review for Traveller on AllMovie

Traveller (1996)
by Derek Armstrong review

This proud pet project for Bill Paxton is a strikingly independent and anti-commercial diversion from his usual fare. However, it is also such a quiet and unassuming story that suspense is virtually lost in the quest for realism. Traveller takes an inherently fascinating topic -- the wily day-to-day operations of a clan of fiercely isolated con artists -- and places it in a more earthy, blue-collar context than Stephen Frears did in his tense melodrama The Grifters (1990). The outcome is a reasonably involving slice-of-life movie with some cleverly executed double crosses, but also a film that feels flat by the ending -- resolved, but with little catharsis or ultimate meaning. Understandably, Jack N. Green's film (which he also photographed) is at its most assured when revealing the charms and tricks involved in hoodwinking ordinary folks. Traveller gives a clear impression that once the groundwork is laid, which takes some confidence and finesse, it can be as simple as shooting fish in a barrel. The film falters by offering little insight on what drives these people, beyond financial gain -- particularly, the empty young wannabe played by Mark Wahlberg. Still, it's an interesting enough snapshot of a secret existence unfamiliar to viewers, so it qualifies as a modest success that's intentionally smaller-than-life.