Truth or Consequences, N.M.
directed by Kiefer Sutherland
(Sony Pictures, 1997)

There's an interesting story behind the town Truth or Consequences, N.M. Unfortunately, it never makes it into the movie Truth or Consequences, N.M.

Instead, we get a paper-thin tale of four paper-thin drug dealers who kidnap two paper-thin hostages and head for the Mexican border, dragging behind them a long blue line of local police, state cops and Drug Enforcement Agency personnel, none of whom look too happy to be headed toward a moment of truth -- or consequences.

That's unfortunate, because somewhere behind the flashing lights and blazing burp guns of Truth or Consequences there lies the germ of an idea: Ex-cons Raymond Lambecke and Curtis Freley (Vincent Gallo and Kiefer Sutherland, who also directed) decide to steal their boss's stash and sell it to a Las Vegas drug kingpin (Rod Steiger) -- unaware that it's really the kingpin's dope they're stealing.

You could go pretty far with an idea like that. Sadly, Sutherland doesn't. In fact, he's barely out of the starting blocks before he's botched it, opening his film with an overlong, over-scored, slow-motion montage of Raymond's release from jail into the arms of his ever-lovin' girlfriend, Addy (Kim Dickens).

Suddenly it's eight months later and Raymond and Addy are debating whether or not they should do it. Do what? This isn't the '50s. We know they've already done that.

Addy accompanies Raymond and Curtis and their man Marcus (Mykelti Williamson) to the scene of the heist, where Curtis gets trigger happy and adds murder to the mix. From then on, it's run and gun, run and gun, all the way to the border -- the New Mexico border that is.

Much of the blame for Sutherland's drugs-and-thugs fiasco has to go to Sutherland himself.

As the director, he presided over a mediocre script that left no cliche unturned in its desire to hit some viewer hot button. Moreover, the cliches are lumped together in lengthy conversations that have little effect except to bog down the film between car thefts and bloodlettings, and little point outside of revealing how dense the characters are.

As a performer Sutherland is even worse, looking like a poster child for the NRA and delivering his lines with all the subtlety of Hulk Hogan in pre-match interview.

Caught up in all the silliness are two Hollywood pros who should have known better.

Steiger does his best to infuse some dramatic intensity into his role of drug kingpin Tony Vargo. But his lines are no more original than his name. And his attempts to be dramatic come off as hyperbolic.

Martin Sheen makes out slightly better playing against type as Sir, a mob hit man who bears a striking resemblance to Max Headroom and does some pretty nasty striking. But two stars do not make a movie, any more than shots of spinning tires make car chases exciting.

Bogged down with verbal and visual cliches, short on character development and long on bloodshed, Truth or Consequences, N.M. falls short of what little promise it offers.

It's a short fall, but a big disappointment.

[ by Miles O'Dometer ]

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