Truth Or Consequences N.M.

Director: Kiefer Sutherland
Vincent Gallo, Mykelti Williamson, Kiefer Sutherland

If you have been extensively reading my reviews for some time now, you have probably come to a number of conclusions. The most obvious is that when it comes to movies, I have a weakness for watching movies that are unknown. But you’ve probably also observed that I do like my schlock. Certainly, I on occasion watch something that is more serious in nature to broaden my understanding of film, as well as to give myself an extra challenge when it comes to subsequently writing a review of the movie. But a great deal of the time, I watch the kind of films that most mainstream reviewers would turn up their noses against even before actually watching them. Why? Well, a lot of these movies are fun to watch. Life is too short, so you might as well spend a lot of time being entertained along your brief journey. And I have certainly been entertained a lot by these schlock films. I enjoy them so much, that whenever I hear any criticism of them, I feel like standing up and giving them a vigorous defense. Needless to say, I am against any form of movie censorship. How glad I didn’t grow up in countries like Finland, Germany, or England, where until recent years censorship of movies was rampant. I do agree that there are some movies that people who have not reached adulthood should not watch, so in theory I am in favor of a rating system. Though not like the one in the United States, which has crippled many a movie that has been submitted. The one presently in Canada seems to work pretty well, realizing that children nowadays are a lot more sophisticated than children in the past. It has on more than one occasion provided me with schlocky thrills you could not see in the United States. For example, here in Canada we got the uncut version of King Of The Kickboxers, while the poor Americans had to settle for a cut R-rated version.

Yes, I certainly enjoy my movie schlock a lot, ranging from sexy stuff to violent stuff. But that does not mean that I am open to every kind of movie exploitation that is out there. For example, I draw the line at hard core pornography  – the little I have seen of these kind of movies has greatly depressed me. Also, there are some movies that while they have a more legitimate air around them, have had results that have disturbed and/or offended me. Yes, even I have a limit when it comes to certain stuff. Years ago, I reviewed on this web site the movie The Klansman. I was appalled by it, because in part it seemed to be exploiting a very serious problem, which was racism. It put many of its characters through the wringer, which made it even tougher to sit through. But even more innocuous movies can rub me the wrong way. There was the Roger Corman produced family movie No Dessert Dad, Til You Mow The Lawn. Although rated PG, I thought many of its themes were very distasteful, such as the premise that kids hypnotizing their parents for personal gain was an okay thing to do. There have also been movies I have seen not for reviewing on this web site that have disturbed and/or offended me. The Troma movie Citizen Toxie was one such movie. Though plenty of people found the movie funny, I personally thought that director Lloyd Kaufman had finally crossed a line with this effort, particularly with the handling of the African-American character. It was the biggest reason why I stopped watching any Troma movies afterwards. Then there was the Danny Trejo movie Machete Kills, which was a non-stop parade of one bloody death sequence after another, and eventually I found the movie to be shrilling a really disturbing vibe. Then there was the time Netflix Canada got all the remaining Saw movies I hadn't seen, and I watched them over the course of a few days, and let me tell you, seeing a number of them over just a few days... ooooh...

I have a feeling that there are some people reading this who are probably chuckling at what I have just written, considering me to be some kind of a wimp or someone who can’t “appreciate” the kind of material I find to be objectionable. To those particular readers, I ask them: Would Truth Or Consequences, find it so amusing if these onscreen actions were happening to you? I hope that I never bump into any of those people while walking across my city. Anyway, what I have been trying to illustrate is that all of us have our limits when it comes to content in movies. Also that one man’s meat is another man’s poison. Take the movie I am reviewing here, Truth Or Consequences N.M. When I first saw the movie years ago, I found it to be quite disturbing with its depiction of extremely brutal and bloody violence. Yet other reviewers and regular moviegoers didn’t have the objections that I had to the movie. In the years that passed, I could not help but wonder if I had seen it the wrong way. So when I came across a Blu-Ray of the movie recently, I thought I would give it another chance, despite my memories of queasiness. The central character of the movie is named Raymond Lembecke (Vincent Gallo, The Perez Family) a criminal who has just been released out of prison after taking the rap for drug dealing his former boss was involved in. Raymond promptly goes to his former boss hoping to get a fresh start to a new life, but instead becomes livid when his former boss only gets him a lowly warehouse job. So with the support of his girlfriend Addy (Kim Dickens, Hollow Man), Raymond then decides to steal a large amount of drugs from the warehouse, and he arranges to do this with two other criminal lowlifes, Curtis (Kiefer Sutherland, The Lost Boys) and Marcus (Mikelti Williamson, Black Dynamite). Although when their heist is actually executed they manage to get what they were planning to steal, they end up killing someone who turns out to have been an undercover DEA agent when unexpectedly bumping into him and other individuals in the warehouse. But as the four flee towards Mexico, they don't just have the DEA after them - the actual owner of the drugs, mob boss Tony Vago (Rod Steiger, The Naked Face), eventually has his boss send the services of a professional hitman known only as "Sir" (Martin Sheen, Dillinger And Capone) to track down whoever stole from them

In the many years since I first watched Truth Or Consequences N.M., I have spent countless hours watching various kinds of bloody and brutal cinematic mayhem, so upon sitting down to watch my second viewing of the movie, I thought I might have a different perspective on what I was about to see. Well, I have to report upon my second viewing of this movie, I felt that the movie wasn't as depraved and heartless as I had originally thought. Yes, there are some scenes of quite sadistic violence that did make me raise an eyebrow on several occasions. (In fact, some awkward editing suggets that there had originally been a lot more bloody and brutal violence filmed, but it was subsequently cut down in the editing room to save the movie from getting an NC-17 rating.) I should also add that the attitude of the characters with this violence does add an extra uncomfortable feeling, like when Curtis impatiently whips out his gun during the early heist scene and shoots someone in the head, explaining right afterward to Raymond, "He wasn't f**kin' listening to you". Actually, the movie in the end was less depraved and violent as I remembered, but I'll explain that reason later because right now I really want to further explore the characters and their actors. Of the four lead characters who pull off the heist, most of them are not particularly engaging either with their writing or how they are performed. Addy alternates between either being a sterotypical tarty gun moll or a woman with average intelligence; in neither role does actress Dickens manage to stand out. As Curtis, Sutherland tries to act oh so cool and casual, but it comes off as oh so forced and flashy, not fitting the surroundings at any time. Actor Gallo can't seem to do much with his Raymond character, giving a real bland performance for a bland character that loses so much focus after the beginning that we almost forget about him. On the other hand, there is a little spark when actor Williamson is given something to do as Marcus. His role isn't written with much punch despite having a big secret, but Williamson is clearly trying as much as he can under the circumstances to add some life to his character and the other characters when he talks to them.

I feel that I should also add that early on, the four robbers eventually come across a man (Kevin Pollak, Million Dollar Mystery) and a woman (Grace Phillips, Quiz Show) that they take hostage, and during the long drive to the title place, Pollak's character starts to be seduced by the power the four criminals have. However, this subplot is eventually completely forgotten about, and when the end credits start rolling, we see that it seemingly had no purpose. Which is a good opportunity to go further into the problems with the script. The script has a definite Tarantino vibe to it, not just with the criminals taking innocent people hostage in their RV so they can be driven past the police (which was done in the Tarantino-scripted From Dusk Till Dawn just one year earlier), but also with long talks about everyday topics from classic cars to food that's found at convenience stores. The actors spout these monologues in an awkward fashion, namely because the dialogue is written in a contrived manner. Even if the movie hadn't tried to rip off Tarantino, there would still be a lot of problems with the story. For example, the movie starts off with Raymond being released from prison, and then it suddenly jumps eight months ahead to minutes before the robbery. Although we eventually get some answers like why Raymond was imprisoned in the first place, there are still a lot of unanswered questions like how Marcus joined the crew. Speaking of unclear moments, there are also a lot of scenes that seem to have no real purpose. At one point in the movie where the four robbers with their hostages have their RV pulled over by the cops, there is a lengthy sequence with the cops inspecting the RV, finding nothing wrong, and then leaving. There seems to be no point to this scene except to pad out the running time. And don't get me started on some pretty dumb decisions by the characters, such as with Curtis using his beloved (and eye-catching) classic car to be the getaway vehicle, then a short time later freely abandoning it forever.

As it turns out, Curtis is one of the more interesting characters to watch in Truth Or Consequences N.M., namely because the director of the movie seems more interested in him than any of the other characters. Frequently Curtis takes command of the screen and the situation at the expense of the other actors and characters. It then should come as no surprise that the movie was directed by the same person playing Curtis, Kiefer Sutherland, making his directorial debut. And it's not an auspicious debut behind the camera. To be fair, it's very clear that Sutherland was working with a very limited budget, and that results in many cost-cutting techniques such as precious few "wide" shots. As well, he apparently didn't have a professional cinematographer, with the photography looking flat and somewhat colorless. But Sutherland is certain to blame for many slip-ups, like the shadow of the boom mike jutting into the frame in one scene, or when a cop radios headquarters with the license plate of the RV, but reads off a completely different license plate than what's actually on the RV. The main problem with Sutherland's direction, however, is how unbelievably boring the movie plays out for the most part. Though there is some depraved graphic violence here and there, that's only a few minutes of the 107-minute running time. Most of the movie is just devoted to the characters making their very long and slow journey to their destinations. There's almost nothing in their journey along the way that adds tension, humor, insight, or anything else that would make us give a darn about what was going on, or even to just entertain us. After watching the movie, the only long-lasting memory of the movie for viewers will be that depraved violence, which is probably why I thought all these years the movie was filled from start to end with that bloody material. That's the truth, so if you still decide to watch this movie, prepare to face the consequences.

(Posted October 6, 2023)

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See also: For A Few Lousy Dollars, Hard Cash, The Hard Word