When a Washington lobbyist is murdered, suspicion falls on The Walker, gay escort Carter Page III (Woody Harrelson), whose platonic friendships with the high-profile wives of the city’s politicos, one of whom (Kristin Scott Thomas) was the mistress of the murder victim, eventually exposes him to some sordid facts of D.C. life he’d prefer never to have unearthed.
Director Paul Schrader ( Affliction ) is exactly the wrong sort of filmmaker to essay a political thriller like this; he’s always been more comfortable with intellectual exercises involving societal critiques ( Blue Collar ) or decadent portraits of the demimonde ( The Comfort of Strangers ). A movie like The Walker, a tale of moral redemption that echoes Schrader’s screenplay for Taxi Driver, but without Martin Scorsese’s deft hand behind the camera, can only work if it has some passion and brio. Unfortunately, this would-be drama is lifeless and inert.
Harrelson is unbelievable as a gay Southerner or, for that matter, as a passive, recessive character; he’s always excelled at larger-than-life portraits. The rest of the cast doesn’t fare much better: Scott’s is a believable but wan performance, while Lily Tomlin and Lauren Bacall merely scratch the surface of their roles as women who will only go so far to help their ostensible friend.
Schrader also allows his own political bias to pop up in the film to the detriment of the plot. The potential victims are liberals or homosexuals or Arabs or women; the villains your basic white guys, like the unsavory businessman played by Ned Beatty. Surely this tale of Washington corruption, political and moral, has less to do with Republicans and Democrats than with those who have power, wield it behind the scenes or crave it incessantly. From Watergate to Monicagate, America's capital has been a hotbed of intriguing political and skullduggery, but you’d never know it from this flat, dull movie.
Cast: Woody Harrelson, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily Tomlin, Lauren Bacall and Willem Dafoe
Director/Screenwriter: Paul Schrader
Producer: Deepak Nayar
Rating: R for language, some violent material and nude images
Running time: 108 min.
Release date: December 7, 2007 NY/LA