"Where he goes, Death Follows." So says the rather inelegant tagline on the DVD box, but it's an apt description for The Traveler. Death does indeed follow Mr. Nobody (Val Kilmer), but never directly by his hands. He walks into a small-town police station on a sleepy Christmas Eve and simply starts rattling off the first of six confessions for murder. Murders that have not happened yet, but will happen soon, and it's not exactly a coincidence that there are six police officers working on this night. One by one, his confessions come to pass through supernatural means, while the remaining officers struggle to figure out Mr. Nobody's motives and what his arrival may have to do with their past. I am a fan of Val Kilmer, but lately he looks like he's eaten a Taco Bell chalupa every day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Not to make fun of the guy's girth, but there's something lost in the way a man performs when his physique changes. Just look at Brando in Apocalypse Now. An actor once known for his physical presence is reduced to a floating, bald head surrounded by darkness. It becomes all voice, like Richard Burton on his best day. But Kilmer looks somewhat healthier in this film, and he gives a decent if clearly workmanlike performance. This is no "Doc Holiday" from Tombstone or "Jim Morrison" from The Doors. It's clearly a work-for-hire, and there's certainly nothing wrong with that. Val Kilmer gotta eat.
In any case, it must've been a nice, fast weekend up in Vancouver since -- in classic low-budget movie style -- all of Kilmer's scenes are basically shot on the same set. In fact, virtually all of the movie takes place in the police station. Surrounded by Canadians to stretch the budget dollar, Kilmer whispers his entire performance. It's a smart move, since his character could've easily descended into some Al Pacino Devil's Advocate-type hamminess. He lets the other actors chew the scenery and protects himself from that kind of artistic embarrassment.
The film seems to be straining at times for an existentialism way outside of its grasp. This isn't Camus; it's Rod Serling by way of Clint Eastwood's High Plains Drifter. But Eastwood had a firm grasp on how to casually allow existential ideas to emerge from the Western myth. The Traveler begins as a moralistic Twilight Zone episode and ends as a nonsensical Tales from the Darkside. In fact, these TV comparisons are the best way to describe the "film." It's a very small-scale movie which looks a lot like something leftover from Mick Garris' Masters of Horror series, and it would've been better in that one-hour format. As it stands, the film feels very padded. A nice opening hook, a mystery set-up, and a reasonably acceptable ending linked together with about 40 minutes of forced dialogue.
Should you see it? I don't know. It's not the worst thing ever made, and is certainly not the best. Like some vitamins, it may not help you, but it probably wouldn't hurt you to see it. I doubt it will be hard to find. In fact, I am sure it will be streaming on Netflix by the time I finish typing up this review. [Not quite yet. - Ed.] The film is presented in 1.85:1 Anamorphic in a decent transfer. It doesn't look like they took too much care, as some of the dark scenes are indeed in the dark. The sound mix is average as well. Nothing special here in terms of presentation. It's like a budget disc in a Wal-Mart bin. Which is probably going to be its future home.
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