Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Traveler

A mysterious man, seemingly without an identity (or even fingerprints), strolls into a police station one night to confess a murder. Only he won't say who, or when, it happened. Pretty soon it's clear he has some sort of connection to a (possibly innocent) suspect in the murder of a detective's daughter that several of the cops (conveniently all on duty that night, I guess) had tortured and murdered years earlier.

Val Kilmer is too good for us mere mortals. The man is simply great in everything, even half-assed, direct-to-video nonsense like The Traveler. If it's sad that Kilmer's career is at the point where he's showing up in this kind of junk semi-regularly, it's encouraging to see that the man remains undefeated. He's a great choice for this mysterious, avenging angel/harbinger of doom who knows more than he let's on type character, and against all odds Kilmer actually seems like he's trying here and gives a legitimately fun performance.

The rest of the film is not up to Kilmer's performance. It's obvious what's going on almost immediately (Kilmer is the spirit of the man the cops killed, returned to get revenge), but the story is protracted to absurd degrees to stretch this premise out to feature length. There are about, conservative estimate, 800 superfluous flashbacks to his torture/murder peppered throughout the film. I'm not really sure what I am supposed to take from all this except one silly, stupid idea. See, Kilmer uses his supernatural abilities to kill the cops in some sort of "ironic" (I guess?) manner, by using the instrument of torture they used on him against them. But what this means is, bizarrely, each cop did exactly one form of torture to Kilmer years earlier. No one, say, both pulled out one of his teeth and put a plastic bag over his head. Each cop used one, and only one, method of torture on him, and that becomes the manner of their death. This is especially strange because they were all in the same room torturing him at the same time, but I guess they all decided to take turns and stick to just their number one favorite form of torture.

It ends with a twist that, like Dark House before it, is that there is no twist. See it turns out that MAJOR SPOILER FOR A MOVIE I DON'T RECOMMEND YOU BOTHER WATCHING Kilmer actually did kill the detective's daughter. So while the cops' murder and torture of Kilmer wasn't exactly justified, it becomes impossible to sympathize with him. He really was the bad guy all along, and the cops' deaths weren't really any form of karmic justice. So, um, yeah.

Rating: C-

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