Southland Tales

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Southland Tales Movie Poster Image
Apocalyptic thriller is a strange, violent mess.
  • R
  • 2007
  • 144 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 16+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Nearly everyone behaves badly -- cheating, lying, stealing, and killing. Some racial epithets are used. That said, Gellar and Johnson's characters appear to have hearts of gold.


Unrelenting. It starts with a bomb going off and includes many shootings (some up close), a hit and run, a soldier running around with one eye shot out, and a massive climactic explosion.


Scantily clad female porn stars prance around and frankly discuss world affairs and their business. A married man hooks up with one of them (no outright nudity). Another woman, also scantily clad, French-kisses her boss. A car is shown copulating with another vehicle (yes, you read that right).


You name it, they say it (and frequently, too): "s--t," "a--hole," "c--k," "dick," and the ubiquitous "f--k."


Lots of brands and products -- though, for the most part, they're not real ones. For example, the logo of fictional government agency USIDent is constantly flashed onscreen; a TV channel, a la CNN, becomes part of the storytelling; and a carmaker's commercial runs repeatedly.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Southland residents shoot up at a moment's notice using mechanized syringes. There's tons of drinking, and, in the end, the streets are riddled with inebriated people.

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).

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

Teen, 15 years old Written byhaithurmiranda May 20, 2009

Not good for teens who don't like to think.

Easily my favorite movie. I thought of it as a combination of my two favorite movies (Repo! the genetic opera and Donnie Darko) with major plot points being dir... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old April 30, 2009


I Really like The Rock and sarah Michelle geller but this film really diseponted me it was too many things at once!!!!! The Languge was horrible!!!! this film w... Continue reading

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?

Movie details

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