Case Number 23891: Small Claims Court


Telling Lies In America
Shout! Factory // 1997 // 101 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Shout! Factory // 1997 // 101 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // May 29th, 2012

The Charge

Two all-star casts!

The Case

If you can tell a format is robust when you start to see bargain-basement releases, Blu-ray has fully arrived. Only on a mature format would someone release a nonsensical "double feature" like Traveller / Telling Lies in America. It's not that either film is bad, but they so stunningly do not belong together that I'm baffled. Though everything about this release screams "low budget," for fans of either film, this disc is cheap enough to be worth picking up.

Traveller is a "one-last-score" con-man flick, where Bokky (Bill Paxton, Titanic) enlists the help of his protégé Pat (Mark Wahlberg, The Departed) in pulling a big job so Bokky can help out a former victim he's fallen in love with.

Telling Lies in America is the story of Chuck (Brad Renfro, Apt Pupil), the child of strict Hungarian emigrants. Rock 'n' roll is his only refuge, and he sets out to win his school's talent contest to woo a lovely lady (Calista Flockhart, Ally McBeal). In the process befriends local DJ Billy Magic (Kevin Bacon, Mystic River).

Back in 1997, if anyone was given the names Mark Wahlberg and Brad Renfro and was told, "In ten years one of these two will die from a drug overdose and the other will star in the film that finally wins Martin Scorsese an Oscar," it probably wouldn't have looked good for Wahlberg. Marky Mark was the bad boy of the New Kids on the Block world, and 1997, Renfro was still the cute kid from The Client and Huck Finn. However, both actors shared an early life in the spotlight, and looking at where they both were in 1997 is an interesting act of comparison (and just about the only reason I can find for putting these two flicks together aside from their release year and 101-minute running times).

Traveller is a B-grade conman flick that puts a bunch of decent actors together in a formulaic plot to get the big score. Paxton is in fine form as the conman who falls for one of his victims, and Walhberg shows serious promise as the apprentice. However, no amount of talent in front of the camera can make up for the fact that we've seen this plot before.

Telling Lies in America tries to trade on a bit of Sixties nostalgia (a la Dirty Dancing) by pitting rock 'n' roll against oppressive parenting. Kevin Bacon knows about these kinds of films, having starred in Footloose, so he plays it cool here. Renfro gives his character an angst-y edge that doesn't fit the Sixties vibe but does make his performance more interesting. The highlight of the film is easily the thirty-three-year-old Calista Flockhart playing a teenager. She's eighteen years older than Renfro and only six years younger than Bacon, and her presence is truly hilarious. I mean casting twentysomethings is laughable in most teen films, but a thirtysomething? That's just absurd. If you can get beyond that, there's the usual amount of sentiment and triumph by the film's end.

Neither film has been lavished with much attention for this release. Both transfers are AVC-encoded in their respective OARs. Telling Lies in America looks the better of the two. It's print is in slightly better shape, and the transfer is bright and has a bit more detail. Traveller looks a little bit more beat up, with some print damage and an overall softer look. Neither film is reference quality (and barely above DVD in some sequences), but for films of this vintage, the transfers are watchable enough.

Of course, you didn't expect extras on a disc like this, right?

I'm sure that somewhere, these films have fans. For them, this release is just fine. As I type this, it's cheaper to buy this Blu-ray double feature than Traveller on DVD alone, and certainly cheaper than buying both films individually on DVD. It's also a bargain for those looking for obscure films, and fans of the actors will probably appreciate this set.

Traveller / Telling Lies in America is a head-scratcher of a double-feature release. Sharing neither stars, genre, or sensibilities, these two films are worlds apart, but for those looking to complete their Bill Paxton or Joe Eszterhaus hi-def collection, the disc is worth seeking out. For everyone not already fondly attached to this flicks, this is a disc to skip.

The Verdict

If you need these movies cheap, this set is not guilty.

Review content copyright © 2012 Gordon Sullivan; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice, Telling Lies In America
Judgment: 81

Perp Profile, Telling Lies In America
Video Formats:
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)

Audio Formats:
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)

* None

Running Time: 101 Minutes
Release Year: 1997
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13

Distinguishing Marks, Telling Lies In America
* None

Scales of Justice, Traveller
Judgment: 82

Perp Profile, Traveller
Video Formats:
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)

Audio Formats:
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)

* None

Running Time: 101 Minutes
Release Year: 1997
MPAA Rating: Rated R

Distinguishing Marks, Traveller
* None

* IMDb: Traveller

* IMDb: Telling Lies in America