1 item from 1997
The world of nomadic con men has always proved irresistible to moviemakers, and "Traveller" is but the latest example of this cinematic fascination.
A tale of Irish gypsies who roam the Deep South perpetrating frauds large and small, Jack Green's directorial debut is an entertaining if not particularly weighty comedy-thriller that benefits from the presence of the ingratiating Bill Paxton in the central role.
Like the character he plays, the actor -- who also co-produced -- works his way into your good graces and compels you to forgo any logical objections.
Paxton is Bokky, a typical member of the Travellers, as gypsies are called in England. His specialty is a scam involving fake home repairs. One day, while Bokky is hanging out with the group's leader Boss Jack (Luke Askew), a young man approaches them. Pat Mark Wahlberg) is the son of a recently deceased former Traveller who was cast out of the group for marrying an outsider. He has come to bury his father and wants to learn the ways of the tribe. Boss Jack is resistant, but Bokky agrees to take him under his wing and teach him the ways of the con.
One of their first adventures involves the swindling of an attractive young bartender, Jean (Julianna Margulies), but Bokky finds himself smitten with her and returns her money. The pair develop a relationship, and Bokky thinks about going straight.
Naturally, he must pull one last big heist, the targets of which are a gangster and his vicious henchmen. For this scam, Bokky and Pat are joined by the hard-boiled veteran, Double D (James Gammon).
"Traveller" is entertaining enough on its own terms, but it fails to achieve any real depth or consistency in its tone and quality. Jim McGlynn's screenplay seems seriously underdeveloped, especially in terms of the various subplots, and turns particularly sloppy and unconvincing in its depiction of the final sting and the bloody aftermath. Dramatic motivations are at a minimum, and the romantic relationships that develop between Bokky and Jean, as well as with Pat and Boss Jack's young daughter, are unconvincingly rendered.
Still, there are some amusing anecdotes, and Paxton is so inherently likable as Bokky that you somehow don't mind the fact that the character spends his time cheating hard-working people out of their money. Margulies combines sexiness and sensitivity as his romantic foil, and Wahlberg transmits his usual brand of youthful cockiness. Gammon, the veteran actor with the voice of a muffled foghorn, is a delight and garners most of the film's laughs.
Green, who has had a distinguished career as a cinematographer (eight Clint Eastwood films including "Unforgiven"), makes a fine directorial debut, beautifully capturing the ambiance of the Travellers' distinctive subculture. The film's atmosphere is greatly enhanced by the musical soundtrack, which includes Randy Travis' terrific cover version of "King of the Road" during the opening credits.
Director Jack Green
Screenplay Jim McGlynn
Producers Bill Paxton, Brian Swardstrom,
Executive producer Robert Mickelson,
Editor Michael Ruscio
Music Andy Paley
Bokky Bill Paxton
Pat Mark Wahlberg
Jean Julianna Margulies
Double D James Gammon
Boss Jack Luke Askew
Kate Nikki Deloach
Running time -- 100 minutes
MPAA rating: R
1 item from 1997
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