• Release Date: Apr 26, 2002
Metascore
41

Mixed or average reviews - based on 30 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 10 out of 30
  2. Negative: 11 out of 30
  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
    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."
  3. 75
    Strikes out toward freakishly original territory after all. Fans of the off-beat, your movie has arrived.
  4. A slick, stylish hardboiled caper filtered through a druggy haze and borrowing a bit of a "Memento" revenge motif and "Pulp Fiction" playfulness.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 70
    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. Reviewed by: Staff (Not credited)
    67
    For all its faults, is a solid piece of dirty work.
  9. Might be thought of as "Memento" for people who didn't get "Memento."
  10. Reviewed by: Sam Allis
    63
    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.
  11. Sacrificing content for style, Caruso gives us a lot to look at but little to ponder.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 50
    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.
  15. 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.
  16. Reviewed by: Hank Stuever
    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. Reviewed by: Patrick Starkey
    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.
  22. 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.
  23. Quickly curdles into a nasty variation of the one-last-score genre.
  24. Reviewed by: Richard Schickel
    30
    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.
  25. Reviewed by: Robert Koehler
    30
    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."
  26. Far too slick and manufactured to claim street credibility.
  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. 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.
  29. 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.
  30. Reviewed by: David Edelstein
    20
    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.
User Score
7.6

Generally favorable reviews- based on 29 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 15 out of 17
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 17
  3. Negative: 2 out of 17
  1. Jul 9, 2014
    10
    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. Jun 26, 2014
    10
    The Salton Sea is an amalgamation of pulp fiction, memento and identity. The movie also has a style all it's own. The movie also has connections to Trainspotting because the movie focus on speed addicts. The movie's storyline has connections to those movies but the visuals are inventive and Kilmer is at his peak in the movie. His role is the best he's ever done, he was born for the role. The Salton Sea deserves way more credit than it received in 2002, it is a modern classic. Full Review »