South of Pico

This unpleasant, heart-sinking drama stuns its audience with its painfully honest ending and unspeakable occurrences beforehand. South of Pico easily ranks among cinema’s most harrowing and distraught dramas including Sleepers, Bully, and Kids.

While somewhat relevant to Crash provided that a tragedy links these strangers together, it never intertwines racial conflict like Crash did. Rather than stereotyping racial equalities (or lack thereof), the film centers on five ordinary people having a really bad day that leads to a freak tragedy ending in the most unfortunate way.

Guided by an impressive cast that includes Henry Simmons, Gina Torres, Kip Pardue, and Soren Fulton, this dark and menacing drama about the worst day in the lives of five average people deeply scars the memory.

South of Pico is one of those movies that makes you feel sick in the pit of your stomach, and this feeling doesn’t just go away. It marinates for weeks on end and (like the worst day you ever had) it sits firmly in your brain for the rest of your life. There is no shaking the film’s powerful emotions, no stopping the overpowering fact that we have no control over our emotions when overtaken by rage. While unforgettable and disdainfully true to life, the feeling of sadness is overwhelming and nearly unbearable. This causes profound depression, sorrow, and anguish to viewers. It hurts, but the film is booming with importance and deserves attention.

Superbly directed and skillfully written by Ernst Gossner, South of Pico isn’t exactly flawless (the needless conversation pertaining to a secret recipe for mashed potatoes immediately springs to mind), but it’s certainly a hard-hitting, real-life drama. Following the true life story step by step isn’t exactly the best way to engage the audience, especially when there is a lot of boring nonsense about a secret mashed potato recipe to be found. However, powerful performances from the sturdy cast and the violent tale within is something that audiences aren’t fully familiar with. Watching South of Pico once is more than enough, but spreading the word is a must.

So while I really didn’t enjoy the film, its staining effect and penetrating look into the tortured souls of many good-hearted people is an eye-opening and painfully moving experience. This award winning feature is a film I will never forget. Within this raw, intense, and unnerving true-life story lies one of the most unforgettable endings in movie history. It slips us firmly into the belief that humans can become complete savages when too much is weighed down on us, both emotionally and physically.

Unfortunately, there are no special features on the DVD release. This is disappointing considering that the film leaves us questioning what happens to those involved in the tragedy. This crucial detail could’ve easily been clarified in the much needed special features, but the release fails to provide that. Aside from a lack of extras, the harrowing ending and magnificent performances in this bold drama will take your breath away. The DVD release date is October 7.  4/5 stars

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