Barbara Johnson of boxoffice.com said, “[South of Pico] was reminiscent of Crash, only better.” I disagree. It was more like a train wreck from which you can’t turn away.
The Cast, the characters and circumstances
R for some disturbing violence, language, sex
At the beginning, the four “protagonists” stand looking as though they just emerged from a brawl.
Reset the clock and it is 12 hours earlier. Lecherous, drunk, limousine driver Robert Spenser (Kip Pardue) wakes up in his cab to an angry phone call from his dispatcher and the day begins.
Carla the waitress (not the one from Cheers, but Gina Torres) starts her day to the telephonic demands and admonition of her parents. She’s broken but it never really becomes clear how or why. Furthermore, we don’t really see why or how she has her breakdown.
Dr. Walter Chambers (Henry Simmons) starts the day put upon with the professional and psychological perils of saving cancer-stricken children while having to kowtow to a potential donor for a research grant.
Patrick Wise (Soren Fulton) is a high-school water polo player caught between teen angst, puppy love, the competition for his father’s attention and enduring the constant clashing of divorced parents.
Jorge (Giovanni Lopes) is the industrious migrant doing odd jobs for an alcoholic boss to support his family in Mexico. He is arguably the most honorable of the lot because only diligence and responsibility motivate him. Unfortunately, he will learn that no good deed goes unpunished and there’s no forgiveness for mistakes.
We can relate on some level with the trials and tribulations of these character archetypes, but we don’t make a complete connection because of their ephemeral characterization. The problem with the protagonists is that I fail to see how their respective pent-up frustrations can culminate in the climax event that ends the movie. I blame this on the writer/director being too much in love with his script and overdirecting. Together they yield overwrought, melodramatic acting.
The most relatable performances are Car’ynn Sims’ Francine, Jimmy Bennett’s Mark Weston and Giovanni Lopes’ Jorge. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to save the movie.
Crash at least taught us there is a steady state of good and bad in the world and that we can tip the balance with our actions. South of Pico graphically illustrates that human life and effort are unilaterally irredeemable and unimportant. I didn’t need to waste two hours of my life to re-learn that in this world, good suffers and evil prospers.
Written and directed by Ernst Gossner, South of Pico’s story fails to transcend the superficial, perhaps because Gossner couldn’t handle both duties objectively. After the accolades that Crash received, it is understandable why everyone would want to write the “next Crash.”
Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but Paul Haggis, et al., should take offense at this fallacious facsimile.
There’s a trailer.
Picture and Sound
Presented in widescreen, the DVD offers a choice between Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital Surround. It also provides English or Spanish subtitles.
How to Use This DVD
Put it in, watch the preceding trailers for I’m Through with White Girls, Love and Other Four Letter Words, Love for Sale, Kidulthood, and Stuck and rent them. I’m going to.