Southland Tales

Rated NR

In this alternate-history tale, El Paso and Abilene, Texas, are destroyed by nuclear terrorism, and the government goes even more Big Brother with the creation of the US-IDENT program, sort of a PATRIOT Act with a retro-Stalin hairdo. Meanwhile, action-film star Boxer Santaros (Dwayne Johnson) is wandering around in a confused state, and falls into the hands of some neo-Marxists (Nora Dunn, Cheri Oteri) who are using a police officer’s twin brother (Seann William Scott) to discredit the government’s new free-energy program. As an evil scientist (Wallace Shawn) ogles his offensive-stereotype assistant (Bai Ling), a senator who would be president (Holmes Osborne) tries to find the fiancé of his daughter (Mandy Moore)—the aforementioned Boxer Santaros. Everything converges on a perpetual-motion zeppelin for an explosive, messianic conclusion. If this sounds like fun, it’s not! It’s a poorly shot mess with atrocious performances that comes across like a Saturday Night Live sketch from the drug days, as filmed by the crew from Full House. Boring, convoluted, pretentious and, most tragically, lacking humanity,Southland Tales fails to engage with its obvious jabs at big government, complex conspiracy theories and the shallowness of Los Angeles. Sadly, it’s by Donnie Darko creator Richard Kelly, from whom one would expect much, much more. If you just want to toss a few bucks Kelly’s way as a tribute for his fine work on Darko, go ahead and check out Southland, but you should probably go in with low expectations, a tiny flashlight and a good book.

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