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The Salton Sea

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: The Salton Sea

Starring: Val Kilmer, Peter Sarsgaard
Director: D.J. Caruso
Rated: R
RunTime: 103 Minutes
Release Date: May 2002
Genre: Suspense

*Also starring: Deborah Unger, Meat Loaf, Vincent D'Onofrio, Shalom Harlow, Anthony LaPaglia, Azura Skye, Danny Trejo, Luis Guzman

Review by Steve Rhodes
1½ stars out of 4

You have to give director D.J. Caruso credit. Working from a risk-taking script by Tony Gayton (MURDER BY NUMBERS), Caruso got energetic performances out of every member of THE SALTON SEA's large and talented cast. It's too bad the result is absolutely awful.

The story is set within a world of heavy drugs and their dealers -- think REQUIEM FOR A DREAM (which I loved) crossed with HANNIBAL (which I hated) and with little bits of many other movies thrown in to spice up the concoction. The few times when the movie works come when it is ripping off other films. The best of these moments is a takeoff on the DIRTY HARRY scene in which Harry reminds the punk that his gun may or may not have any bullets left.

Val Kilmer, in one of his controlled performances, plays Danny Parker, a strung-out guy who goes from one drug induced haze to another but for a lofty purpose. Among other things, he is a snitch for Morgan (Doug Hutchison) and Garcetti (Anthony LaPaglia), a couple of narcs with questionable moral values. Danny is working a big drug deal with Pooh Bear (Vincent D'Onofrio), an extremely dangerous methamphetamine king. Pooh Bear got his name because he always had his nose in the cocaine "honey jar" and it rotted his nose off. Pooh Bear's threats, which appear genuine, include brain eating. He also has a voracious badger whom he likes to turn loose on male genitals as a sadistic lie detector test.

Jimmy the Finn (Peter Sarsgaard), Danny's drug buddy, is always there to help Danny take drugs or get out of trouble. Also in the cast are Adam Goldberg, Luis Guzmán, Glenn Plummer, Deborah Unger, Chandra West, B.D. Wong and Meat Loaf.

In the opening scene, Danny, looking like a skid row bum, speaks to the audience, telling us, "I know what you're thinking, but don't give up on me yet. Not until you've heard my whole story." Well, I've now heard it all, and my biggest regret is that I didn't give up on him. I couldn't care less about him or his story.

THE SALTON SEA runs 1:43. It is rated R for "strong violence, drug use, language and some sexuality" and would be acceptable for older teenagers.

Copyright © 2002 Steve Rhodes

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