The Salton Sea (2002)
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Critic Reviews for The Salton Sea
Repellent yet intriguing, brutal yet funny, wicked yet strangely compassionate, The Salton Sea is more about mixing genres and styles than illuminating a credible reality.
Sacrificing content for style, Caruso gives us a lot to look at but little to ponder.
For what it is, it's well-done -- a stylized-beyond-reality derivation of Natural Born Killers, perhaps. Or a more gonzo version of Go or Blow. But the heart has been stylized out of it.
If there's no art here, it's still a good yarn -- which is nothing to sneeze at these days.
The overall voyage on The Salton Sea is an uneasy one hampered by a confusing story that admits out loud it doesn't know where it's going.
Audience Reviews for The Salton Sea
Frank Darabont, can you do no wrong? As for you, Mr. Caruso, why'd you stop making good movies after this? Also, Spun, why did you steal so many camera techniques from this movie?
Fans of "Drive," take note: A small movie from 2002 that got far less attention than it deserved, "The Salton Sea," starring Val Kilmer, Vincent D'Onofrio, and Peter Sarsgaard, is a moody, gritty neo-noir worthy of comparison to "Drive." It's nowhere near as good as "Drive," but it's pretty darn good, with a haunting, brooding performance from Kilmer that will stay with you and a scary performance from D'Onofrio that reminded me of Dennis Hopper in "Blue Velvet."
Like "Drive," this film has a lot of toughness and violence, but also an immense amount of heart -- and some moments of dazzling, jazzy style.
Summarizing the plot runs the risk of spoiling the many surprises that the story contains. So I'll just say that the main character (Kilmer) is a loving, easy-going jazz musician who stumbles into a den of vipers and has to find the wherewithal to defend himself against their depredations. It's a rare treat to find a thriller (or any movie, really) built around a protagonist who's a musician.
The weaknesses lie in the film's editing. It's just a bit too languid too often. Also, the central tragedy at the center of the plot is presented in a gauzy, sentimental way, giving this dark film an almost sugary center. This central tragedy also struck me as too much like a hackneyed plot device. It just felt a bit too conventional.
But "Salton Sea" is definitely worth your time and deserves something of a cult following. I keep hearing D'Onofrio's meth-fueled pig sounds somewhere in my head. I can't make it stop. I also keep hearing the sound of the beautiful jazz trumpet that the main character plays as his home burns around him. Bravo to the whole cast and to director D.J. Caruso ("Taking Lives," "Disturbia").
Really great. The plot is really smart, just when you think you know what's going on, it flips around completely. Val Kilmer was amazing, I haven't seen him give a performance like this since his Jim Morrison. DJ Caruso is great at giving these really personal stories that, under someone else's hands, might come off as corny. He makes his films have a true sense of meaning, as well as a decent amount of fun.
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