Christopher Landon's "Burning Palms" is a cult oddity that has yet to be discovered. Macabre, ridiculous, disturbing, hilarious and sometimes harrowing--this dark anthology of five stories, told as an adult comic book, highlights the eccentricities and perversions to be found within different neighborhoods in the greater Los Angeles area. As a former Angeleno, I appreciated the specificity of each tale as it related to its geographical locale--but a knowledge of the city is not essential to enjoy this provocative film. For make no mistake, the goal of Landon is to provoke and push buttons with his uncompromising satire. Many people will loathe this film, I'll tell you that right now. But whether you love it or despise it, one thing is certain--it will elicit an emotional reaction from you. I may be wrong, but I think this film will continue to attain an audience through the years simply because of its willingness to be different, absurd and challenging. In no way is this a perfect film as some resolutions didn't always push far enough, but I admire a film willing to take chances in this world of formula movie making.
To highlight the stories, in particular, might be to lessen the surprise factor. But very briefly--the tales include (1) a father/daughter bond that gets uncomfortably close for his new fiancee, (2) a love making experiment that haunts the psyche of a young college student, (3) a spoiled brat whose bad acts might lead to surprising discoveries, (4) a male couple who takes on the latest designer accessory--an African orphan, and (5) an act of assault that has unexpected repercussions. I won't reveal any more as the tales really should unfold on their own merits for maximum impact. But with a strong cast including Nick Stahl, Dylan McDermott, Paz Vega, Rosamund Pike and many other familiar faces--the tales are brought to life with precision. The whole film maintains a car crash appeal. At times it may be uncomfortable, but you can never look away. This is never more true than in the film's final act featuring a fearless performance by Zoe Saldana.
Again, I don't think that "Burning Palms" is a perfect film--but it has a strong and unique satiric voice that should be seen by lovers of adventurous cinema. In case you missed it--I loved this movie despite its shortcomings. It is a real discovery--one that I will talk about to my friends and FORCE people to watch (that's what you have to endure if you're my friend!). I laughed out loud several times and squirmed uncomfortably other times. And for a film to make you genuinely have a visceral reaction--that's always a good thing in my book. Again, I reiterate, even if you hate this movie--you won't be apathetic to it. But hopefully, like me, you will embrace its excesses and go on a wild and bumpy ride through the streets of Los Angeles. About 4 1/2 stars for impact--I'm actually going to round up because this one caught me completely unawares! KGHarris, 5/11.