"The Salton Sea" has the dubious distinction of embodying nearly everything that is wrong with Hollywood movies today. It features copious amounts of gratuitous violence, knuckle-headed glorification of drug culture, obvious expository storytelling, a totally unbelievable plot, and the worst kind of self-important, pretentious narration. There is nothing subtle about this film, which stars Val Kilmer as Danny, a trumpet-playing speed freak with a heart of gold who is only slumming with the dregs of society in order to track down the killers of his wife. The couple's back story is shown in annoyingly dreamy flashback sequences, contrasting with the edgy, empty, rock-bottom lifestyle that Danny has been living since her death. Danny (inexplicably the slowest speed freak ever portrayed) acts as a police snitch against speed makers and dealers while he works to channel his grief into vengeance.
The director tries sometimes to inject a semblance of style into the awfully scripted film, only partially succeeding during a few tangential sequences that are not related to the crummy, hole-filled plot but deal instead with periphery characters (one such sequence has a bunch of the speed freaks planning a heist of Bob Hope's stool sample well, at least it's original). For the most part though, the direction follows the script's lead in hitting you over the head with exposition that leaves absolutely nothing up to the imagination.
There are some good actors wasting their time and talent in this film (Luis Guzman as an abusive boyfriend stereotype, Vincent D'Onofrio as a noseless drug dealer), while the ever-erratic Val Kilmer takes himself way too seriously (which is appropriate to the film, but irritating to watch nevertheless). The only truly bright light of the movie come from Peter Sarsgaard (Boys Don't Cry), who plays Danny's druggie best friend with such sweetness and caring that you wish the whole film was about him instead.