southlandtalesWhen I saw the star packed line-up for this film, I felt like this movie couldn’t disappoint. Then add to that this being the second film by Donnie Darko creator Richard Kelly and you are thinking to yourself that this could be something special. ‘Southland Tales’ made it to a few hundred theaters, receiving a limited worldwide release. With a total box office gross of $368,000, the film sat on shelves for over a year before it was released in the theaters and then several months later on DVD.

The story of ‘Southland Tales’ is a wild ride that has multiple ongoing storylines that weave in and out of the central tale. On July 4, 2005 there are nuclear attacks on both El Paso and Albiene, TX that decimates the both cities. This sets the backdrop for World War III which is shown via an animated short at the beginning of the film.

The Patriot Act gets extended with the creation of a new agency US-IDent that was created to keep an eye on citizens like big brother. In this alternate world, the internet is restricted and outlawed from usage. There is also a fuel shortage, which Germany would find an alternative fuel via water. Things do not sound so good if we ever get to World War III in the real world if this ever came true.

Boxer Santaros (Dwayne Johnson) is a high profile actor that wakes up in the desert with no memory. He is married to Madeline Frost (Mandy Moore) who is the daughter of a senator that is running for the Presidential election. While Madeline is worrying about the whereabouts of her husband, Krysta Now (Sarah Michelle Gellar) a porn star is trying to make it on the Hollywood scene shacks up with Boxer. Boxer believes that he is with Krysta. Krysta is not alone in tricking Boxer that they are together; she enlists the help of this group of revolutionaries that will set the plan in motion. Veronica Mung (Amy Poehler) and Zora Charmichaels (Cheri Oteri) are spinning the wheel that turns all the chaos in motion. They start by taking Ronald (Seann William Scott) a police officer, that they confuse him to the point where he thinks he is going insane. As all this is going on, Private Pilot Abilene (Justin Timberlake) is watching through his sniper rifle. Abilene is also our narrator throughout the entire film.

There are so many twists and turns that it fits in perfectly with what the overall underlying tone of this film’s goal. Like a George A. Romero film where there is an underlying meaning, this film hits you right in the face. There is politics and religion plastered all over this film. The tone of the film is apparent throughout and never a mystery for the viewer.

The problem with ‘Southland Tales’ is that there is way too much going on for its own good. A few were miscast, really bringing the film down a notch for me. Dwayne Johnson being one of them and I am a fan of his work. I felt like he wasn’t serious in this role with certain scenes that made him look as if he was ripped out of a comic book. Another issue that I had is that we are introduced to so many characters and there is not enough time to build them up. It is a shame because some of the cast would have been great to give them more screen time. It is not like this is a short film either, ‘Southland Tales’ clocks in at 144 minutes. Things would have been good too if certain parts of the film were left in the editing room.

Print/Audio Quality
The print is presented in 1080p/AVC with a 2.40:1 aspect ratio. The film holds a rather soft image throughout while colors are vibrant. Details aren’t lacking at all, just take a look at Johnson’s tattoos for a good example in the kind of details that this film encompasses. Blacks are solid throughout the print. This is a very clean and pristine looking film for a moderate budget.

Audio is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix. The films soundtrack really takes advantage of the soundfield with any action sequences involving guns blazing to the fantastic score provided by Moby. The rears get a fairly good work out with a lot of shifting from speaker to speaker making this a dynamic sounding experience. Dialogue is well balanced and very clean. There are a lot scenes in this film with dialogue, this is a balanced mix.

Special Features
There are two special features that have been ported from the DVD version of the film, “USIdent TV: Surveilling the Southland” Featurette and “This Is The Way The World Ends”. “USIdent TV” is a 34-minute behind the scenes featurette with interviews from the cast and production crew. I found this featurette to be very informational as it really went inside the intricacies of the film helping make better sense. “This Is The Way The World Ends” is an animated short which is so off the wall, but fits right in with the political satire about the human race, except it is about a sea animal and the extinction of their species by the humans.

The Prequel Saga is a nice slideshow that tells the prequel of the story that leads right up to film’s story. Commentary With Writer/Director Richard Kelly is probably the best part of the special features as this was not available on the DVD version. Richard Kelly covers the production of the film, what it took to get this film made, and of course something that relates to the film about politics, the 2008 Presidential Election.

  • “USIdent TV: Surveilling the Southland” Featurette (33:47)
  • Animated Short: “This Is The Way The World Ends” (9:11)
  • Southland Tales: The Prequel Saga Graphic Novel Gallery
  • Commentary With Writer/Director Richard Kelly
  • Previews (16 Trailers)
  • BDLive Feature

‘Southland Tales’ is a very unusual film with a lot of twists and turns. This is part sci-fi, part action, and part comedy rolled all into one. By not fleshing out the characters and at 144 minutes long, ‘Southland Tales’ has you begging for more character build up.

List Price: $28.95, Sale Price: $19.95 – Order from Amazon Southland Tales [Blu-ray]