Wednesday, May 19, 2010

"The Salton Sea" (2002) - Movie Classics

Val Kilmer arrived to the “Inside the Actor’s Studio” show and seeing him as a person outside of the films was new. He was shy and kept going off tangents interestingly in his answers. He was at times not looking at James Litman. He was not offensive or snobbish but he is a character of himself unlike what I imagined him to be. With most of the actors, there is their own personality which spills into each of the characters they portray. The way they smile or the mannerisms, even the slightest one sticks through. It is hard to get it wiped out. Even the greatest actors cannot avoid it and most of the times that might be one of the reason they are successful. They bring in a little bit of themselves. When I saw Val Kilmer as Val Kilmer on that stage, I realized how much of a true actor he really is in shedding and shredding every little piece of himself to be someone else. Here is Tom Van Allen or may be Danny Parker in this film. When you see this film, you will know what I am saying.

I saw “The Salton Sea” six or seven years back. It had a scene which went as the best memory of my previous roommate. The great “Kujo’s Big Heist” scene literally made him fall out of chair laughing. I am sure that no one else would find that funnier than we did. Before I go into detail, let me tell you something about the film. This is a story of a man taking a grief, guilt and revenge simultaneously. Kilmer’s character is with the group of junkies and shapes him up to be one of them. On other times he is a snitch ratting out hardcore drug sellers to this sneaky and slimy cops Gus Morgan (Doug Hutchison) and Al Garcetti (Anthony LaPaglia). And the small time he gets to spend with himself, he is Tom Van Allen.

Danny Parker has a past, tragic one of course. In one of those romantic trips to the land of nowhere, his wife (Chandra West) gets killed while he is wounded and watching helpless through a bullet hole of her demise. His inability to save her and the revenge he seeks are served with witty sarcasm and a noir Tarantino would have blown out all over. The director of the film D. J. Caruso takes a small portion of that director’s technique and invents his style along with it.

Kilmer’s character has gone through the drain of drug junkies for a long time in the hunt for his wife’s killer and he comes home occasionally to remind himself of who he is and was before Danny Parker. He keeps telling that he is Tom Van Allen and he is a trumpet player. He begins playing the instrument with a tune that carries a sadness and lamentation to make us weep for this guy. He has pushed himself through the wall hard enough and punished himself for the inability to save his love. Here he is clueless and lost unaware of how to get his revenge.

An opportunity invites him to have a proper set up with the killers to get his score evened and get a closure. For that he has to deal with the maddening and dangerous Pooh-Bear (Vincent D’Onofrio). Pooh-Bear has no nose and wears a funny rubber nose. He is not trying to be villain but he loves being the unstable personality. Kilmer as Danny Parker has a discussion of buying drugs and begins negotiating a price. In that scene, D’Onofrio begins describing the end which was of violent nature his previous dealer met with because of underestimating and showing signs of cheating the man. He effortlessly says it as an obvious thing. He informs that he placed that man’s head in a vice and took off his brain to store it. Throughout this scene, we know and is established that this splendid command and performance by D’Onofrio is what it makes it work. There is no doubt on that but look at Kilmer’s performance as the feared and scared man. He puts up an unnerving face to Pooh-Bear but is so communicative to his audience on the level of freaking out he is inside. The scene belongs to Vincent D’Onofrio but Val Kilmer makes it excel and gives a character for his audience to share the feeling with.

“The Salton Sea” is a comedy which travels through almost several territories and whenever it stays out there, it behaves that way as a nature than an exercise. It has a modern style which takes up inspiration from that time of film making and takes the best part about it than becoming a cheap imitation. Even its most hated characters are unpredictable and we are curious to know their fate, however bad it is going to be. And in Val Kilmer’s performance along with several others, it becomes those films which begs to be watched again.

Watching this film again and realizing that the director of this film went on to do some seriously stupid and horrific films frustrates me. Caruso shows such a depth in his presentation and seeing him make “Disturbia” and “Eagle Eye” is a tragedy in itself. There are film makers true to their passion and they venture upon the bizarre and unconventional experimentations. Even if it is their worst attempt and offensive beyond imagination, we can disregard those based on their nature to be true to their making. Seeing those two studio backed blockbusters, it feels like he has made a bad deal. Whatever the scenario that put him to take those projects and do as studio asked him to, it should be over after two films. The director that made this film is a talented person and more than that is an honest presenter and an audacious venturer for his first feature film. Written by Tony Gayton, this film will be in the best films of the decade personally and will remind me of this once a creative director named D. J. Caruso. Hope he comes back.

1 comment:

Vint said...

Those were good times Ashok man, really good times....