4 out of 10

Release Date: 13th January 2011

Director: Kris McManus (Dead In France)

Cast: Tom Geoffrey, Shane Sweeney, Alex Edwards, Celia Muir, Dean S. Jagger, Chris Manns, Ben Richards and Charley Boorman

Writer: Kris McManus


Review by Matt Usher


  • Tom Geoffrey: Dead In France
  • Celia Muir: Dead In France
  • Charley Boorman: The Long Way Down (TV), The Long Way Round (TV) Charley Boorman- By Any Means (TV), The Bunker, The Serpent’s Kiss, The Emerald Forest


  1. TRAVELLERS – review by Matt Usher

    ‘Don’t judge by appearances’ is an old and valuable lesson which we never seem to learn, so I suppose it’s good to be reminded of it every now and again. And it’s certainly the moral of this film, which cleverly weaves its narrative message into its own creative process, as the film itself is one which we perhaps shouldn’t judge entirely on first impressions, because for the first ten minutes or so it’s pretty awful.

    The opening credit sequence is extremely good – all evocative moodiness and words fragmenting and being scattered by the wind, intercut with shots of four mysterious bikers cruising through some fairly mundane countryside. We seem to be in the world of proper film-making. Then the film begins and it all clatters rapidly and disastrously downhill. We are introduced to four friends, and as usual in this sort of film you don’t for a moment believe that any of them could possibly even know each other let alone be friends. This isn’t helped by the actors, none of whom seem to be familiar with the demands of acting. For reasons known to the writer-director, the members of this doomed quartet are all portrayed as the kind of thoroughly hideous individuals (they’re city boys off on an unspecified adventure outing) who you sincerely hope will die horribly. They pop into a yokel-pub where someone called Charley Boorman turns up to discuss renting a field to them (that is the extent of his involvement so if he is in any way a draw for you you’ll probably be disappointed). Our heroes show their gratitude by insulting everyone in the pub then scarper with amusing laddish intent. They set up camp and sit round the campfire in order to fully establish their character traits (and provide some of the worst ADR I’ve encountered). One is very dull and says very little and will therefore be the first to die. Then there’s the only one who might convince as a city trader (gormless, Aryan), a sensible one with a beard and a dark secret (he’s a gypsy!), and a pillock also with a dark secret (he’s a psycho!). Next morning Psychopillock, who thinks he’s seen a dead woman in a nearby gypsy caravan, decides to spray graffiti over the caravan, much to the very mild chagrin of his cohorts, and to the intense irritation of the gypsies who return and see the scoundrel in the act. A chase ensues, which takes up most of the next half hour, during which the Aryan trader is captured and held hostage by the gypsy lady the Psychopillock thought was dead (they bond); the dull non-speaking city boy gets mysteriously murdered and our remaining heroes obtain a gun, and death ensues.

    The second half of the film mostly sees our bearded secret-gypsy hero, who by this time has been very badly beaten and stabbed and generally duffed up by the day’s events, take part in a bare-knuckle fight with an Irish gypsy with a limp. They bond. Then it turns out that Psychopillock was the cause of all the death and destruction in the first place. It all ends in tears and the survival of both the bearded no-longer-secret gypsy and the Aryan uber-trader, who, it turns out, was probably meant to be the moral centre of the film.

    The bizarre thing about TRAVELLERS is how much better it gets as it goes along (according to the unimpeachable IMDB the producers managed to get some extra funding after the first block of filming – that would make a lot of sense as the film moves from being a student/vanity project to being a proper film). Although the story remains under-developed, the final hour proceeds with a great deal of confidence. The director has an eye for interesting visuals: rarely can a caravan have been so well shot (look at the bit where the Psychopillock is spraying red graffiti against an otherwise bleached-out background for example). The fights are well-choreographed and don’t go on too long, and the film-makers make good sparing use of blood splattering special effects. The film tends to suffer whenever the main actors open their mouths though. But when they’re running about and having punch-ups they’re pretty convincing. More successful are the actors playing gypsies, especially Celia Muir as Not Dead Woman (that’s not a strictly accurate description). Why has she only been in two films? And why was the other one DEAD IN FRANCE? (This is depressing: DEAD IN FRANCE is the second film made by this team, and it’s a hopeless, horrible mess – a film which couldn’t have looked more amateurish if it had tried (sometimes when being charitable I wonder if it’s meant to be a send-up of bad film-making – nothing can be as bad as DEAD IN FRANCE by accident), whereas TRAVELLERS shows quite a bit of promise – it’s tightly organised, occasionally atmospheric, and stays on track, telling its story and not getting side-tracked).

    TRAVELLERS tries to deal with prejudice, but does so in a pretty ham-fisted way. From the start the audience is given no realistic reason to assume that the gypsies are in any way bad. Our bearded hero has a rational outlook: he refuses to judge the gypsies. Quite right too. But then it turns out that he’s not judging them not because he’s a rational, thoughtful person, but because he’s a gypsy too! Meanwhile the Aryan city-type has a Damascene conversion based seemingly on the fact that Not Dead Woman doesn’t kill him, which leads him to waste his company’s wi-fi on watching bare-knuckle boxing fights on Not Youtube. The film’s big problem (aside from the whole of its first ten minutes) is that in order to give us the ‘don’t judge by appearances’ moral it has to turn one of our so-called heroes into a psychopathic loon, despite the fact that from the start he’s established as an unsympathetic character anyway. In other words, we would be right to judge by appearances.

    I wouldn’t go out of my way to recommend TRAVELLERS to anyone, but if you do start watching it then it’s worth staying with to see how it improves after the campfire (or watch the credits then forward to the 9:30 mark). Sadly the only thing the film-makers seem to have learned from this experience is how to do head-exploding, a technique they repeat (several times I think) in the abysmal follow-up DEAD IN FRANCE. In the end TRAVELLERS is (just about) a decent oiks vs yokels punch-up film, one whose hidden depths are best left hidden – this is strictly surface entertainment.

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