People often accuse movie studios of stifling creativity, just to make a buck. However, if there was ever a director in dire need of a studio muzzle (as well as arm and leg shackles), it's Richard Kelly, who may have struck cult flick gold with Donnie Darko, but has failed on a ridiculously hilarious level with Southland Tales.
Kelly's Southland envisions SoCal shortly after a US terrorist attack. Overreacting as usual, the government creates an agency called USIdent, which makes the Patriot Act look like a trip to the cotton candy factory. Neo-Marxists in California rebel, a scientist dreams up a new way to solve the energy crisis (which could destroy the earth), and The Rock plays an amnesiac movie star who could bring down the entire government.
Those are the basics, and it just gets more convoluted from there: There's also an activist porn star (Sarah Michelle Gellar), identical twins created by an inter-dimensional rift (Seann William Scott), and a drugged-out Revelations-quoting soldier (Justin Timberlake) narrating the entire mess. Plus there are a bazillion subplots populated by a bazillion supporting characters primarily played by failed sitcom actors and Saturday Night Live alumni—none of whom are the slightest bit funny.
In a nutshell, Southland Tales is a sprawling, ham-fisted mess, with atrociously bad acting, a nonsensical script, and annoyingly smug direction—which means it will probably become a camp classic. In ways, it reminds me of the films of Ed Wood... without an iota of the charm. I will admit it's a polarizing work—you'll either love it or hate it. However, I'd guess that anyone who enjoys Southland Tales is laughing at it, rather than with it.