April 21, 1997 12:00 PM

Bill Paxton, Julianna Margulies

The next time a guy in a truck drives up to your house and tells you he has some sealant left over from a job he did down the road and do you want him to do your driveway for a couple hundred, say no. Chances are he’s a con artist and the sealant is plain old water mixed with oil. That is a lesson gleaned from Traveller, a small, initially playful film about a couple of con men (Paxton and Mark Wahlberg) who travel the rural South. With its colorful characters and cons, Traveller has a lot going for it, but a violently nasty turn toward the end proves jolting and considerably dissipates one’s feeling of goodwill toward the movie.

Paxton (Twister) delivers a shaded, complex performance, while Margulies (ER), playing a single mom whom Paxton first cons but then comes to care for, shows far more colors here than in Paradise Road. The weak link is Wahlberg (formerly known as Marky Mark), who seems ill at ease. Jack Green, cinematographer on nine Clint Eastwood films, makes a promising directorial debut—and pays tribute to his mentor with a quick glimpse of a Clint movie on a TV. (R)

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