Southland Tales

(SFX Magazine, Future Publishing)

This ill-famed film folly from Donnie Darko’s Richard Kelly has two advantages on DVD. In the cinema, you were stuck with the Rock, Justin Timberlake, Sarah Michelle Geller and their fellow thespians dispensing Mr Kelly’s wisdom for two and a half hours. You stuck it out or walked out. On a DVD, you can take a break, watch the film in bite-size instalments, even strip it over a week or two.

The other bonus is that Southland Tales comes to DVD with such wretched advance word that it’s a relief to find out it’s not that bad. Okay, so its pretensions to post-9/11 satire are pitiful, its flip dumbness offensive. The dialogue sucks. It’s obnoxious for large stretches, as the story trips and stumbles round a sketch-show future America, Timberlake gamely expositing through the gaps. It often looks dull or tacky (though there’s one big show-off tracking shot.) There are no real characters and, indeed, little acting.

But there are also many hilarious moments, reminiscent of Donnie Darko. A copulating car commercial is a gem, as is an appropriately-placed gag about two bad actors getting their farcical comeuppance. The finale, set on board a giant zeppelin, fuses The Fifth Element with the 1980s Doctor Who story Mawdryn Undead. It’s easy to get into the game of tracing all the references and story-threads, imagining what the film might be like done properly (as a TV serial, maybe).

Southland Tales doesn’t qualify as a cult classic, but it has the sincerity of the bona fide eccentric. Buy it if you’re the kind of deviant who secretly prefers the car-crash comedy version of Casino Royale to the cool but humourless Daniel Craig model.

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