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
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
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