Since Donnie Darko insinuated itself into the canon of cult cinema with its much-buzzed Sundance premiere, a failed theatrical release and finally a strong following on DVD, the question has been what writer-director Richard Kelly would do next. Rumors swirled around Kelly's follow-up; it was over two-and-a-half hours long; it was a futuristic tale set in a fascist United States; actors like Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Kevin Smith were all signed on to play various roles. It was being backed by Universal, a big change from Darko's indie origins. Now, after a Cannes premiere, Southland Tales has gone from rumor to reality. And the rumors were far more exciting than the reality of the film.
Southland Tales does take place in the near-future -- 2008, to be precise. After a series of nuclear attacks on Texas, the United States is a quasi-police state. The Internet is under federal jurisdiction. All law enforcement has been consolidated into the National Security Agency -- federal, state, even street cops. A new energy source has been discovered, generated by a huge apparatus off the coast of L.A. and beamed wirelessly to homes, vehicles and more. And a 20-million-dollar-a-film action star (Johnson) has emerged from the desert with amnesia and is working on his next film about the end of the world, even as 'Neo-Marxist' agents work to destabilize the upcoming election.