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Underrated Films presents: The Salton Sea

 

You all know director D.J Caruso for making Shia LaBeouf into a star with his Goosebumps-like re-imagination of Rear Window, Disturbia. It was a steady, simple and fast paced little thriller that didn't insult the intelligence of its audience(the duo would leave that for last year's absurd Eagle Eye). For Caruso it was a modest improvement to a string of films that were awful(Taking Lives) and forgettable(Two For The Money). It is upsetting to see a commercial director with flashes of greatness in each of these films to put out such mediocrity, but I still think that he has a great movie in him somehow.

The Salton Sea was Caruso's first feature released in theaters after a journeyman career in t.v. It is a bizarre neo-noir with the an almost exiled Val Kilmer in the lead as Danny Parker, a former jazz musician going undercover as a punk junkie in the high gloss L.A moonlight. He is looking to catch his wife's killer, but at the cost of casting off his once serene trumpet playing self into a walking steetwall of tattoos and piercings. Along the way he encounters some of the wildest motley of characters that Tarantino would smile upon: a drug dealer with a talent to recreate the Kennedy Assassination with pigeons and BB guns named Pooh-Bear; A streetwise black kid with a sage knowledge of guns and ammo; And Jimmy, a junkie with a man crush on Danny so intense he gets his face tattooed on his body. A blend of comedy, violence and meths distort Danny's identity where the search for the truth is the last echelon of a former life he can't ever restore.

Caruso effortlessly pairs Dashiell Hammettesque classic gumshoe archetypes in a unsettling modern frame in the tune of Sid Vicious' s off- key bass licks. A scene in a slightly abandoned cafe where Danny and a woman he befriends converse is like those renditions of Edward Hopper's Nighthawks that you see at diners and hamburger chains. However, instead of James Dean or Marilyn Monroe smoking and drinking coffee you get a portrait of a cruel after hours world of bleak shadows and forgotten souls. The locations are buildings and motels from a golden age waiting to be demolished while the social underbelly shelters inside them. But this is far from a depressing yarn, since the drug infusion is apparent in almost every cut, transition, and montage of the movie. Caruso also borrows a bit of Danny Boyle in his flashiness that make you wonder if Trainspotting was playing in his trailer while in production. Hey, who cares? This movie is very cool and it is too bad it performed poorly at the box office in its theatrical run back in 2002. Maybe Caruso will remake it with LaBeouf if they can't find a Hitchcock movie to introduce to the bff generation. -JR

Images:

D.J Caruso, Shia Labeouf, The Salton Sea, underrated, Val Kilmer, bitter balcony D.J Caruso, Shia Labeouf, The Salton Sea, underrated, Val Kilmer, bitter balcony D.J Caruso, Shia Labeouf, The Salton Sea, underrated, Val Kilmer, bitter balcony D.J Caruso, Shia Labeouf, The Salton Sea, underrated, Val Kilmer, bitter balcony D.J Caruso, Shia Labeouf, The Salton Sea, underrated, Val Kilmer, bitter balcony

Trailers:





Source of the Bitter: John Rojas

Comments, rants and other stuffs below
JAS on Sat, 07/18/2009 - 11:47pm

I recently loaned this DVD out to three people. They all liked it. It sucks when cool movies like this one get overlooked. I'm glad you mentioned it way back when, so I could catch it in the theatre.

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