We haven't seen much of Val Kilmer in recent years, and the times we have cannot be considered the best of experiences (try to watch Red Planet). In April of 2002, The Salton Sea came and went without as much as a blink of the eye, but one can hardly blame the quality of the film for its lackluster success. The Salton Sea is an artistic rendition of a revenge thriller, and the result is mixed.
Kilmer stars as Danny, an apparent speed freak who spends most of his time with other junkies. He's hit rock bottom, but unlike his "friends," he has motivation to keep going. He was a perfectly ordinary man until a couple of men murdered his wife, and so he has gone undercover with the assistance of the FBI to capture, or kill, those responsible. But as he remains involved in this dirty world of drugs, is the man that he used to be disappearing? That is the question raised by The Salton Sea...
The Salton Sea is primarily a character film; it is not a traditional thriller. The movie is more about Kilmer and less about his wife's murder, which is fine if handled correctly. The entire film is dark - literally - and I generally liked this approach, reflecting Kilmer's mind, but then again, at times, it is so hard to see things that I would have liked a little more illumination. Anyway, the movie is told from the perspective of Kilmer's cluttered mind, and while The Salton Sea is not overly confusing, for quite a while there is no real indication where the story is going. His motivations are not revealed for quite some time, and in the meantime, things drag on rather slowly.
The problem with The Salton Sea is that it just isn't captivating enough. More of the revenge plot would have helped things, but had The Salton Sea just made everything from the get go more interesting, the director still could have made the movie he wanted while garnering some good reviews. Instead, none of the characters are given much depth, including Kilmer's - we hear his narration, but we are never really given a glimpse of what he is like. The movie is about identity, but even if he has lost his original identity, he must have assumed another one; let's see it. The supporting characters are also bland and gray, just like the colors in the film.
I know what The Salton Sea was trying to achieve, and at times it comes close to being something great, but every time it reaches a peak it just plummets back down. Val Kilmer turns in an excellent performance, reminding us that he was an established actor at some point, but the script is dull and drags him down.
The Salton Sea had potential, but things just slipped through tightly-squeezed fingers.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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