Carl Hudson’s review published on Letterboxd:
Southland Tales is completely bonkers, on all levels. This is a Richard Kelly set loose on a big-budget science-fiction film, where the ideas matter more than story and characters, and where this film tales part 4, 5 and 6 of the story - the first three parts are available in comic book form, though they're not necessary to see the film; it's easy enough to understand as it is. I've never read the comics, though I will before giving this another watch.
This film is, in many ways, the polar opposite of Donnie Darko, Kelly's fantastic and wonderful debut and a film that, for many years, stood as my favorite film. But where Donnie Darko is more down-to-earth, more focused on its characters and their feelings, journey and viewpoints in life, Southland Tales is interested in ideas, pushing them to the foreground as much as possible.
Donnie Darko is subdued, telling a story of a high-schooler and his experiences with the end of the world. Southland Tales talks a bigger game than that, juggling tons of characters, plotlines and big ideas, talking about the latter in depth where Donnie Darko only hinted at what was going on. The result is that Southland Tales becomes a bit more brush and in-your-face than Kelly's debut, but that's really part of the fun with this.
It's a silly movie, even if it's very entertaining. It often doesn't seem to know where it's going or how it'll get there, but in the end almost everything does connect, and the story is pretty clear. The decision to cast people like Dwayne Johnson, Seann William Scott, Justin Timberlake and Sarah Michelle Gellar is a weird one, but it works to a certain degree; all deliver fine to alright performances.
Whether you like this movie or not wholly depends on your ability to believe in the concepts. A lot of them are silly, a lot of them are stupid (and it doesn't help that the film repeats itself, and the ideas, a lot) but in the end it's a fun, weird film that deserves a lot more attention than what it's getting. Chances are you'll find it horrible, but it's not like anything else out there, that's for sure. I quite like it, even if it is big, brush and stupid. It feels like if David Lynch took the plot of Donnie Darko and was ordered to make it on a Hollywood sci-fi blockbuster-budget. The result is strange, but very worth checking out.