Tag Archives: October Films

Traveller (1997, Jack N. Green)

Besides Mark Wahlberg, it’s hard to say where Traveller goes wrong. There are some problems with Jim McGlynn’s script, but they’re mostly little ones. Julianna Margulies’s character’s name isn’t repeated enough, leaving her as “Carol from ‘ER'” for a lot of the movie. And even Wahlberg improves somewhat. He’s utterly incapable of humility; sometimes it’s all right, but it’s often not. By the end though, he manages to be likable if insincere.

What Traveller does have going for it is a good leading man performance from Bill Paxton, an utterly fantastic supporting turn from James Gammon and fine direction from Jack N. Green.

And even though McGlynn’s script does have its strengths, whether in plotting or scenes, the relationship between Paxton and Wahlberg (as mentor and protege) never takes off. Traveller‘s about a band of southern Irish con men and the film never shows Wahlberg learn the tricks. Instead, it shows before and after. There’s a significant puzzle piece missing.

McGlynn’s so lazy with naming the characters on screen it’s impossible to identify the heavy who comes into the picture towards the end. That actor (maybe Andrew Porter) is utterly fantastic.

As for the rest of the cast, Margulies is more appealing than she is good. She really has nothing to do. Luke Askew does well as the boss.

Traveller‘s got a great concept, great cast (except Wahlberg) and great crew… but the script’s failings leave them all floundering.

It’s unfortunate; Green, who shoots Traveller too, does an exemplary job.

1/4

CREDITS

Photographed and directed by Jack N. Green; written by Jim McGlynn; edited by Michael Ruscio; music by Andy Paley; production designer, Michael Helmy; produced by Bill Paxton, Brian Swardstrom, Mickey Liddell and David Blocker; released by October Films.

Starring Bill Paxton (Bokky), Mark Wahlberg (Pat), Julianna Margulies (Jean), James Gammon (Double D), Luke Askew (Boss Jack), Nikki Deloach (Kate), Danielle Keaton (Shane), Michael Shaner (Lip), Vincent Chase (Bimbo), Andrew Porter (Pincher) and Jean Speegle Howard (Bokky’s Grandmother).


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Safe Men (1998, John Hamburg)

For a stupid comedy, Safe Men is pretty good.

Hamburg’s well-aware of what he’s doing and the film is stupid in a funny way. It’s about, basically, eight men and they’re all pretty dumb to a certain degree. Of the two smartest, one is a kid and the other is Steve Zahn, who’s character is in the film only to make the plot work in the third act.

Zahn and Sam Rockwell are a singing duo who model their dress after barbershop quartets (though there’s only two of them) and do inept low-key covers. The music angle isn’t important other than they’re bad (Hamburg even forgets he was going to bring it back at the end). They end up mistaken for safe crackers, which brings Paul Giamatti and Michael Lerner into the film.

Giamatti, who’s hilarious, plays Lerner’s well-meaning, if idiotic lackey. Lerner’s funny but mostly because of Hamburg’s dialogue (it’s well-written dumb content).

However, in smaller roles as the real safe crackers, Mark Ruffalo (in one of his exception performances) and Josh Pais (good, but no Ruffalo), are in the film as well.

Hamburg structures it around conversations, mostly between the men, usually in pairs (though sometimes Michael Schmidt and Harvey Fierstein show up). Rockwell’s got a love interest—Christina Kirk—and she’s good… only she’s a real person among these moronic, genial men.

Rockwell does a decent job in a difficult part.

Safe Men’s short. It could’ve gone longer, but it would’ve lost something.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by John Hamburg; director of photography, Michael Barrett; edited by Suzanne Pillsbury and M. Scott Smith; music by Theodore Shapiro; production designer, Anthony Gasparro; produced by Ellen Bronfman, Jeffrey Clifford, Jonathan Cohen and Andrew Hauptman; released by October Films.

Starring Sam Rockwell (Sam), Steve Zahn (Eddie), Michael Lerner (Big Fat Bernie Gayle), Paul Giamatti (Veal Chop), Michael Schmidt (Bernie Jr.), Christina Kirk (Hannah), Mark Ruffalo (Frank), Josh Pais (Mitchell), Harvey Fierstein (Leo) and Michael Showalter (Larry).


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