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The Salton Sea
2002 - R - 103 Mins.
Director: D.J. Caruso
Producer: Frank Darabont, Eriq La Salle, Butch Robinson
Written By: Tony Gayton
Starring: Val Kilmer, Peter Saarsgaard, Vincent D'Onofrio, Glenn Plummer, and R. Lee Ermey
Review by: Joe Rickey
What would you do if you woke up one day and didn’t remember what your name was and the details of your personal life? You would have almost no choice but to attempt to find out your identity. That’s the situation Val Kilmer’s character is facing in the film 'The Salton Sea' which also stars Vincent D’Onofrio and is directed by D.J. Caruso; whose next film is 'Taking Lives,' a thriller starring Angelina Jolie and Ethan Hawke.

As the film begins, a man (Val Kilmer) sits in a room that’s on fire, playing his trumpet and seemingly unaware of the danger he’s in. He tells us that he may be Danny Parker or Tom Van Allen; he doesn’t really know which one. He then goes on to tell us what brought him to this point in his life. He then goes on tell us how he was a LA narcotics agent undercover in the society of the “tweakers.” The tweakers are an underground society of meth addicts. His job is to get the necessary information to allow the agency to bust the drug ring. His agency wants to bust the drug ring of an Asian man named Bubba.

Danny, as he calls himself, with the help of Jimmy The Finn, a friend of his, sets up a meeting with the notorious drug dealer Pooh Bear. The meeting takes place and during it Danny sets up a drug deal for Bubba that’s to go through Pooh Bear. Not only does Danny have this impending on his mind. He has noticed a mystifying car following him, his knowledge that a neighbor of his is being abused by her husband, and pieces of his memory detailing a past life with a beautiful wife named Liz. As the film progresses, we learn that everything may not be as it seems and what Danny does to figure what’s real and what isn’t.

The script by Tony Gayton ('Murder By Numbers') is well written for the most part. His script keeps the film interesting by withholding enough information to keep you wondering what the outcome of Danny’s story will be. Direction by D.J. Caruso is flashy and does certainly keep one interested throughout.

The acting in 'The Salton Sea' is by far its strongest suit. Val Kilmer aptly displays the disbelief that his role as a man who doesn’t know himself. He acts dually well in his part as the LA narcotics agent. He’s good because he is able to create sympathy for his character’s unusual plight. Even better is D’Onofrio as the grotesque and menacingly evil drug dealer. He embodies the sheer menace of his character and is also able to inject some dark humor into his role. The supporting performances from the likes of Danny Trejo and Doug Hutchinson are well done despite lapsing into cheesy line readings at times.

Overall, 'The Salton Sea' a wildly uneven film with some good performances but a sometimes-cheesy script hurts the potential powerful moments at times. I still recommend the film for those looking for a film in the style of 2001’s 'Memento.'

Movie Guru Rating
Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable.
  2.5 out of 5 stars

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