Mixed or average reviews - based on 26 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 7 out of 26
  2. Negative: 10 out of 26
  1. Funny, audacious, messy and feverishly inspired look at America and its discontents.
  2. 75
    Delivers equal parts overwrought tedium and mind-bending beauty, spiked with brilliant throwaway images that more than make up for Kelly's heavy-handed hot-button pretensions.
  3. 70
    If it arrives in final form as (still) a total mess, it's such a passionate and ambitious mess -- overcrowded with extraordinary images, incomprehensible ideas, literary and pop-cultural references and colliding subplots -- that it transcends its adolescent awkwardness and approaches being magnificent.
  4. 70
    In its willful, self-involved eccentricity, Southland Tales is really something else. Kelly's movie may not be entirely coherent, but that's because there's so much it wants to say.
  5. Southland Tales has a mood unlike anything I've seen: dread that morphs into kitsch and then back again. It's a film that tried my patience, and one I couldn't shake off.
  6. To be clear: The odds are in favor of you hating it. I hated a lot of it when I saw a barely dry work-in-progress print, 163 minutes long, at the Cannes Film Festival. It’s 19 minutes shorter and better now, though “better” is relative when you’re dealing with a whatzahoozy such as this.
  7. 63
    Richard Kelly's Southland Tales isn't just a movie. It's an apocalyptic piñata that's been bazooka-ed open.
  8. Reviewed by: Damon Wise
    A bold and sometimes garbled take on modern American politics, this nevertheless marks an effective and surprisingly funny comeback for a film that many deemed to be DOA.
  9. 60
    Southland Tales pilfers large chunks of its plot and visual style from Alex Cox’s "Repo Man," Kathryn Bigelow’s "Strange Days" and Shane Carruth’s Sundance-winning "Primer," and unlike the makers of those films, Kelly hasn’t digested his influences and made them his own -- he’s more like the slacker college kid who’s just enough of an intellectual poseur to bluff his way to an A. That said, Southland Tales isn’t entirely without its pleasures, chiefly The Rock.
  10. You get the sense that Kelly is too angry to really find any of it funny. It's easy to empathize with his position, not so easy to remain engrossed in a film that's occasionally inspired but ultimately manic and scattered.
  11. Reviewed by: Andy Spletzer
    It's an ambitious film, but that doesn't mean it's good.
  12. Dizzyingly incoherent and subversively surreal, this sophomore effort from the man who made the great, strange "Donnie Darko" is certain to have its fans. I'm not going to be one of them.
  13. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    An ambitious hodgepodge that is all bang and bluster.
  14. Love it or laugh at it, you will gaze on Southland Tales with awe.
  15. 42
    The further Kelly bends his funhouse mirror, the more he loses sight of what it was supposed to reflect. By the end, the image has twisted beyond coherence.
  16. Reviewed by: Mark Bell
    The film is just too much exposition, too long, too convoluted, too many characters and ultimately a huge disappointment.
  17. Southland Tales does have enough energy and audacity to suggest significant potential. But was it ready for public consumption? The answer is no. It's as simple as that.
  18. Reviewed by: Glenn Kenny
    There's a lot of "stuff" here, and Kelly's biggest problem -- he's got more than a few -- is that he can't tell his good material from his bad.
  19. The English term "shambolic" best describes a slow-paced, bloated and self-indulgent picture that combines science fiction, sophomoric humor and grisly violence soaked in a music-video sensibility.
  20. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    Rarely has a picture been so self-consciously designed to be a culturally meaningful touchstone, and fallen so woefully short, as Southland Tales.
  21. May be ambitious in its genre-defying abandon, sideswiping science fiction, satire, film noir and melodrama along the way, but it's also exasperatingly convoluted, self-amused and politically sophomoric.
  22. You can't be both political and incoherent, and even though Kelly's models are "Kiss Me Deadly" and "Blade Runner," this vision of the near-future suggests a random blend of "Dr. No" and "Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!"
  23. 25
    I recommend that Kelly keep right on cutting until he whittles it down to a ukulele pick.
  24. A mess, and that's really a shame.
  25. Reviewed by: Josh Rosenblatt
    It appears that Kelly spent the intervening years (since "Donnie Darko") taking hallucinogenic drugs, reading Philip K. Dick novels upside down, and – most disastrously – believing his own hype.
  26. 0
    If a more incoherent and self-indulgent movie has been released so far this century, I'm not aware of it.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 67 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 28 out of 44
  2. Negative: 11 out of 44
  1. May 9, 2014
    One of the best movies/soundtracks you will most likely never watch or hear. It's a satire dramedy about modern America and the commercialism/control of its people. Go in with an open mind and you will enjoy the heck out of this film. Full Review »
  2. Jun 13, 2012
    When I saw it in 2008 I was very confused and didn't get it at all. Why would Richard Kelly (the maker of Donnie Darko) make such a mess of a film? I was puzzled and it stayed in the back of my mind till I saw 'The Box' again. For this second viewing I thoroughly preparded myself: I read all 3 prequel comic books (330p.) and I read some internet explanations. Basically the Southland Tales is a liberal interpretation/rewrite of the Book of Revelations (which hails the second comming of christ and the end of the world) mixed in with modern pop culture and social/political critisism. The biggest fault of this film probably is that it tries to cram in so much that you cannot possibly get it all in one viewing. And those graphics novels realy ARE the first part of the movie. If you read those in MUCH easier to understand and follow the story coz you already know the characters and their backstory and you better understand why certain things happen and why they say and do things. If you can find (and read) those comics and give this film another go you will like it much more and appreciate the strange humor Kelly put in this complex satire...have a nice Apocalypse ;) Full Review »
  3. Feb 21, 2011
    Sarah Michelle Gellar Does A Great Job As Krysta Now...... BUT Most Of The Cast Including "The Rock" Were Pretty Bad Actors..... Although I Really Did Enjoy The Story Line... I Give This Movie A 7 Full Review »