The Salton Sea

  • Release Date: Apr 26, 2002

Mixed or average reviews - based on 30 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 10 out of 30
  2. Negative: 11 out of 30

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Critic Reviews

  1. As a gallery of the grotesque, however, the cinematic equivalent of a Joe Coleman painting or Adam Parfrey publication, The Salton Sea is a blast.
  2. 75
    Strikes out toward freakishly original territory after all. Fans of the off-beat, your movie has arrived.
  3. 75
    Unlike in many thrillers, the movie doesn't sandbag us with one last, cheap twist at the end. The Salton Sea contains its share of surprises, but none of them feels forced or artificial.
  4. A twisty, showy, atmosphere-saturated drama that revels (in a post-post-Tarantino-and-''Trainspotting'' way) in sadism and in-your-face seediness -- and attracts a cast of coolios primed to play extreme.
  5. A slick, stylish hardboiled caper filtered through a druggy haze and borrowing a bit of a "Memento" revenge motif and "Pulp Fiction" playfulness.
  6. Chicago Sun-Times
    Reviewed by: Roger Ebert
    It contains one element of startling originality: its bad guy, nicknamed Pooh-Bear and played by Vincent D'Onofrio in a great weird demented giggle of a performance; imagine a Batman villain cycled through the hallucinations of "Requiem for a Dream."
  7. Rolling Stone
    Reviewed by: Peter Travers
    It's Vincent D'Onofrio as Pooh-Bear, a drug lord who's snorted so much meth his nose had to be replaced by a plastic one, who kicks ass.
  8. For all its faults, is a solid piece of dirty work.
  9. Reviewed by: Sam Allis
    A commercial Hollywood movie without pretensions. If there's no art here, it's still a good yarn - which is nothing to sneeze at these days.
  10. New York Daily News
    Reviewed by: Jack Mathews
    Might be thought of as "Memento" for people who didn't get "Memento."
  11. Sacrificing content for style, Caruso gives us a lot to look at but little to ponder.
  12. 50
    The Salton Sea isn't without interest or ideas, though some of the better ones are cribbed from David Fincher and, especially, Martin Scorsese.
  13. This is a thoroughly conventional story of one man's search for redemption in the neon slime; its multiple flashback structure is just a way of parceling out information, not a device used to undermine the narrative.
  14. The more the picture reveals, the less interesting it gets, transforming its hero from an intriguing mystery man into a standard-issue screen vigilante -- and steadily upping the violence, complete with harrowing torture scenes, in a lame effort to keep our juices flowing.
  15. It uses violence as a drug, injecting it into the audience and hoping to addict it. Once the dependence is created, it is simple to feed it with formulaic films.
  16. 50
    Adheres to the whacked notion that Hollywood does drugs so the rest of us don't have to.
  17. The cumulative effect of the movie is repulsive and depressing.
  18. Eccentric enough to stave off doldrums, Caruso's self-conscious debut is also eminently forgettable.
  19. It's been a month since I attended a preview, and I'm more grateful than sorry that I no longer remember it well. Drug thrillers and revenge plots bore me.
  20. 38
    A truly baffling late entry in the "Pulp Fiction" sweepstakes that ends up drowning in its own pretensions -- along with, quite possibly, what's left of Val Kilmer's movie career.
  21. 30
    To say that the film is unpleasant would imply that there's an emotional reaction to be gotten from it. I'd have to believe that there was someone, somewhere, who would actually care.
  22. Far too slick and manufactured to claim street credibility.
  23. Time
    Reviewed by: Richard Schickel
    Yet how can one possibly recommend The Salton Sea? If it could, this nasty film would make you smell the disgusting food on the table. And that says nothing about its casual sadism.
  24. Quickly curdles into a nasty variation of the one-last-score genre.
  25. 30
    Regardless of the poison of choice, I'm always a little miffed when an actor onscreen is supposedly on a specific drug but too lazy to learn what the actual side-effects are.
  26. Variety
    Reviewed by: Robert Koehler
    This extremely plot-thickened tale finally offers little more than the usual genre elements pushed to the kind of extremes that recall the acrid "The Way of the Gun."
  27. All the movie's narrative gymnastics can't disguise the fact that it's inauthentic at its core and that its story just isn't worth telling.
  28. Los Angeles Times
    Reviewed by: Kenneth Turan
    Taking issue with efforts like The Salton Sea, cold and unemotional films that couldn't be more pleased at the opportunity to enthusiastically drag audiences through unhappy material, is as futile as getting mad at the wind.
  29. Reviewed by: David Edelstein
    Let's just say that in spite of its malignant sun-scorched palette, absurdist visions, and narrative loop the loops, the picture looks in hindsight like the same old vigilante crap.
  30. 20
    A grimy mess set among L.A.'s speed-abusing "tweakers," Salton has neither the substance to justify first-time feature director D.J. Caruso's pretentious flourishes, nor the skill to make those flourishes work on their own terms.
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 99 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 14 out of 17
  2. Negative: 2 out of 17
  1. Jul 9, 2014
    The Salton Sea has many twists and and turns. The movie has impressive acting and a plot that you
    won't figure out until the ending. This
    The Salton Sea has many twists and and turns. The movie has impressive acting and a plot that you
    won't figure out until the ending. This movie is very underrated and is easily one of Kilmer's best roles.
    Full Review »
  2. May 30, 2016
    Been a while since I watched this one, great flick. Val is excellent in this, as is the rest of the cast.

    Watch it online for free:
    Been a while since I watched this one, great flick. Val is excellent in this, as is the rest of the cast.

    Watch it online for free:
    Full Review »