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The Salton Sea (2002)

If you’re looking for the truth, you’ve come to the wrong place.

Directed by:

DJ Caruso

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 99 minutes

UK Certificate: 18

On DVD

Country: United States

Val Kilmer stars as Danny Parker, once a trumpet player but now a "tweaker" (amphetamine addict) adrift in an underworld of strange characters and alternative lifestyles. He hangs out with a variety of other tweakers and addicts, including his best friend Jimmy the Finn (Peter Sarsgaard) At first, it is easy to dismiss him as just another addict, but it seems there is more to him than that – he is haunted by the tragic murder of his wife, who was killed by masked gunmen in a house near the Salton Sea while Danny watched in secret.

He passes information to dubious narcotics officers Al Garcetti (Anthony LaPaglia) and Gus Morgan (Doug Hutchison), but he does not seem the typical snitch and his motives are unclear. He also becomes involved with his neighbour Colette (Deborah Unger), who needs rescuing from her own life and past. Along the way, Danny also has trouble with sadistic drug dealer Pooh-Bear (Vincent D'Onfronio). As he works to get information on Pooh-Bear, he encounters the gunmen again and gets a chance to work out who they are. In time, it becomes clear that Danny is also not who he seems, and that he will stop at nothing to track down his wife's killers.

This fine thriller failed to get wide release, although it is extremely hard to understand why. The story is taut and sharp, and the plot winds its way effectively to its final twist even though it does occasionally lose pace and focus in the middle sections. The film looks fabulous, with outstanding cinematography that takes audiences deep into the tweakers' underworld. The supporting cast are superb, especially Vincent D'Onfronio as the over-the-top drug dealer Pooh-Bear. However, the single most important asset this film has is Val Kilmer – not always noted for the quality of his performances or his choice of roles, here he is outstanding and comes as a most pleasant surprise.

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It's Got: Val Kilmer giving one of his best performances to date.

It Needs: More pace and less meandering in the middle.

DVD Extras Interesting documentaries with this single-disc release. Extras: Production design documentary, Conversation with the cast, Trailer. DVD Extras Rating: 6/10

Alternatives:

LA Confidential, Memento, The Limey

Summary

A gripping thriller with everything going for it. This film contains fine work from all involved, and is well worth watching.

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