Southland Tales

writer and director: Richard Kelly

138 minutes (15) 2006
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Universal DVD Region 2 retail

reviewed by Mike Philbin

Starring: literally hundreds of Hollywood actors, and pop star Justin Timberlake…

Philbin, you’re an idiot, what are you doing?


Who stars in Southland Tales, Philbin? Come on, spill the tasty casting beans. Tell me now or, as your corporate conscience, I’ll demand your public execution some time in October.

Don’t worry about that, we’re all facing public execution some time in October, mostly thanks to a deadly vaccine for a non-deadly virus. But, anyway, on with the film review – what’s it about?

Well, this is where most, might I say mediocre, subservient, needy reviewers will obediently trot out some (hopefully spoiler free) synopsis that’ll draw the viewer in and mostly over-prep them where nothing in the film’s a surprise anymore and, apart from the gentle ups and downs of the proscribed three-act narrative and the arbitrary shriek moment where the audience jumps en masse like the good little lackeys that they are, we (technically) judge the ‘book’ by the ‘cover’.

Flow my tears.

Fact is; I can’t. I have what you call a non-infinite word limit. To list all the actors and their roles and try to explain all the insanely intricate ins and outs of this fascinating film will be curtailed by my editor right at the point where I’m about to say something relevant that might make you understand.

And you won’t understand; it’s futile. There’s too much going on in this parallel-today film chocker-block with US Ident snitch booths, CCTV in every room of your house and ‘UPU Stasi’ kicking in your door and shooting you deader than a hammer. Just when you think you might get a handle on narrative and you can pop open a warm beer, sit back with a big bowl of crisps and start enjoying the denouement and finale of reel three, two cars start f**king. It’s true, and even the corporate head in the film goes, pause, “Did I just see two cars f**king each other?” and the corporate guy beside him doesn’t miss a beat and he says, “No, sir, that’s just for the European market.” And you nearly get it until teen star Justin Timberlake starts doing a stoned burlesque music video in the middle of a non-musical. And you don’t know where you are or where this fits into the ‘big picture’.

So, why am I giving this unmanageable mess of a cinematic experience a royal 9.997 out of 10?

The future is now, that’s why. If you’re watching this wonderfully surrealistic tongue-in-cheek caper and you’re not punching the screen with a joyous pair of fists, at last Hollywood wakes up to the lie, you’re still asleep and you deserve all the New World Order will bring you come October. It’s all subtext, this film’s saying, ‘this parallel world is the world you’re living in’, and it’s not even a lampoon. No film in the history of cinema has ever just come out with it and said, ‘the ruthless global corporation is gonna dump so many tonnes of unholy hell onto you from such an altitude’. You or your children or your children’s children will be talking about how close to the bone this film knuckle-barked.

“Deep down inside, everybody wants to be a porn star,” so claims TV-blonde-emblem Sarah Michelle Geller. And it’s true. Look at all the fools dangling their virtual genitals on such banal primetime TV as Britain’s Got Talent, Big Brother and I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here. Humanity is now, more than any time in history, nothing more than recovered meat to be shoved into the corporate grinding machine and made into E-number and MSG-laden consumables.

Dwayne Johnson plays the central character Boxer Santaros alias Jericho Cane – the former is married to the president’s daughter, the latter is a character in a screenplay he and Sarah Michelle Geller co-wrote. And that script is coming true right before his eyes. Oh, and in one of the most beautifully quotidian opening scenes in any film this decade, World War III happens. Hey, let’s false flag all our young men and women into the war on terror.

Picture this absolute insult, a gothic American national anthem whose first part is sung in Hispanic. And there’s a severed-thumb mystery element to the story. And what’s with all the dwarves in this strange film? And who allowed teen pop phenomenon Justin Timberlake to totally steal the show? Who’s idea was that? Who thought that was a good idea? Well, it was a genius idea. He plays the part of a soldier ‘drafted to Iraq/ Syria’. Some fawning acolyte asks him, “You were drafted? How d’you get out?” and then we discover about the drugs. This film doesn’t miss a beat – yeah, wars are all only about the drugs. Remember Guatemala. Remember Vietnam. Remember Afghanistan. Drugs, drugs, drugs… And oil.

I hope you’re still awake and chomping at the bit to see this film.

Southland Tales is a contemporary history lesson on where your rotten world went. ‘This is how the world ends. Not with a whimper. But with a bang.’

DVD extras: a ‘making of’ that confuses even more than the film – genuinely intriguing.