5 July 2009 | Quinoa1984
more drama than thriller, cool and collected, fantastic Harrelson performance
The Walker is about a profession many of us aren't aware of: socialites like Mr. Carter Page III, who escort ladies who happened to be the wives of senators and congressman around Washington DC and play cards and socialize (hence the 'social' part of the title). But it's also about a murder mystery, where a man is killed who is connected with Lynn Lockner, married to senator Larry Lockner. Who killed him, for what motive, and what are the connections and the fall-out of the scandal, are all a part of the narrative for Paul Schrader, the mind-games of Washington, the slick veneer and quietly accepted facts of corruption and greed and, usually, scandal. But it's also about this man, the Walker, how he is viewed by the women he is polite to (indeed his politeness is pointed out as a weakness, as "Don't be so polite" in this DC society), and his own self flagged by the legacy of his father, a hero in the eyes of many in DC. Oh, and he's gay, though this is only the ice on the cake.
For Paul Schrader, it's a mature work that shows him skillfully working out this side of DC that is fresh in perspective. He is able to write the dramatic scenes much better, however, than those of that of a thriller. One senses Schrader's investment in his own material hit high points when he just has two people in a room talking about the heart of a matter, like an argument between Carter and Emek that is really all about Carter's father but exactly about Carter the whole time, or a scene between Carter and Lauren Bacall's elder lady when he finds out a vital piece of information (the "black sheep" dialog). Scenes like those are very good, while a chase scene down an alley feels weaker, filmed with tired and repetitive dutch angles and close-ups.
So, if it isn't quite one of Schrader's best films, albeit not his worst, it is definitely an achievement for Harrelson. He disappears into the character of Carter Page III (note the III) as an effeminate but strong-willed Southern man who hides his baldness with a hair piece and keeps his politeness and calm demeanor as something that is partly natural and partly a cover for what is really deep down someone who has disappointed others around him. It's so fascinating to see this actor who, indeed, once was a co-star in White Men Can't Jump, tackle such a complex character and succeed in every scene with depth and sensitivity and subtlety. He is nothing less than totally absorbing, especially up against old pros like Bacall and Ned Beatty.