Southland Tales **

Posted: November 16, 2007

With Sarah Michelle Gellar, Duane "The Rock" Johnson, Mandie Moore, Miranda Richardson and Seann William Scott. Distributed by Samuel Goldwyn Films. 2 hours, 24 mins. R (nudity, profanity, violence, drugs, adult themes). Playing at: Ritz at the Bourse, AMC Neshaminy and Showcase at the Ritz Center/NJ.

What's The Rock doing with his fingers? What's Sarah Michelle Gellar doing with a talk show? What's the world going to do now that Texas has been nuked by terrorists?

Richard Kelly's messy post-9/11 epic, Southland Tales, doesn't answer these questions (especially the one about Duane "The Rock" Johnson's nervous-ninny digit flexing), but it has a goofily self-conscious, all-over-the-map time posing them - and lots of other Deep Thoughts packaged in cheesy pop iconography.

Set in the worrisomely near future, and centering on three souls - an amnesiac action-movie star (The Rock), a porn queen turned political-talk-show host (Gellar) and a cop with a parallel-universe split personality (Seann William Scott) - Southland Tales is like an apocalyptic pastiche of a James Bond parody (remember Casino Royale?), spun on a dozen Philip K. Dick plotlines, as reimagined by the editors of US Weekly.

Throw in references to T.S. Eliot, Kurt Vonnegut, Hollywood noir and Karl Marx, add a bunch of campy cameos (Justin Timberlake, Miranda Richardson, Wallace Shawn) and hold tight for 21/2 hours.

Dizzyingly incoherent and subversively surreal, this sophomore effort from the man who made the great, strange Donnie Darko is certain to have its fans. I'm not going to be one of them. - Steven Rea

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