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Dan Heller's Movie Review of "The Saltan Sea"

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Val Kilmer
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"The Salton Sea" is a body of water below sea level whose only escape is evaporation, leaving a very salty lake that's only getting smaller. This symbolism is personified by Danny Parker, played by Val Kilmer, who, after suffering from an unexpected and brutal crime that killed his wife, has sunk so low that his life has virtually evaporated, leaving him only with despair. His only way out is to completely transform himself into something else, someone new, in order to avenge her death. But, the task is so demanding, requiring a full and complete commitment, that he loses a sense of himself - who he really was, or is, or will become.

Chandra West and Val Kilmer
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To disclose more of the film's plot would give too much away, since its effect is dependent on unexpected twists and turns and the slow discovery of new information. To gradually learn of Danny's motivations and the unfolding of his past are part of the movie's best qualities. It's Danny in the spotlight, and Kilmer does a reasonably good job at depicting the various moods that Danny goes through. But, it's also evident that the movie was made for Kilmer himself, since minor characters are so strongly de-emphasized. With such a dependence on a single actor, Kilmer has a
LaPaglia and Hutchison
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lot riding on his shoulders, and while his performance is noteworthy, he doesn't carry it to extraordinary levels that would warrant awards by any of the more well-known and respected organizations.

I have a similar view about the film as a whole: its positive points are good, but too many weaknesses failed to give the film a three-dimensional quality. It's like a film-noire version of "Pulp Fiction" - there are lots of fast-paced, drug-induced acts of violence, all with a pinch of sardonic humor, fully aware that it's mocking a movie genre as well
Ricky Trammel/Adam Goldberg
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as a subculture. At the same time, Danny's quiet, drawling narrative voiceovers, the subtle interplay between the characters, and the classic use of lighting are clearly from the film-noire genre. I enjoyed the film as I watched it, but after I left, I became more aware of the missed opportunities for more depth in supporting characters, and more history in the lives and motivations of the villains.

Peter Sarsgaard
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I mildly recommend "The Saltan Sea" if you're a Kilmer fan and want to watch his career evolve. It should be a good platform for his next performance in a serious role, and I look forward to seeing it. So, while this isn't a bad film by any means, it's just not strong enough to stand out in the crowd of movies of a similar vein. Two films that I liked better in the same genre were "Positive ID" (1997) and last year's "Momento."

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