"The Salton Sea"
Directed by D.J. Caruso.
Written by Tony Gayton.
Starring Val Kilmer and Vincent D'Onofrio.
Release Year: 2002
Review Date: 5/19/02
Believe it—this is the 50th film I have seen
in theaters this year. The Drive for 100 looks like cake right now,
but you never want to speak too soon...maybe I’ll meet that girl, or
get that job, or
blah blah blah.
From what I understand, “The Salton Sea” is
not even out everywhere yet...and, it’s been open here for a month!
You have probably seen previews for it, but in case you haven’t, a
quick synopsis is necessary. Danny Parker (Val Kilmer) is a
hard-core tweeker...a drug user that has a tight group of friends
who all happen to be tweekers themselves. Living the life of a
speed freak is taking its toll on Parker...or, is it Tom Van Allen?
What is his real name? He’s not really sure, since the movie cuts
back and forth between the dual personalities of Kilmer’s
character. Van Allen is a trumpet player, with a beautiful
girlfriend and what looks to be a promising future...but, Parker is
a rat for the LAPD that is searching out other speed dealers to sell
out to the cops.
But the truth about these two distinct
personas only comes out in the latter stages of the film, and the
script by Tony Gayton is fantastic in giving us bit by bit through
flashbacks and stories by Kilmer in voiceover. Kilmer is amazing
here. He has had some bad stuff come through the pipes over the
last few years (ladies and gentlemen, “The Saint”), but his work
here reminds you of his powerhouse early 90’s run, with his work in
“The Doors” and my favorite Kilmer performance in “Tombstone.” From
his character’s twisted perspective on where the action takes us, to
the makeup and the tattoos, to his gait when he is high or his eyes
when he is facing some horrific-looking torture exercise, he makes
you buy into it. How director DJ Caruso got this performance out of
Kilmer is beyond me, since Kilmer has a bad reputation for being
difficult to work with on a set. It helps that Kilmer is in almost
every scene and has incredible supporting actors around him,
including Vincent D’Onofrio, Luis Guzman, Anthony LaPaglia, and
cameos by Meat Loaf and Danny Trejo.
And, this movie is just beautiful to look
at. Shots of Los Angeles at night haven’t looked this good in a
while, and from talking to a friend of mine that interviewed the
director a few weeks’ ago, Caruso’s goal of making things in each
shot look incredibly alone works well here. Shots of Kilmer walking
down deserted streets and alleys, or a single car rolling up a side
street, are impressive and create a mood that sets the tone for the
whole movie. The movie is very tense, but with its use of music and
occasional bursts of comedy, this tone is lightened every so often
to let you breath a little bit.
Add in an ending that brings home the bacon,
and you’ve got a complete package. Some minor details like a
clichéd next-door neighbor (Deborah Unger) that has an abusive
boyfriend are kept minor by the script, so they don’t bog down the
main storyline. All in all, solid stuff.
Rating: Opening Weekend
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard