Schizopolis23’s review published on Letterboxd:
Richard Kelly's sci-fi dystopian American satire goes full-ret**d.
This could be the perfect example of an over-the-top, self-aware satire grossly backfiring into a self-deluded, pot induced haze by the filmmaker. The socio-political concept is there, but it's so on the nose and trapped in early to mid-2000's L.A. pop culture that it's all just a poorly written and equally poorly delivered joke. It seems like Richard Kelly was hedging his bets by intentionally trying to be pretentious. He satirizes over-the-top acting and then believes his actors could get away with actual bad acting. Maybe, this film would have worked if it just tried to be more farcical instead of attempting to be a clever social satire. Being too self-aware always ends up ringing false.
Also, this film just drags. I hit pause more than usual and by the one hour mark, I debated whether or not to even finish. There were some flashes of a good film. But, every step forward was followed by another ten steps back. There were no good performances. The Rock sports some Travolta spray-on hair and does some strange hand-acting. Justin Timberlake is unintentionally hammy, but Sean William-Scott brings it. All the sci-fi ideas didn't culminate to much of anything. This film should have been at the very least, a glorious mess. But at the end of the day, this film looks like some vain L.A. fratboy artiste tried to imitate Terry Gilliam and David Lynch while remaking The Fifth Element and Spring Breakers. Maybe someday, Southland Tales will be considered a so-bad-it's-good sci-fi B-movie extravaganza.
At least, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson survived this film and went on to a promising career in Hollywood. No one else did.