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Truth or Consequences, N.M.(1997)
A heist goes wrong causing a foursome, led by a lunatic killer, to go on the run.
For more about Truth or Consequences, N.M. and the Truth or Consequences, N.M. Blu-ray release, see Truth or Consequences, N.M. Blu-ray Review published by Michael Reuben on April 13, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Vincent Gallo, Kiefer Sutherland, Mykelti Williamson, Kim Dickens, Kevin Pollak, Max Perlich
Director: Kiefer Sutherland
» See full cast & crew
Truth or Consequences, N.M. Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Michael Reuben, April 13, 2013
During a long and varied career, Kiefer Sutherland tried on many roles before becoming inextricably identified as 24's unstoppable Jack Bauer. In the Nineties, he tried on the role of film director, helming two TV movies and two features, all but one of which he starred in. The best known is Truth or Consequences, N.M., which played briefly in seven theaters in the spring of 1997 before being sent to video. The script by Brad Mirman (best known as the writer of Madonna's albatross, Body of Evidence) bears the unmistakable stamp of the Age of Tarantino in its tale of a heist by small-timers gone wrong, followed by flight, squabbling, ineptitude and more bloodshed. But Mirman didn't have Tarantino's gift for tasty dialogue of the kind that has routinely attracted extraordinary talent to his projects, even when he was unknown. (Not that Mirman didn't try; the script is filled with chatter about such trivia as mind-reading, fast food and blind dates, none of it memorable.) It was Sutherland's long-established roots in the movie industry that allowed him to assemble a cast of the caliber that could elevate Mirman's story into something watchable, including extended cameos by Rod Steiger and Martin Sheen. If Sutherland gave himself the juiciest and most unhinged of the characters, he at least ensured that he'd be counterbalanced by performers of equal (or even greater) weight. Although the town of Truth or Consequences really exists—it renamed itself from "Hot Springs" in 1950 in response to a challenge from the radio show of the same name—the production did not film there, remaining in Utah and Nevada, where most of the action occurs. Truth or Consequences is the gang's ultimate destination, and one remote location is as good as another for the film's final showdown.
Truth or Consequences opens with an extended and lyrical sequence tracking Raymond Lembecke (Vincent Gallo) as he steps through the minutia of being released from prison after a two-year sentence on drug possession. His faithful girlfriend, Addy Monroe (Kim Dickens), is waiting to pick him up. Eight months later, Addy accompanies Vincent and two accomplices, Raymond's jailhouse associate, Curtis Freley (Sutherland), and Marcus Weans (Mykelti Williamson), as they break into the warehouse of the framing shop owned by Grillo (John C. McGinley), the drug dealer for whom Raymond went to jail without naming names. Raymond feels that Grillo owes him more for keeping silent, and he and his cohorts intend to help themselves to compensation in cash and drugs. But contrary to the gang's expectations, the warehouse isn't deserted. Given Curtis' trigger-happy temper, the encounter quickly escalates into a major gun battle that eventually involves multiple cops. The quartet achieve their score, but they barely escape the scene, and they are now wanted as murderers. Fleeing across the state and shouting recriminations at each other, the gang needs to swap their bullet-ridden and readily identifiable vehicle for something unfamiliar. They seize an RV and makes hostages of the couple traveling in it, Gordon Jacobson (Kevin Pollak) and his girlfriend, Donna Moreland (Grace Phillips). These two "normal" people add new dimensions to the mini-dramas within the group, as the couple's reactions to their captors begin to diverge. Donna remains terrified and apprehensive, while Gordon becomes mesmerized by the apparent freedom of the outlaw lifestyle. He doesn't see what Donna (and the audience) sees with obvious clarity: that their captors are amateurs headed toward disaster. With the DEA combing the area, led by Agents Thompson and Boylan (James McDaniel and Rick Rossovich, whose scenes are the film's weakest), the gang makes it to Las Vegas, after several misadventures. There they try to peddle the stolen drugs to a gangster, Tony Vago (Steiger). That, too, goes badly, and now their pursuit includes a professional hit squad led by a supercilious mob enforcer known only as "Sir" (Sheen). (He's a less flamboyant version of Christopher Walken's Don Vincenzo in True Romance .) After a brief stopover at the home of Raymond's former cellmate (Max Perlich), they head for his brother's home near the town of Truth or Consequences. And it's there that everyone catches up with them. Except for its linear narrative and cross-country travel, Mirman's script could almost be a remake of Reservoir Dogs. What truly distinguishes the story is the central role given to the tender love story between Raymond and Addy. This couple is no Bonnie and Clyde. Addy loves Raymond in spite of his being an outlaw, not because of it, and one gets the sense that she accompanies him in robbing Grillo primarily to protect him. In Addy's fondest dream, she and Raymond would settle down in a little house somewhere in Mexico and raise a family together, with Raymond's criminal life a distant memory. That her dream is almost impossible doesn't make it any less poignant or Addy less sincere. Gallo became something of a joke in the decade following Truth or Consequences, especially with his directorial disaster The Brown Bunny, but his haunted eyes and wounded animal demeanor make him ideal for characters like Raymond who can't express their feelings. (Francis Ford Coppola exploited these qualities to their full effect in his underseen Tetro.) These features make Gallo's Raymond an ideal scene partner for Dickens' Addy, who understands him, and also for everyone else in the traveling caravan, with whom he routinely locks horns. As with much of Tarantino's early work, Truth or Consequences is about losers who can't see further than their own nose and can't step off the dead-end path they've been traveling all their lives.
Truth or Consequences, N.M. Blu-ray, Video Quality
Sony has provided Mill Creek with a merely adequate transfer for its 1080p, AVC-encoded Blu-ray presentation of Ric Waite's (48 Hrs.) photography for Truth or Consequences, N.M. The image is soft, detail is minimally acceptable, blacks are decent and colors are somewhat faded, although this appears to reflect the original photography, which has a dusty, burned-out palette. Detail is better in closeups than in long shots, and I suspect a new transfer with current technology would harvest a more refined reproduction of the moody Southwest locations. This is no doubt the best the film has ever looked, but the transfer almost certainly dates from the early days of DVD, and it shows its age on Blu-ray. Some minor sharpening has coarsened the grain and added a touch of noise, but the effect is minimal. Although the film contains several sequences of frenetic action, it also has many quiet moments, and the average bitrate of 20.60 Mbps seems sufficient. In any case, no compression issues were in evidence.
Truth or Consequences, N.M. Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Aside from the dialogue, the most prominent feature of the film's soundtrack, encoded in lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1, is the musical score, composed and selected by Jude Cole, with whom Sutherland runs Ironworks Studios in Los Angeles. Cole's rendition of "Heaven's Last Attempt" opens the film, playing over the credits and Raymond's release from prison, and his country-western-flavored rock score emphasizes the outlaw spirit throughout the film. A few well-chosen songs from other sources (including Van Morrison's "Crazy Love" and Bad Company's "Ready for Love") provide appropriate accents at key moments. The songs have been mixed with a strong presence and a robust sense of stereo separation that makes them as noticeable as sound effects. In the action sequences, the sounds of vehicles racing, tires squealing and, of course, gunfire are authoritative but not overdone. Sutherland and his mixers have not tried for a gimmicky action mix, with bullets whizzing from all sides, but they have provided enough noise to create the sense of violence erupting. The dialogue always remains clear.
Truth or Consequences, N.M. Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
No extras are included. A DVD released by Sony in 1998 had only trailers.
Truth or Consequences, N.M. Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Truth or Consequences, N.M. isn't a major film, but it is certainly one of the better examples of the many neo-noirs inspired by the success of Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, both of which galvanized an entire generation of filmmakers and moviegoers. Much of the reason for the film's superiority is simply that it was made by someone with a lot of talent and experience and the connections to recruit others of a similar background, whereas numerous Tarantino imitators were newcomers who failed to grasp that films like Reservoir Dogs (or Robert Rodriguez's El Mariachi) were the result of years of painstaking and passionate, even though unremunerated, effort at learning how to make films. Sutherland was lucky enough to have been able to earn a living while getting his education, but craftsmanship shows, however it is acquired. Recommended.
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