Apocalyptic thriller is a strange, violent mess.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that teens might be interested in this odd sci-fi dramedy from the director of Donnie Darko thanks to stars like Sarah Michelle Gellar, The Rock, and Seann William Scott. But it's gory, profane, and definitely not for kids. Guns are drawn (and shot) repeatedly, one female lead is a porn star (she and her compatriots are scantily clad, though never actually nude), and the world appears to be falling apart (as evidenced by explosions, drinking, drug use, and more). Language is strong and frequent, including "f--k," "s--t," and many more. All in all, it's a confused, chaotic, adults-only mess (albeit with some impressive cinematography and decent pacing).
A difficult narrative to follow, and a lot of actors performing against type
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What's the Story?
Set in Los Angeles in the year 2008, World War III has erupted, the environment is trashed, alternative fuels are king, veterans are returning from the front mentally and physically scarred beyond recognition, and civil liberties have been all but eradicated by the complete expansion of the Patriot Act. The son-in-law of the Republican vice presidential candidate, Boxer Santaros (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson), has shown up in the Southland (aka Southern California) unable to remember parts of his past. He hooks up with Krysta Now (Sarah Michelle Gellar) -- a porn star who has dreams of world domination -- and writes a screenplay that's dangerously prescient. Meanwhile, a soldier (Seann William Scott) desperately tries to track him down as Neo-Marxists threaten to take over.
Is It Any Good?
While Richard Kelly's 2001 cult-hit feature Donnie Darko put his name on the map, SOUTHLAND TALES just might erase it. And not because the director doesn't have any talent. In fact, the movie proves he has loads of it: His eye for detail is impressive, and he takes chances, which is more than you can say about most filmmakers these days. But sadly, Southland Tales is a disjointed, muddled mess.
Ambitious and arresting to the eye -- the gray palette serves the film well -- it's too bad that Southland Tales is also pretentious, chaotic, and tries too hard. How Kelly persuaded the likes of Wallace Shawn, Amy Poehler, Justin Timberlake, Cheri Oteri, and Mandy Moore to go along for the ride is confounding. Bai Ling seems much more the right speed.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about why Hollywood is enamored with apocalyptic scenarios and political conspiracies. What kind of statement is the filmmaker trying to make in this move? How has he been influenced by present-day politics? Do you think the future will really be as dreary as he sees it?
- In theaters: November 14, 2007
- On DVD or streaming: March 17, 2008
- Cast: Dwayne The Rock Johnson, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Seann William Scott
- Director: Richard Kelly
- Studio: Samuel Goldwyn Company
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 144 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language, violence, sexual material and some drug content.
- Last updated: March 6, 2023
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