Friday May 2, 1997
"Truth or Consequences, N.M." takes us down a familiar killers-on-the-run road only to swerve in enough unexpected directions to make it a fresh, exciting and thoroughly involving thriller. It's a strong first directorial outing for Kiefer Sutherland who, in working from Brad Mirman's smart script, gets the utmost from a fine ensemble cast--including himself.
Vincent Gallo's Raymond leaves prison for the open arms of Kim Dickens' Addy, and these devoted lovers look forward to a better life. Yet eight months later the drug dealer, Eddie Grillo (John C. McGinley, at his nastiest), for whom Raymond took a two-year fall, has rewarded him only with a chump-change warehouse job. This makes Raymond vulnerable to a plan to hold up Eddie for his stash that will involve Raymond's prison pal Curtis (Sutherland) and Curtis' associate Marcus (Mykelti Williamson). While Marcus is the most level-headed member of the gang, Curtis, a two-time loser, is a wild and crazy guy who starts opening fire at Eddie and an unknown man who happens to be sitting with him at his desk in the warehouse.
The filmmakers try hard to romanticize Raymond, played by Gallo with the kind of anguish he might well bring to playing Jesus Christ, and the slightly more intelligent Addy as a latter-day Bonnie and Clyde. Amazingly, it doesn't matter whether you're able to buy into this hooey or not, because Mirman's script has some built-in insurance, both in early and climactic surprise twists and in a couple, Gordon (Kevin Pollak) and Donna (Grace Phillips), held hostage by the gang when it commandeers their RV.
It's easy to dismiss Raymond and Addy as dangerous, worthless trash for all their caring for each other, especially after Addy remarks that "Curtis takes the cake for dumb" and you can't help but think, "Wrong. It's you and Raymond who take the cake for hooking up with a raving psycho like Curtis in the first place."
But Gordon and Donna, far more interesting than Raymond and Addy, are on hand to take up our attention. That's because this couple's love for each other becomes increasingly tested as Gordon starts bonding with the gang, saying at one point to the rightly dismayed Donna that "they make more money in one week than I make in a year."
With the same kind of aplomb he displays in front of the camera as the wacko Curtis, Sutherland unerringly steers the film to a boffo finish with style and drive. Other actors Sutherland directs to top-notch portrayals include Rod Steiger as a Vegas underworld kingpin who laments the lack of respect in the modern-day world of crime, Martin Sheen as an amusingly savage mob enforcer and Max Perlich as Raymond's truly luckless friend. Handsomely photographed in Southwest locales, including the town that gives the film its title, "Truth or Consequences, N.M." delivers the action goods with welcome intelligence.
Truth or Consequences, N.M., 1997. R, for a substantial amount of strong violence, and for sex, language and drug use. A Triumph Films release of a Higgins/Messick/Wayne production. Director Kiefer Sutherland. Producers J. Paul Higgins, Kevin J. Messick, Hilary Wayne. Executive producer Phillip M. Goldfarb. Screenplay Brad Mirman. Cinematographer Ric Waite. Editor Lawrence Jordan. Costumes Susan Bertram. Music Jude Cole. Production designer Anne Stuhler. Art director Roswell Hamrick. Set decorator Les Boothe. Running time: 1 hour, 42 minutes. Vincent Gallo as Raymond Lembecke. Mykelti Williamson as Marcus Weans. Kiefer Sutherland as Curtis Freley. Kevin Pollak as Gordon Jacobson.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun