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If you’ve seen “Deliverance” or “Southern Comfort” then you’ll have an idea of what to expect from “Travellers” – a bunch of blokes from the big city sticking their noses (and almost their dicks) in places where they don’t belong. Only whereas those films are set in America, this one’s from the U.K.
“Travellers” begins with four city-twats (they are all twats, apart from one) riding their motorbikes across the country while a nifty sliding guitar soundtrack plays in the background. At this point, the scenery looks nice, the motorcycles look nice, the music sounds nice and due to us not yet being introduced to the four blokes – I suppose they seem nice too.
That doesn’t last long though. Eventually, the boys stop off at a local pub – one where all the locals immediately stop what they’re doing and look towards the door as soon as they enter, natch. Of course, this happens to me in every pub I go in, but that’s because I’m so good-looking – here, it’s more because the patrons aren’t used to seeing poncy yuppie-types strolling in like they own the place.
So, obviously, there’s a bit of hostility in the air. Now, I’m sure any normal person when faced with this situation would take the route of least confrontation and keep their heads down. Not these guys though (they are twats, remember), who immediately start running off with their mouths and accusing people’s parents of being brother and sister – way to go you lot! You’re a bunch of lads aren’t you eh? What are you like?
So naturally this pisses everyone off, but the boys don’t leave – instead one of them chats up the barmaid (another clever move) while the others go and chat to Charley Boorman (John Boorman’s son – geddit?) who swears a lot and tells them to piss off or something. Anyway, they finally leave, get back on their bikes and go and find a campsite.
THEY LARK ABOUT A BIT.
Then in the morning, they go exploring, find a caravan, and because they’re twats (you have to bear this in mind throughout), one of them smashes the window and spray-paints ‘PIKEY SCUM’ across the front. I mean these guys really are perfect central protagonists – it’s impossible not to root for them, what with their naive innocence and relatable behaviour.
As could be expected by any sane member of the human race, the residents return to their caravan, and not surprisingly, aren’t exactly overjoyed seeing as they didn’t remember applying for Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, so they punch the only city-idiot stupid enough to stick around, and set off to presumably annihilate the others.
That’s the story in a nutshell – obviously other things happen along the way, including but not limited to; running, fighting, punching, swimming, shooting, laughing, crying, screaming, stabbing, gutting, hiding, pissing, having a beard, getting naked, bare-knuckle boxing, exploding, falling over, and of course, the obligatory swinging a flaming plank of wood about the place like a nutcase.
So there’s a lot going on in “Travellers”, but is it any good? Well, yes and no. To begin with, it’s definitely a no, as we’re introduced to some rather amateurish acting and camerawork – both factors unavoidably drawing attention to the low budget. Then as we progress a bit, the absolute downright incomprehensible idiotism of the central characters becomes all too apparent – I mean this bunch really are a pack of jokers. The decisions they make and the way they go about ‘solving’ problems leaves you wondering how it is they’ve all got jobs in the city, such is their unbelievable stupidity.
This is amplified to deafening levels when considering one character however – Andy. He’s a truly impressive piece of work – if the filmmakers intended to make him this annoying, then props to them, but one begs the question, why? If not, then it’s a shame that Tom Geoffrey decided to play the part with such neck-tensing histrionics as to become so irritating that whenever he’s on screen, his presence frustratingly relegates any action to the background.
Yet somehow, the film manages to turn itself around. It ends up good.
It’s almost as if the filmmakers learnt as they went along, as the quality of the film exponentially increases as it progresses. Particularly once we’re properly introduced to the eponymous bad guys. This rag-tag bunch of boxers, shooters and erm, stabbers (?) prove a fantastically base foil to the over-thought numpties that comprise the city-folk. They’re pure forces of nature, and whilst some of them are admittedly just glorified henchmen with no more personality than the average Steven Seagal foot-fodder, there are those which stand out and make the film what it is. Mainly Dean S. Jagger, whose ferocious performance stands out as exceptional, with every scene in which he’s absent feeling somewhat empty. This is due to his multi-faceted performance which goes against the odds, for regardless of his ‘I’m a mad boxer’ character, he still manages to evoke a sense of understanding and even allows for some needed sympathy – they did wreck his caravan after all. In fact, towards the end, the film blurs the traditional lines of protagonist and antagonist, and it’s left to your own discretion as to who you side with. (I’m with the travellers, I’d have wanted to punch each and every one of those London boys.)
It’s in the last twenty minutes however, that the film really hits its stride. Firstly by way of a brutal bare-knuckle boxing sequence, with all the style and flair of Guy Ritchie’s similar scene in “Snatch”, and then climactically, a frenetic flame-lit tussle outside a burning caravan. Both these scenes show a skill from the director which isn’t really evident during the first half, and as a result, leave a fresh taste in the mouth as the credits roll.
Altogether, “Travellers” is almost a film of two halves – the first a frustrating amalgamation of annoying characters doing even more annoying things, and the second – a well-thought out and action-packed kick to the nuts. Therefore, I recommend you stick with it – as there’ll be those put off by the opening – because it all comes together in the end and you’ll be glad you went the distance.
Also, if you turn off too early, you won’t get to see any tits.
“Travellers” is out in UK cinemas 13th January and out on region 2 DVD on 7th February from High Fliers Films.