I'll start things off with a review I wrote of The Salton Sea
, the Val Kilmer movie that's opening next month. The best thing about it is it starts off by slamming 3KMTG
, which should infuriate Christoph right off the bat:
The Salton Sea
Not having learned from the abysmal failure of 3,000 Miles To Graceland
, Warner Brothers is still trying to re-capture the post-noir crime-is-fun chic genre that peaked somewhere between 1993’s True Romance
and 1996’s Trainspotting
. The latest too-cool-for-school adventure in the editing-replaces-meaning clique of filmmaking is The Salton Sea
, directed by first-timer D.J. Caruso, who is basically auditioning for the movie chair on Beat the Geeks. Loaded with references to everything from ‘40s pulp boilers like Out of the Past
to the Tarantino revolution, the movie doesn’t really have an original bone in its body, but nevertheless has a good time crashing the playground party thanks to strong performances and a few wry lines of dialogue.
Val Kilmer stars as Danny Parker, a two-bit crystal meth addict working as a police informant for a couple of LAPD narcs. The druggies with whom he hangs out, called “tweakers,” run through the usual Danny Boyle routine of being 20-something existentialists in a bleak modern world -- culminating in a pointless would-be comic subplot in which Adam Goldberg (Friends
, Saving Private Ryan
) attempts to steal Bob Hope’s stool sample from Cedars so he can sell it on E-bay.
When Caruso and writer Tony Gayton get bored with the tweaker crowd, they focus the second half of the film on Danny’s real motivation for working as an informant, which leads to a confrontation with a nasty drug dealer named Pooh Bear, played brilliantly by Vincent D’Onofrio (Full Metal Jacket
, The Cell
). Things go predictably awry, and Caruso gets a chance to show a lot of men swearing and women getting abused.
Misogyny has always been a staple in this macho noir genre, but the three chicks in The Salton Sea
would be better off getting a sex change operation from Dr. Nick Riviera. One woman has her head blown off, another is stuffed under a mattress while getting punched for several minutes, while the third is the stock femme fatale (Deborah Kara Unger)who spends the entire film with cuts and bruises on her face from her scuzzy boyfriend (a wasted Luis Guzman, who should stop working for anyone but P.T. Anderson and Steven Soderbergh) before her requisite betrayal scene.
Kilmer is relaxed and likable in his best performance since Tombstone
, Peter Sarsgaard (Boys Don’t Cry
) and B.D. Wong (Oz
) are great in supporting roles, but it’s D’Onofrio who steals the show as usual. In addition, Amir Mokri’s camerawork is colorful and sharp, casting the right shadows and grain upon California’s desert landscape. But Caruso and Gayton reduce these artistic efforts to style over substance, as the film has little to say about anything. Guy Ritchie writes funnier dialogue, Tarantino uses his cast better (and actually respects women), and Danny Boyle and Darren Aronofsky have a deeper understanding of drugs. As produced by crowd-pleasing but artless director Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption, The Majestic
), The Salton Sea
is certainly entertaining enough and will please those who just want to escape for two hours, but when compared to intelligent, carefully composed, provocative modern film noirs like Christopher McQuarrie’s The Way of the Gun
(a criminally misunderstood masterpiece if there ever was one), it reveals itself to be passable but disposable middle-brow candy for indiscriminate hipsters who think shotguns and burning money are decent substitutes for meaning and originality.