With The Walker
, Paul Schrader completes the "lonely man" trilogy he began with American Gigolo
(1980) and Light Sleeper
(1992). If his third entry lacks the cheap thrills of its predecessors - the airbrushed glamour of the former and noir atmospherics of the latter - it's still a compelling character study.
Cast against type, but rising above it, Woody Harrelson plays openly gay Carter Page III. Like Richard Gere's Armani-clad escort, Carter is always dressed to the nines, and ready with a cutting quip. Instead of servicing female clients, the Southern senator’s son serves as a "walker," a chaperone for Washington DC's political wives. Carter’s coterie includes Lynn (Kristin Scott Thomas), Natalie (Lauren Bacall), and Abigail (Lily Tomlin). When Lynn's lobbyist lover turns up dead, Carter's carefully constructed world comes crashing down. Out of loyalty, he reports the murder (though Lynn found the body), but because Carter also has ties to the victim, the authorities make him their prime suspect. With the help of sometime lover Emek (Run Lola Run's Moritz Bleibtreu), he sets out to restore his reputation.
Though the literate dialogue is up to Schrader's high standards, the director slackens the pace just when he should be ratcheting up the tension. Still, few filmmakers know how to make the truism "To thine own self be true" seem less trite. Unfortunately for Carter, he has to learn that lesson the hard way.
Moody and rather pretentious, The Walker
fails to engage on the level it so desires. Yet it still commands a certain fascination.