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The Salton Sea (2002)



Average Rating: 5.8/10
Reviews Counted: 85
Fresh: 53 | Rotten: 32

A slick Tarantino-inspired movie that is not for everyone.


Average Rating: 5.4/10
Critic Reviews: 26
Fresh: 14 | Rotten: 12

A slick Tarantino-inspired movie that is not for everyone.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.7/5
User Ratings: 21,063

My Rating

Movie Info

The feature film debut of producer and TV director D.J. Caruso, this pulpy noir mystery is a dark tale of redemption set among southern California crystal methamphetamine "tweakers." Val Kilmer stars as Danny Parker, a former trumpet player who has become a tattooed speed freak living in a cesspool of murderous dealers and hardcore addicts near the desert lake of the title. Danny's fall from grace is the result of a hidden agenda, however -- he's seeking answers about the murder of his beloved


Drama, Action & Adventure, Mystery & Suspense

Tony Gayton

Sep 10, 2002


Warner Bros. - Official Site External Icon

Watch It Now


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All Critics (90) | Top Critics (28) | Fresh (53) | Rotten (32) | DVD (18)

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.

August 23, 2002 Full Review Source: Houston Chronicle
Houston Chronicle
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Sacrificing content for style, Caruso gives us a lot to look at but little to ponder.

July 20, 2002 Full Review Source: Chicago Tribune
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic IconTop Critic

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.

July 12, 2002 Full Review Source: Denver Post
Denver Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

If there's no art here, it's still a good yarn -- which is nothing to sneeze at these days.

July 12, 2002 Full Review Source: Boston Globe
Boston Globe
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A thriller with an edge -- which is to say that it doesn't follow the stale, standard, connect-the-dots storyline which has become commonplace in movies that explore the seamy underbelly of the criminal world.

May 21, 2002 Full Review Source: ReelViews
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Lovable absurdity is the saving grace of a drug movie, and on the rare occasion that this genre works, the head trip winds up being a worthwhile journey.

May 17, 2002
Washington Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

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.

December 17, 2010 Full Review Source: Movie Views


January 7, 2004 Full Review Source:

Com boas atuações de Kilmer e D'Onofrio, o filme tem um roteiro razoável, mas sem foco. Salva-se graças ao interessante personagem principal.

July 25, 2003
Cinema em Cena

Marked by an ambitious style and solid performances, but hampered by a story that buries its primary focus until late in the game.

July 16, 2003 Full Review Source:

Is authenticity too much to ask? It's not as if the various drug subcultures don't have enough humor and tragedy built in that you need to take a detour into Fantasyland.

December 8, 2002 Full Review Source: Film Threat
Film Threat

It's a sort of rollercoaster ride through the salvaged wreckage of a hundred similar movies.

October 27, 2002 Full Review Source: Goatdog's Movies
Goatdog's Movies

Lo lamento, pero este mar no me atrapó como para creerle mucho. Una cinta más, regular y nunca tan buena como el director quiere hacerla parecer, presuntuosa y pasajera...

October 22, 2002

The result is mesmerizing -- filled with menace and squalor.

October 10, 2002 Full Review Source: Sacramento News & Review
Sacramento News & Review

...[Vincent D'Onofrio's] almost insanely entertaining performance essentially takes the film to an entirely different level...

October 4, 2002 Full Review Source: Reel Film Reviews
Reel Film Reviews

There's something fundamental missing from this story: something or someone to care about.

September 21, 2002 Full Review Source: Mark Reviews Movies
Mark Reviews Movies

While it's all happening, it's entertaining enough, but when it's finished (in a disappointingly conventional manner), it doesn't seem to have been about very much.

September 15, 2002
Movie Metropolis

It turns out to be just another inane druggie thriller with a revenge plot.

September 10, 2002 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

By getting myself wrapped up in the visuals and eccentricities of many of the characters, I found myself confused when it came time to get to the heart of the movie.

August 6, 2002 Full Review Source: ReelTalk Movie Reviews
ReelTalk Movie Reviews

Overall, this examination of manufactured corruption set against a film noirish swagger may not have the in-depth impact like contemporaries L.A. Confidential or Memento, but this Sea is certainly worth swimming in

July 21, 2002 Full Review Source: Movie Eye
Movie Eye

Even with a green Mohawk and a sheet of fire-red flame tattoos covering his shoulder, however, Kilmer seems to be posing, rather than acting. And that leaves a hole in the center of The Salton Sea.

July 15, 2002 Full Review Source: Journal News (Westchester, NY)
Journal News (Westchester, NY)

A rough, but very cool and stylish film with great performances...

July 9, 2002 Full Review

Audience Reviews for The Salton Sea

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").
January 29, 2012
Bill D 2007
William Dunmyer

Super Reviewer

Frank Darabont, can you do no wrong? As for you, Mr. Caruso, why'd you stop making good movies after this? Also, Spun, you suck for stealing camera techniques from this movie.
May 22, 2011

Super Reviewer

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.
January 6, 2010

Super Reviewer

If You're Looking for a nice MOVIE you are on wrong address. This Movie is Horrible, I dont want to go in to details. The plot of messed up, the bad guys. Val Kilmer was Awful. Just Terrible Movie.
December 15, 2009
Wahida K

Super Reviewer

    1. Danny Parker: For the people who don't do drugs, or just do them occasionally, it's something that becomes your life, and you belong. You finally hit bottom and you know who you are, because you can't go any lower. When you find... a friendship that you wouldn't have found anywhere else. Still and all, there's a kind of intimacy with those that can go the distance. Sometimes you see the world so clearly... and you know just what to do, and just when to do it. Just what you should've done, and when you should've done it.
    – Submitted by Summer S (4 months ago)
View all quotes (1)

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