|A FilmExposed Film Review
Dir: Paul Schrader, 2007, US, 107mins
Cast: Woody Harrelson, Kristin Scott-Thomas, Lauren Bacall, Lily Tomlin, Ned Beatty
Paul Schrader has described Carter Paige III (Harrelson), the central figure in The Walker, as a continuation of the type of character he has previously explored in Taxi Driver (1976), American Gigolo (1980) and Light Sleeper (1992). Paige is yet another one of Schrader's outsiders, a lonely man watching other people living their lives while being unable to find any comfort in his own. The only difference this time around is the fact that the character has come out of the closet.
Carter Paige is a 'walker', a man whose sole purpose is to act as companion and confidante to Washington's rich and powerful women. He accompanies them to society parties, offers advice during shopping trips, and he has a regular canasta game with three particular ladies (Scott-Thomas, Bacall and Tomlin, all on good form) which is really an excuse to wallow in the latest slice of salacious gossip. It's a pretty comfortable existence for Carter, if a rather soulless one, but in an echo of American Gigolo, his world is shattered when he is wrongly suspected of murder. As Carter's reputation loses its lustre, he quickly finds his former friends turning their backs on him.
The similarities between this film and Schrader's early-80's gigolo drama are obvious, but the director insists on constantly drawing attention to them anyway, utilising a number of familiar visual tropes and throwing in a carefully choreographed undressing sequence which acts as a clear counterpoint to Richard Gere's iconic dressing montage in the earlier film. In fact, the film is another handsome piece of work all round but like Carter Paige himself, The Walker is a just stylish-looking shell. There simply isn't anything going on here which is different or interesting enough to grab the attention. The plot is rather talky and pedestrian, and it's hard to invest any energy in following the narrative when it unfolds in such a flaccid manner. The film lacks the passion and gritty complexity which has characterised Schrader's best work, and his frequent stabs at the sour state of George W Bush's Washington feel like empty gestures.
But The Walker's weakest element is its inability to work as a character study, the area in which Schrader generally excels. The casting of Woody Harrelson, in a role unlike anything he has ever done, is a bold move which doesn't quite come off. The actor gives a camp, slightly mannered performance which can be fun at times, but he never manages to express the internal conflict which this man is supposedly suffering from, and it saddles the movie with a dead centre. It's simply impossible to care about the fate of such a cold fish of a character, and Carter himself sums up his inadequacy as a compelling protagonist when he tells us "I'm not naïve, I'm just superficial". The Walker, unfortunately, is both.