Richard Kelly's Southland Tales is one of the most irritatingly intriguing films I've seen in years. Where Donnie Darko was focused on a fairly straightforward, if mind twisting plot seasoned lightly with earnest weirdness, Southland Tales is awash with unfulfilled ideas, heady notions and wild paranoia.
Like Darko, there's an interesting science fiction underpinning to all the goings on, but it's almost irrelevant to the political intrigue of a US Government that has taken homeland security to its logical conclusion and the personal peccadillos of Dwayne Johnson's Boxer Santaros.
The star power that's brought to bear on this story is impressive, inclusive of Sarah Michelle Gellar, John Laroquette, Miranda Richardson, Justin Timberlake and Seann William Scott, but what's lacking is a sense of restraint and service to the story. Kelly's tale wanders off on odd little tangents that ultimately amount to very little and nudge the story forward imperceptibly.
It's not hard to see why the film failed so completely to find an audience. The comedy is so black as to stifle even the most hard earned laugh, the science fiction is almost marginal and the action is so brief that it could qualify as punctuation.
Add to this Mr Timberlake's surreal little song and dance number and you have a cinematic pelau so varied that it's sure to be inedible to all but the most refined of palates.
What Southland Tales is, though, is a very personal piece of work that feels a lot like the work of a post-Matrix Robert Altman-esque director, one whose passions are involving enough to draw intriguing performances from a strong cast but so undiluted that they alienate all but the most committed of audiences.
If you like your movies odd and quirky, then give Southland Tales a look.