Southland Tales review 43 of 52.

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Ten weeks to go and I’m trying something new!

I usually have a podcast running in the background as I write my weekly review. Last week’s review's sound track was a show called How Did This Get Made, a podcast that breaks down some of the best worst movies out there.

I found myself looking at the speaker from time to time as I listen the the three host and guest talk about a movie with an awkward blend of quirky comedy and action. This movie they spoke of is filled with a large and eclectic cast filled with a few big names, including one of the biggest, if not the biggest action star of the time, and a sprinkling of, “Woe, it’s that person,” actors. This movie had a huge budget, was panned by critics, was considered to be a big flop, and went on to become a cult classic.

I was confused, because these are the ingredients that make up Southland Tales, yet this is not the movie they were talking about. This movie was made in a time before the internet, so it took me years to find out that people didn’t like it. I thought this movie was great in fact I rushed out to see it in the theaters. I need to figure out why I love this movie genre.

I haven’t seen this movie in years. I think I watched it when I first found out via the internet that everyone else in the world hated it, and I remember not understanding why.

To help figure it out, this week I will be comparing Southland Tales and Hudson Hawk.

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It’s now 10:30 in the pm on Monday December 10th and I’m about to fire up Hudson Hawk and then directly follow that up with the theatrical release of Southland Tales which I will be watching for the 43rd time.

During the opening credits of Hudson Hawk I thought my mind was going to be blown. The movie starts with a book opening, and a narrator giving us the back story of a magical device that the movie centers around. As the book opens we see a video that play the events that the narrator is describing.

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Okay, I wouldn't be accused of reaching here if I told you that my first thought was Justin Timberlake describing the back story to fluid karma and how we got to this point  in this alternate time line of history.

The narrator for Hudson Hawk explaina that Leonardo DaVinci was commissioned to build a giant bronze statue of a horse, which got me thinking of the mega zeppelin, but he couldn’t build this statue because all the bronze was going to the war efforts. This got me thinking of the wars over the dwindling fuel supplies leading to the invention of fluid karma.

We learn that DaVinci turned to alchemy as a way to pretty much create and endless supply of bronze, only it wasn’t a conversion to bronze that DaVinci stumbled upon. It was gold. Replace DaVinci with the Baron's mother and replace gold with the worlds fuel supply and you have the makings of Southland Tales.

I figured at this point I had found it, my Holy Grail of observations. I was already planning how I would spend the next nine weeks writing my thesis on how these two movies not only had the same results at the box office, but where also telling the same story.

I thought for sure I’d at least get an honorary doctrine from The University of Phoenix!!!

…but NO.

After this intro the only similarities are purely coincidental and if anything arise more out of rules of story structure and genre conventions than either movie sharing the same theme or storyline, but it was fun to tire, fun to dream.

Below are some of the other similarities that I did find.

  • Where the Rock starts out unaware of the current state of the world due to amnesia, Bruce Willis is behind on the times and needs to get caught up (along with the audience) because he spent the last decade, or so in prison.
     
  • Being that we are dealing with the world of cat burglars in Hudson Hawk, we spend quite a bit of time looking at surveillance systems. However these cameras don’t have the Big Brother feel that they have in Southland Tales.
     
  • Southland Tales and Hudson Hawk are similar in one way that I think may be why some don’t like this type of movies. Neither of the lead characters are active participants. The Rock has been tricked into his mission so he just follows what he’s told to do. In the Hudson Hawk, Bruce Willis just got out of jail and is forced to do this one last mission. He seems to be doing this one last job just because he knows how. There’s no promise of a payoff, he has no plan to double cross the real bad guy to then turn them in, he's not trying to figure out a way to double cross anyone so that he'll actually end up winning in the end. No he’s just doing a job and happens to meet a girl. Winning over the girl seems to just end up the default goal.
     
  • There are no good guys in either of these movies. Well. Andie MacDowell's not bad, but they set her up that she could go either way.
     
  • There’s a character name Kit Kat that allows both movies to have duplicates of the heroes.
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  • Everyone is stabbing someone in the back in both movies.
     
  • Both movies have a graphic novel feel to them. Granted I’ve only read the three Southland Tales graphic novels and one other one called The Reverend, or something like that. That said I can see Southland Tales in the same style as the prequel trilogy. I can see Hudson Hawk being a graphic novel only it would be a lot more colorful, filled with explosions, bad guys flipping through the air before landing in the scene, comical situations, all to dialog filled with bad puns.
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  • There seems to be no disregard for human life in either movie. There’s a scene in Hudson Hawk where the bad guy cuts someone throat. He and his henchmen just laugh. It reminds me of Bai Ling cutting off the Prime Minister of Japan’s hand resulting in everyone laughing.
     
  • Oh and speaking of Bai Ling, Sandra Bernhard’s character is reminiscent of Bai Ling in Southland Tales.
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That's all I got.

When I heard them mentioning the Hudson Hawk on How Did This Get Made I felt that there could have been a lot more similarities. For example, I for some reason thought that they ventured away from Bruce Willis more, making the movie more of an ensemble piece, spending more time with all the different factions in the movie. If that would have been the case I could see the potential for a lot more similarities to build.

Though I wish I had found a deeper connection, either way this was a fun week.

Only nine reviews left!

See you next week.

Matt Bunker

I started out with a goal of becoming a paid screenwriter. I had no interest in any other aspect of filmmaking. I received and scholarship to The Vancouver Film School's Writing for Film and Television program where I graduated in 2005. I fell in love with being on set during my first non-school produced short, . I loved being around all the creative people, seeing people having fun while working. The whole liking your job was a new world to me, so I decided to give it a shot. I volunteered for any project I could, doing what ever was needed. The set was my Film School this time. While working as a PA on a feature I was informed that the DP wanted the three tallest PAs to help out in the grip and electric department. That is when I found the department that felt like the best fit for me while I continued to write.