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Walker, The (AF)


Stars: Woody Harrelson, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lauren Bacall, Moritz Bleibtreu, Mary Beth Hurt, Willem Dafoe, William Hope, Steven Hartley, Michael J Reynolds

Director: Paul Schrader

Schrader’s a cult moviemaker with screenplays like Taxi Driver and Raging Bull and, as director, films such as American Gigolo and the underrated Auto Focus to his credit. So while it’s tempting to see The Walker as an updated riff on American Gigolo's protagonist, the unfortunate combination of Harrelson’s ultimately unconvincing portrait of a gay well-born socialite who squires well-born wives to social occasions in Washington DC instead of their husbands, and Schrader’s sometimes over self-referential but shallow screenplay rather puts paid to such an auteurist approach - i.e. praise the filmmaker, ignore the film. Instead you wonder why the director of Cat People has ended up making (at least part of) a movie on the Isle of Man.

Schrader’s somewhat less than riveting storyline finds Harrelson (“I am the gay weathervane”), sporting a hairpiece and a fey accent and trying to act camp, becoming dangerously enmeshed in intrigue and murder, and his direction often dilutes the already watered-down impact of an often unfocussed story whose grip is largely palsied.

It doesn’t help, either, that the leading character is constantly upstaged by the actresses playing Harrelson’s inner circle of women of a certain age: they get most of the best lines and make meals of them like starving lionesses falling on their first dead zebra in months. Bacall reprises her now very familiar scenery-chewing basilisk-visaged harpy, Tomlin plays her age and is all the better for it, while, if you like that sort of thing, Scott Thomas serves up yet another polished take on her icy-cold screen character.

But in the final analysis, when the character played by Ned Beatty says “People want a story - a good American story” I couldn't help agreeing. Sadly, for all its merits, The Walker isn’t one.

Alan Frank

USA/UK 2006. UK Distributor: Pathe. Colour.
108 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 10 Aug 2007