FEBRUARY 28, 2011
Do you like Fringe? Then you will hate The Traveler for wasting what could have been a perfectly good Fringe episode (with the obvious tinkering). The scenario is fine, but it in no way lends itself to a 90 minute feature, so you're left with a lot of repetition and padding, and a third act that revolves around "revealing" things that any intelligent viewer would have figured 40 minutes ago.
Now, that might be a bit misleading, because there's nothing scientific about the movie, but at its heart is a supernatural tale of somewhat justifiable revenge, something Fringe has tackled on occasion, and the beats of the tale would better be served by a TV show - start with a weird murder, bring in our guys, learn some info, another murder, yakkity yak, murder, reveal, murder, revenge complete, end of episode. It would also give us an "in" to the story that the movie lacks - the entire plot hinges on six people who did something terrible a year ago and their victim who is seeking revenge. There's no one to explain anything to, so instead we just get a bunch of repetitive flashbacks showing us what they did, with no one to root for (they viciously tortured and beat a suspect into a coma) - who the hell am I supposed to care about here? They should have had a "new guy" or another (innocent) prisoner or SOMEONE worth latching onto. Worse, the 2nd flashback (maybe 25 minutes into the movie) shows us EVERYTHING, rendering future flashbacks pointless.
Then again, maybe I just had Fringe on the brain because the "hero" of the movie is Dylan Neal, best known as Pacey's older brother Doug on Dawson's Creek. So while Pacey has graduated to a really great TV show, Doug is playing second fiddle to a bored Val Kilmer (what HAPPENED to you, man?), stuck in between playing the showy villain (Kilmer) and one of the random cops who at least get to take part in surprisingly gory death scenes. No, all Neal gets to do is talk to the ghost of his daughter (during the most baffling climax I've seen in a movie in quite some time) after spending 80 minutes angrily storming up and down hallways with a flashlight. I guess we're supposed to root for him because his daughter died and thus he's sad, but stabbing a guy in the chest with a pen after he claimed he was innocent is sort of hard to justify. Plus he was always a dick to Pacey.
But at least he seems like a real cop (hey, Doug was a cop too! Should I just cut the review here and go watch Dawson's Creek?), unlike the other five officers. Two of them puke at the sight of a corpse, which you'd think would be something they'd be prepared for, and one guy I can't even figure out how he passed the exams - the cops in Police Academy looked more competent than this clown. The lone female officer also shows zero signs of the authority one should possess to be a cop; screaming and running around like any old slasher victim when presented with danger. Guess this is why you don't see too many horror films populated entirely with cops. Maybe if I recognized any of them it would have been more fun (or at least made them somewhat worth rooting for), but they're all anonymous Canadian actors. Maybe next time Kilmer can bring along his "we pissed away our career" DTV cohorts like Tom Sizemore, Cuba Gooding Jr, and Michael Madsen - it can be like the DVD version of Identity or something.
And who the hell thought the grinding guitar music was a good idea? Rarely has a film score been more intrusive. The kill scenes don't make a hell of a lot of sense as it is (Kilmer seemingly uses telekinesis), but the obnoxious score just makes them unbearable to boot. I mean, the movie's been boring me to tears from the end of the first reel, so you'd think that suddenly tossing guts and skin and blood around the set (for real) would make up for it, but the awful score ruins their appeal (not to mention that the tone is completely out of place with the rest of the rather moody film).
At least it LOOKS nice. The scope imagery was a nice surprise, and Neil Cervin's photography was appropriately dark and cold (I bet he watched the Assault on Precinct 13 remake beforehand - this movie also leaves its police station for the woods at one point, in fact). And the flashbacks have that desaturated look that lets you know it's a flashback, which I appreciate after yesterday's The Bleeding, where it was a bit of a guessing game since both flashbacks and present day scenes were over-filtered.
No extras. Not a complaint.
What say you?