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Truth or Consequences N.M.
Starring Vincent Gallo, Kim Dickens, Kiefer Sutherland and Mykelti Williamson; with Rod Steiger and Martin Sheen
Written by Brad Mirman
Directed by Kiefer Sutherland

There is a sequence in Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde where the Barrow gang hijacks a car and takes hostage the couple inside it. During the long night together, they bond and the hostages are offered a place in the gang -- until the man reveals that he is an (IRS agent I think it is), at which point the couple is kicked out of the car.

Expand upon that sequence and you have the terrific directorial debut of actor Kiefer Sutherland, Truth or Consequences, N.M. It's a story about piling one mistake on top of another; of wanting to be the robber when you were a little kid, and not growing up good enough to be the cop; of standing by your man for the simple reason that you love him. The film offers crisply defined characters, a story which logically leads to the inevitable conclusion and six actors firing all cylinders. When the other critics walk out of the private screening room -- Cranky does do the posh seats every once in a while -- mumbling "that was very good" you know there's something there.

We begin with Raymond Lebecke (Vincent Gallo) doing time in place of a drug seller. Once out of the can, Raymond is "rewarded" with a two bit hard labor job. Not what he expected. With his much smarter love Addy (Kim Dickens) and jailbird pals Curtis (Sutherland) and Marcus (Mykelti Williamson) by his side, Raymond breaks into the empty warehouse where the dealer hangs, intending to rip off the cash and the blow. Problem is, the dealer is there doing a deal. Second problem is that Curtis is a lunatic and blows the pair away, only to discover that one of the dead is an undercover DEA agent. Third problem is that everything is caught on tape, so the DEA is hot on the trail of our gang.

On the run, the band of four becomes a band of six when they take hostages (Kevin Pollack and Grace Phillips) and we see an intricate character study play out on screen. It's called "Stockholm Syndrome," in which Pollak begins to sympathize and then empathize with his captors. He's warned "not to cross the line" and how that warning plays out is a most interesting twist on an old and tired concept.

There are other problems, involving the drug lord (Rod Steiger) who owns the drugs and his enforcer, a man so mean he is only called "Sir" (Martin Sheen). How mean is he? Let's just say that Truth or Consequences, so I'm told, had ratings problems due to certain gruesomely violent portions. Sheen is involved. Nothing is gratuitous, but your stomach may churn. This ain't no popcorn flick.

Gallo and Dickens are outstanding; Sutherland, the actor, takes it over the top and the rest of the li'l band of thugs matches him. It's a Bonnie and Clyde for the 90s. Highly recommended.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Truth or Consequences, N.M., he would have paid...


Donald should be a very proud papa.

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