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Catching up to the Apocalypse and Southland Tales

Dwayne Johnson as Boxer Santaros / Jericho Cane. Sarah Michelle Gellar as Krysta Now / Krysta Lynn Kapowski. Seann William Scott as Private Roland Taverner / Officer Ronald Taverner. Justin Timberlake as Private Pilot Abilene.

Almost two years ago, Richard Kelly’s Revelations-inspired cautionary fable Southland Tales unleashed his peculiar vision of self-inflicted apocalypse on a weary, hostile horde of Cannenites. Almost half a year ago, a smaller, more digestible version of the film was meekly released to less than a hundred theaters nationwide. Those who blinked surely never noted it’s fleeting presence. Last weekend — thanks to it’s recent release to DVD — we were finally able to experience the shock and awe of this fearsome spectacle for ourselves.

The cast is comprised almost entirely of bona fide celebrities, with Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson portraying a confused amnesiac Republican superstar, and Sarah Michelle Gellar his talk show porn queen captor and lover. Seann William Scott delivers and equally convoluted dual performance as neo-Marxist rebel impersonating his police officer brother… and that brother. The story centers on an outlandish script that pits the militarized federal government against it’s citizens in a desperate attempt to quell the chaos brought on by war, and the collapse of the global oil supply. As precognition, perpetual motion, and time travel are mixed into the already turbulent plotlines, it’s no wonder than many who see this film are simply overwhelmed by the scale, complexity, and sheer lunacy of it all. This, however, could be the ultimate truth of Southland Tales: we’re all going slowly insane.

Where Donnie Darko was an intimate, personal story of one boy’s fate, Southland Tales reveals one possible fate for an entire nation, and ultimately the world. Beyond the murky, overlapping meta-plot, Mr. Kelly worked hard to capture and expand on America’s slow, steady crushing of civil liberties at the hands of overreaching zelots in the name of patriotism, and the impotent rage of whiny, pampered of liberals who resent the inevitable results of their irresponsible lifestyle of mindless consumption. Here, we see a tale of America at war with the world, and itself… and loosing.

Although it was filmed two years ago, Southland Tales takes place essentially now, in the runup to the 2008 presidential election. I’m not sure that the world of USIdent and Fluid Karma is truly “the road not taken,” but I’m hopeful.

Written by in April of 2008. Last edited May 2015.

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