Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Walker

Paul Schrader | 2007 | 108mins | USA

I'm kind of a Paul Schrader fan. Dude wrote Rolling Thunder, Taxi Driver, The Last Temptation of Christ. He even directed The Comfort of Strangers, one of my favourite, weird Christopher Walken films, featuring a young Rupert Everett, before he was openly gay. His career spans a weird assortment of seemingly incongruous but usually interesting work, and I absolutely never remember that he exists unless I find a film of his at eye level on a video store shelf.

So, when I spied a rental property that advertised itself as a Paul Schrader mystery/thriller starring a Woody Harrelson as a gay, Southern dandy, I figured it had to be a winner.

Normally, this is how I'd start a review of something that ends up "theoretically good" but "actually vomit-inducing". Not so with The Walker. It's reasonably clever. It stars Lauren Bacall, Lily Tomlin and Kristin Scott Thomas as a gossipy bridge club of Washington political wives. And then there's a murder and everyone gets embroiled, and poor gay Woody gets the short end of the stick.

Predictable, yes. But redeemed by good performances and a totally competent ending, if a little saccharine. Plus, Schrader's treatment of what it's like to be in the perilous position of being politically connected but essentially powerless is incisive and darkly funny. The rich, gay, behind-the-scenes mover and shaker who can't go to his boyfriend's art opening because it would be unseemly is kind of a cliché, but it works here. Maybe just 'cause it's Woody?

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