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  The Walker

Starring: Woody Harrelson, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lauren Bacall, Ned Beatty

Directed by: Paul Schrader

Produced by: Deepak Nayar

Written by: Paul Schrader

Distributor: ThinkFilm

 

As seen at the 2007 San Diego Film Festival:

     Paul Schrader's The Walker offers exactly what one would expect from a "minor" Schrader picture: pleasantly written dialogue, but little of the depth that has made the filmmakerís best work (i.e.: the writing for Taxi Driver, the writing and direction for Auto Focus) so great. Schrader definitely isnít at the top of his game here, but The Walker is so much better than most of the other "political dramas" that have been released this year that I savored every bit of it as I watched. It is the kind of film that may not resonate with the viewer in terms of its literal content, but rather engages by building a progressively affecting aura as it moves.

     Woody Harrelson gives perhaps the best performance of his career as Carter Page III, the son and grandson of wealthy and influential politicians. Carter isnít as agenda-minded as the former men in his family, but his cocky swagger carries just as much gravitas as theirs once did. He finds power in Washington as a ďwalker,Ē an unpaid escort who locks arms with the wives of important politicians at social functions. Flamingly homosexual and undoubtedly self-infatuated, Carter is always sure to make himself seem more involved than he really is in the lives of those around him .

     Carter's self-important attitude hits him especially hard when he decides to conspire in a good 'ol Washington cover-up with one of his clients. Said client is Lynn Lockner (Kristin Scott Thomas), who, at the beginning of the film, is driven by Carter to see her lobbyist lover, Robbie Kononsberg (Steven Hartley), only to find him murdered in the middle of his home. Fearing how the press might react to the revelation that she had been cheating on her husband (Willem Dafoe)ólet alone cheating on her husband with a lobbyistóLynn flees the scene and allows Carter to claim to have been the one to have found Robbie dead.

     What unravels following The Walkerís inciting incident isnít what one would expect from the typical political-thriller, mainly because Schrader doesnít allow it to be. The accomplished writer/director is much less concerned with external plot than he is with capturing a distinctive atmosphere. He lavishly indulges in the vernacular and mannerisms exhibited by the Washington-elite that Carter and Lynn entertain. The plot-related consequences of Carter and Lynnís cover-up enter the picture sparingly, although Schrader constantly finds himself fascinated by the more-interesting emotional outcomes of the act. Aiding this style immensely is Harrelson, who downright disappears into the lead role. Alongside him in the cast are the equally-valuable Thomas, Lauren Bacall, Ned Beaty, Lily Tomlin, and Moritz Bliebtreu.

     Despite the command that Schrader exhibits over The Walker, I would be lying if I claimed that I didnít think that the movie got a little boring in the second act. I made a point of mentioning my admiration for the filmís sense of atmosphere, but it should also be noted that Schraderís concentration on this sometimes causes the picture to feel slightly monotone on the whole. I donít mean to question Schraderís patient advancement of the plot at handóhe accomplishes this in stunning formóbut I do think he couldíve cut certain bulky scenes in the filmís middle-section. While it is true that The Walker is largely about expressing the inconsequence of political high-society through inconsequential dialogue, Schrader still couldíve cut a few unnecessary conversations and ended up with a product of identical meaning. Even so, itís rather hard to fault the film, which achieves what it sets out to achieve in a usually-stunning fashion. I canít say that The Walker is one of my absolute favorite pictures of the year, but I admire the heck out of the vast majority of its contents.

-Danny Baldwin, Bucket Reviews

Review Published on: 10.9.2007

Screened on: 9.28.2007 at the Pacific Gaslamp 15 in San Diego, CA.

 

The Walker is rated R and runs 107 minutes.


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