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Salton Sea

The Salton Sea

4.9 11
Director: D.J. Caruso, Val Kilmer, Peter Sarsgaard, Deborah Kara Unger

Cast: D.J. Caruso, Val Kilmer, Peter Sarsgaard, Deborah Kara Unger


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The feature film debut of producer and TV director D.J. Caruso, this pulpy noir mystery is a dark tale of redemption set among southern California crystal methamphetamine "tweakers." Val Kilmer stars as Danny Parker, a former trumpet player who has become a tattooed speed freak living in a cesspool of murderous dealers and hardcore addicts near the desert lake of the


The feature film debut of producer and TV director D.J. Caruso, this pulpy noir mystery is a dark tale of redemption set among southern California crystal methamphetamine "tweakers." Val Kilmer stars as Danny Parker, a former trumpet player who has become a tattooed speed freak living in a cesspool of murderous dealers and hardcore addicts near the desert lake of the title. Danny's fall from grace is the result of a hidden agenda, however -- he's seeking answers about the murder of his beloved wife. He's also working undercover for a pair of brutal narcotics cops (Anthony Lapaglia and Doug Hutchison), while trying to rescue his beautiful neighbor Colette (Deborah Kara Unger) from an abusive situation and her own demons. As he and his slacker buddy Jimmy the Fin (Peter Sarsgaard) are antagonized by the sadistic, noseless dealer Pooh Bear (Vincent D'Onofrio) and his henchman, Danny draws closer to the truth about his wife's death, but the crime's solution isn't quite what he expected. Produced by Frank Darabont, The Salton Sea co-stars Adam Goldberg, Meat Loaf, Luis Guzman, and Azura Skye.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
A thoroughly bizarre combination of film noir and black comedy, The Salton Sea will strike some as being brilliantly conceived and others as being virtually incoherent. In truth, the film is both -- and that’s what makes it so memorable. Val Kilmer portrays Danny Parker, a jazz musician and speed freak who acts as an undercover agent for cops investigating drug dealers. He lives in a seedy world inhabited almost exclusively by lowlifes and eccentrics. None is more eccentric -- or more dangerous -- than Pooh Bear (Vincent D’Onofrio), a drug dealer who lives in a desert fortress, subjects his enemies to inhuman tortures, and spends his spare time reenacting the Kennedy assassination with pet pigeons in model cars. Deborah Kara Unger contributes memorable support as an abused woman who lives in Danny’s fleabag hotel. As written by Tony Gayton and directed by D. J. Caruso, The Salton Sea is not exactly cohesive. But it brings together a wide array of grotesque characters and inventive situations, eventually creating the semblance of a narrative. Caruso’s film reflects the influence of such contemporary filmmakers as Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, but it also has a loopy charm entirely its own. The DVD includes two featurettes on the film’s making, "Embracing the Chaos" and "Meth and Method."
All Movie Guide - Karl Williams
A one-time producer for John Badham, director D.J. Caruso scores a significant artistic success (if not, unfortunately, a financial hit) with this taut psychological thriller that strikes a fascinatingly mournful tone and features the best performance from erratic star Val Kilmer in years. Much of what is so compelling and effective about the film can be chalked up to a superb script from writer Tony Gayton that mixes elements of the noir genre with the fiendishly absurd sensibilities and violent underworld characters of Quentin Tarantino and Danny Boyle. But credit is due to the director and star. Caruso gets things off to a zippy, attention-grabbing flourish of a kick start with a rapid-cut, quasi-documentary on the history of methamphetamine and its users or "tweakers," while Kilmer impresses with a performance that begins as wan and spaced-out, but is gradually revealed, layer by layer, to be far more cunningly intelligent and manipulative than one initially expects. It's a performance of nuance and grace, with the often too-eccentric actor nailing a deft bull's eye. Well-chosen supporting players are uniformly strong, with Vincent D'Onofrio a flashy standout as a drug dealer missing a nose along with quite a few marbles. It all comes back to that script from Gayton, however, one that takes the audience on an emotional roller-coaster ride as the story manages to shift seamlessly into a completely different mode with each act turn, ultimately transforming from a painfully funny drug satire into a heart-wrenching tragedy of violent revenge. Gayton is a crime screenwriter to watch, quite literally.
Washington Post
Lovable absurdity is the saving grace of a drug movie, and on the rare occasion that this genre works, the head trip winds up being a worthwhile journey. Hank Stuever
Chicago Sun-Times - Roger Ebert

I liked it because it was so endlessly, grotesquely, inventive.
Hollywood Reporter
A quirky little crime thriller with considerable style and energy to burn. Michael Rechtshaffen

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Warner Archives
[Wide Screen, Color]
[Dolby Digital Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround]
Sales rank:

Special Features

Closed Caption; Documentaries Meth and Method: the production design on The Salton Sea, about capturing the look of the Los Angeles drug underworld, and Embracing the Chaos: a conversation with the cast of The Salton Sea, with stars and filmmakers talking about their plunge into this intense movie; Theatrical trailer

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Val Kilmer Danny Parker
Peter Sarsgaard Jimmy the Fin
Deborah Kara Unger Colette
Meat Loaf Bo
Vincent D'Onofrio Pooh Bear
Adam Goldberg Kujo
Luis Guzman Quincey
Shalom Harlow Actor
Doug Hutchison Morgan Tanner
Anthony LaPaglia Garcetti
Azura Skye Actor
Danny Trejo Actor
Chandra West Liz
B.D. Wong Bubba
Glenn Plummer Actor
R. Lee Ermey Verne Plummer
Shirley Knight Nancy Plummer
Josh Todd Big Bill

Technical Credits
D.J. Caruso Director
Tony Adler Asst. Director
Ken Aguado Producer
Deborah Aquila Casting
Jim Behnke Executive Producer
Tim Cooney Sound/Sound Designer
Douglas Cumming Art Director
Frank Darabont Producer
Tony Gayton Screenwriter
K.N.B. EFX Group Makeup Special Effects
Eriq La Salle Producer
Amir Mokri Cinematographer
Thomas Newman Score Composer
Jim Page Editor
Butch Robinson Producer
Tom Southwell Production Designer
Eric Sundhal Set Decoration/Design
Karyn Wagner Costumes/Costume Designer

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- The Salton Sea
1. You Decide
2. Speed Saga
3. Bobby's Hobby
4. View From The Bottom
5. The Informer
6. Man With Two Names
7. Liz
8. Get Lost
9. Arms And The Cowboy
10. Planning A Big Score
11. Dead Pigeons
12. Pooh-Bear On The Brain
13. Kujo'd Big Heist
14. Lady In Distress
15. Rollover
16. The Plummers
17. Capt. Stubing
18. Memory Of Murder
19. Meeting The Team
20. Getting Closer
21. Rat's Confession
22. Going Solo
23. More Dead Pigeons
24. All Clear...Almost
25. Die Or Fight?
26. Big Difference
27. Let Him Burn
28. Who's This Guy?
29. End Credits


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The Salton Sea 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Having had to live in a compound full of tweekers as a non-tweeker for nearly a year, this movie tells it exactly like it is. A fairly harmless group of people when left alone, they are both despicable and lovable at the same time. The perpetual cleaning, organizing, mind games, and avoidance of daylight never ceased to amaze me, both in this movie and in real life. Working in the corporate world and trying to finish school, I had to move for my own sanity, but I will always remember their kindness toward me and my animals. I throw this movie in every once in awhile when I get ''homesick''. My outside friends are not nearly as fun!!!
moviewatcher More than 1 year ago
Salton Sea was something I never heard of. This was a movie that was recommended to me by a friend. I rented it and Val Kilmer along with the rest of the cast was so great in this movie. The story was gripping and the ending was a mind blower. I had to add this to my movie collection. If you like plot twists, great acting and script writing, add this to your collection.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This movie was terrific.One of the best movies I had seen in a long while. The whole plot of the tweekers world and how they saw and lived everyday life, it blew me away on how they were able to produce, to know how the lifestyle is lived with no self experience was phenomenal. It took me a good 3 times of watching it to put it all together and almost fully understand it. It's a great movie but must watch it closely.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I never even heard of this movie! I saw it at our library and thought it sounded good so I rented it. WOW!! It was such a powerful movie! Every angle of it from the acting to the music was just outstanding!! This is by far THE BEST MOVIE that I have seen in awhile!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
''The Salton Sea'' is malevolent film noir at it's very best. At the heart of the movie is Val Kilmer's best performance since ''Tombstone'', perhaps a dark horse for an Oscar nomination. The cast also includes excellent performances from: Luis Guzman, Danny Trejo, Peter Saarsgard and in most exponential fashion from Vincent D'Onofrio who plays the horrifyingly funny ''Pooh Bear''. This movie may well become a cult classic.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This movie was horrifying and fascinating. This is Val Kilmer's most amazing performance. I had to watch it twice because I didn't recognize Vincent D'Onofrio the first time through. It was so good I'm going to buy a copy. Make sure you have no distractions while watching this..you won't want to miss anything!
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Surprisingly, this film had a very limited release in Southern California, but I saw it the first week it came out. Prepare yourself for a wild ride. It's a rough film--not for fainting hearts--but the loving relationship between Kilmer's character and his wife is tender and between him and his pal Jimmy there is a rare portrayal of a loyal and deep-love friendship between two straight males that I haven't seen on the screen since Spock ''died'' before Kirk's eyes. Despite the raw drama, there manages to be several great comic scenes in the film and all in all, I think this movie does a better job than Nancy at convincing people to say no to drugs. Who would want a Poo Bear on their back? I saw this film mainly because of my interest in California's Salton Sea. I was disappointed that only brief glimpses of the surreally beautiful Salton Sea were shown and that people might get the notion the place is full of dopers--it's mostly full of seniors who moved there in its Sinatra, Sony Bono & yacht club heydays of the 60s. I was glad that at least after the credits, mention was made to support this great natural resource.