Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Salton Sea

Following the death of his wife, an L.A. trumpet (Val Kilmer) player submerges into a life of addiction amidst  a various assortment of pimps, junkies, and other lowlifes. Also working as a narcotics informant and not always appearing what he seems, he becomes involved with a major drug deal involving his tweaker pal (Peter Sarsgaard) and maniacal and deformed kingpin (Vincent D'Onofrio). D.J. Caruso's directorial debut is a lurid and engaging film until its big twist is revealed in the latter stages. At this point we begin suspect that the real conceit of the movie is that its ambitions of being clever and gimmicky instead of the well made, nicely developed movie it was up to that point, which is only (and sadly) confirmed by the tidy and unsatisfactory ending. Val Kilmer is excellent though and is given nice support from Sarsgaard and especially D'Onofrio, who again adds to his list of over-the-top sociopaths, this one a noseless, ill-tempered shitkicker. Many modern movies seemed to be plagued by a sort of "twist syndrome", where the filmmakers feel the compulsive need to pull the rug out from under the audience, no matter the cost. "The Salton Sea" is one of the greatest victims of this, considering how involved I was through much of it, and how pissed off I was at the conclusion.

sidenote: This is the second film I've seen in a week and a half featuring Deborah Kara Unger and a band of weirdos who like to recreate tragic historical accidents.