Traveller

Bomb Rating: 

This is a region of the country in which the Kasparov/Deep Blue chess match is completely overshadowed by Jethro's repeated attempts to beat a chicken at Scrabble.

As if I weren't already aware that the highways and backwoods of the rural South were populated by drooling idiots, "Traveller" feels compelled to explain it to me. It's hardly a secret that this is a region of the country in which the Kasparov/Deep Blue chess match is completely overshadowed by Jethro's repeated attempts to beat a chicken at Scrabble.

What is surprising, however, is that there are apparently bands of Irish grifters who roam the South ripping people off left and right. Though director Jack Green focuses only on Bokky (Bill Paxton) and his young apprentice, Pat (Mark Wahlberg), he initially tries to establishes Southern Irish grifterhood as a booming industry as Irish grifters emerge from the woods for some sort of surreal Southern Irish grifter conference.

This does not characterize the South in a positive light. One of Bokky's tricks is to sell bum trailers to unsuspecting yokels. You know, even a yokel can dial a rotary telephone and ask his inbred cousin whether he thinks buying a cheap trailer from a guy with a flimsy story is a shrewd investment. Maybe Green was trying to paint a picture of quaint grifter life, but the one I got was of a lot of Southerners running around falling for bad card games then crying all night in their substandard trailers.

The story revolves around Bokky's infatuation with a small-town woman named Jean (Julianna Margulies) who falls for one of his scams. Unfortunately, Green gets obsessed with the "Sting"-like qualities of the script and sacrifices his characterizations for the cheap thrill of the scam. That Green gets us to fork over $7.50 stands as the most enduring swindle of all.

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