprise when you recall that writer/director Richard Kelly’s last outing was Donnie Darko, which was widely praised for its evocative ambiguities until a recut for the DVD revealed earlier mysteries to be mere inept storytelling.
Inept or not, Donnie Darko was fun, and so is Southland Tales, provided you’re up for sledgehammer satire delivered with a comic book/science fiction sensibility. Kelly cares nothing for normative realism and expects you to pick up the clues fast and extrapolate from them to the big picture.
We’re in an alternative present where American security forces are totally out of control and neo-Marxists concoct bizarre schemes to bring them down. Action movie star Boxer Santaros (Dwayne Johnson) disappears mysteriously, then returns an amnesiac to live with porn star Krysta Now (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and write a script that starts coming true. The fourth dimension opens up. The apocalypse impends.
Some of the cast get it and go for all-out farce. Wallace Shawn, as a greenspeaking slimeball with a new energy source, revels in the lunacy. On the other hand, Gellar delivers standard TV acting when she really needs to be channelling the Buffybot. Right in the middle, Johnson twitches and grins so awkwardly, you can’t tell if you’re watching his best performance or his worst.
EXTRAS Making-of doc, animated short. Widescreen. English, French, Spanish subtitles.