Lawrence is the journeyman and namesake of this film, a man who is essentially a modern-day detective with a dash of James Bond thrown in for good measure. What may have started as a normal job quickly escalates into a cyber-thriller adventure that spans numerous countries. Although the use of our beloved internet does factor into this film, it really is more of an action/adventure that takes place in the real world - much like the Bond films I referenced above. We have chases, bangs, booms, guns, fighting, and pretty much everything else you would expect from a thriller, just done indie. The one feeling I couldn't shake while watching was that "The Journeyman" reminded me of a hard-boiled "The Da Vinci Code" in so many ways. Especially the atmosphere and pacing. Definitely not a bad thing.
At its heart, this really is a conspiracy film involving massive amounts of cash. I wrote that the feel of the movie reminds me of the film version of Dan Brown's book, but by way of concept it has more in common with the "Bourne" films. Our hero Lawrence doesn't just sit around in his darkened room and hunt for clues online, he is very much a man of action. A spy that isn't actually a spy. His pairing with Ariana completes the transformation, making the heroic pair enough to rival or surpass any movie spy you can think of. Ariana's character is far from a pretty face for the screen, and the strength of her character is a direct compliment to Lawrence himself.
Another welcome addition to this film is the inclusion of narration. This not only adds some personality to the movie but doubles as a way to keep track of what's going on. This really is a complex plot - with far more going on than I care to write out in the description. The narration keeps things clear and concise, as well as adding a bit of personality to the movie. The truth is that even if this weren't a spoiler-free review, writing out what takes place would be a massive undertaking - so I'll make things simple. If any of the movies I've mentioned above are your cup of tea, "The Journeyman" may be a great choice when you feel the urge for some excitement. There's a great story here and even the acting - especially for a lower budget indie flick, is pretty darn decent. And yet things are far from perfect regarding this production. If you're not interested in my technical observations, skip to the final section of this review.
First and foremost, one thing is clear - the writing of this film is top-notch. The constant ebb and flow of the plot kept things interesting for me, even when some of the technical aspects did not. Obviously, this is a low budget indie film - so I never expected a hundred million dollar production. But some of my issues could have been fixed with a slicker, meaner edit, a tripod or two, and general tweaks here and there. I'll get into them below but in truth, most people don't care how much work it takes to make a film. The casual viewer simply sees things one of two ways. They either like, or they don't. The heart and soul put into it doesn't matter to them - so getting everything as best as it can be is crucial. This film, at times, feels a little rushed - and a little long-winded. Yet it's the hodgepodge of mixed visuals that may turn people away. On one hand, it's their loss but on the other hand?
For the sake of disclosure let me write that I watch movies on my 64" television. So, things that really stand out to me may not be as evident on a smaller computer monitor. Right off the bat, I noticed severe frame rate issues. Shot by shot, edit by edit, and scene by scene they were a constant irritant. The result was a kind of skippy, blurring effect that I really can't describe to anyone who doesn't know what it is. Almost like watching a film with a bad connection - but not so bad that it has to buffer. It's generally caused by including shots with different frame rates, and trying to make them all work together. I also noticed that "The Journeyman" uses a lot of green-screened shots, and the color grade of the subject was often much different than the background. One example is that super crushed blacks made up the actors, and lifted blacks made up the backing scene. That, mixed with the general keying noise on my screen made things a tough sell sometimes.
Aside from the visual elements I've described, this film also relies on hand-held, shaky footage mixed in with what I assume are stock footage clips. It's such an uneven and visually obtrusive combination at times. You have a clear, steady shot one second - followed by a dizzying spread of shaky shot edits the next. I also noticed that a lot of the times the actors looked sick, thanks to a greenish hue that is present quite a bit. Other indie hallmarks include some uneven audio and an overall film that feels a little longer than it probably should.
However, when it's all said and done, many may not even notice some of what I wrote above. I look for it, the casual viewer doesn't. "The Journeyman" for me ended up being a pretty decent flick. A huge undertaking when you consider the complexities and scope of what Peter Babakitis' script called for. The fact a full, three-act film was finished is simply amazing all things considered. The fact that it's actually a good film just makes my head spin - in the best of ways. This isn't a simple, one-room cut and dry movie. It's complicated, it's country spanning, and it's smart. For the true movie buff, there's a great story here. For the casual viewer however, "The Journeyman" may be a little indie for their tastes, but it's really their loss. A solid two and a half stars.