The story is based on the historical truth of an Irish subculture of con artists in the rural American South. -- TRAVELLER The eight heads in Pesci's bag are his proof to the Mob that he has met his extermination quota. -- 8 HEADS IN A DUFFEL BAG

TRAVELLER & 8 HEADS IN A DUFFEL BAG

A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.


"Traveller" is a movie with good intentions that self- destructs, while "8 Heads in a Duffel Bag" is an insult to anyone unfortunate enough to see it. These two films add no luster to the multiplex menu.

"Traveller" is a skewed version of the American dream: a protective patriarch shepherding the family flock through the family business. But this is business with a difference. Operating within a rigid family code, theirs is the business of scam, any kind of scam their entrepreneurial minds can devise.

The story is based on the historical truth of an Irish subculture of con artists in the rural American South. The extended family believes the skill runs in the blood, and their shepherd, Boss Jack (Luke Askew), won't stand for any dilution of the family gene pool. Marry outside and you will be shunned.

Pat O'Hara (Mark Wahlberg) returns to the tribe to bury his father, who had been cast out for doing just that. Claiming his birthright, Pat learns the subtleties of the trade from Bokky (Bill Paxton), a Traveller with an outsized ego and a mild streak of fair play.

Sealing asphalt driveways and barn roofs with black dye that washes away in the rain, they are experts at the getaway from their irate victims. Rising enthusiastically to his legacy, Pat becomes the mentor when Bokky falls in love with his latest scam victim, Jean (Julianna Margulies).

Bill Paxton, as producer, does a fine job of showing us the intensity of a culture that holds the rest of the world at bay. He and Mark Wahlberg make Bokky and Pat appealing swindlers. Julianna Margulies is very good as a single mother trying to stay afloat. With marvelous understatement she makes the words "Drive safe" a declaration of love.

At this fine moment, the filmmakers inexplicably destroy their richly textured glimpse of an outlaw society. An almost charming story of people living outrageously by their wits becomes, in an absolutely inconsistent moment, a graphic blood bath that offends the captive audience and destroys the mood of the film. The audience files out in audible anger.

"8 Heads in a Duffel Bag" doesn't wait until the final lap to insult the audience. After a few moments of fun when a medical student (Andy Comeau) and a crook (Joe Pesci) swap suitcases inadvertently on an airline, the movie becomes fatally labored. The eight heads in Pesci's bag are his proof to the Mob that he has met his extermination quota. Pesci's travails in bringing the proof to his bosses are thoroughly unfunny. How does the sight of eight severed heads singing in harmony strike you?

The film features an unimaginably bad performance by Dyan Cannon. Everyone else looks supremely uncomfortable in this indefensible mess. Hollywood should learn that movie lovers have the last word when they are insulted. They can stay home. One of these movies is a betrayal of the audience, the other, a fraud.


Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 495
Studio : October Films, Orion
Rating : R, R
Running Time: n/a


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