When it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2006, Southland Tales was a disaster. The critics savaged director Richard Kelly's follow-up to Donnie Darko, calling it incomprehensible, self indulgent and far too long. For this commercial release, Kelly has given the film a thorough makeover, dumping 20 minutes and adding new footage designed to make the story easier to follow.
Southland Tales is an absolutely infuriating film. There is so much brilliantly wacky stuff in here that it ought to be a great movie almost by default. You've got Sarah Michelle Gellar as a washed-up porn star, Chris Lambert selling rocket launchers from an ice cream van, renegade scientists, a rift in the space-time continuum, a zeppelin powered by fluid karma, tanks sponsored by Hustler, guns that bend around corners, Neo-Marxist terrorists, nuclear explosions, TS Eliot... and it still basically sucks.
"TOO MUCH SIZZLE AND NOT ENOUGH STEAK"
The most obvious problem is that nobody has the faintest idea what is going on - even Dwayne Johnson, who is arguably the film's star, has admitted that he doesn't understand the plot. The agonising pace of the film doesn't help either. Southland Tales aspires to meld the satirical sci-fi of Kurt Vonnegut with the mesmerising weirdness of David Lynch, but Kelly hasn't yet found the filmmaking skill to match his vaulting imagination, and what we get instead is a numbing freakshow peppered with awful performances and teasing flashes of brilliance. There's too much sizzle and not enough steak.
Southland Tales is out in the UK on 7th December 2007.