“I’m God’s lonely man,” goes one of Paul Schrader’s more famous lines from his script for Taxi Driver (tip of the hat to Thomas Wolfe). And here is another of Schrader’s lonely men: the elegant, gay Carter Page III (Harrelson), enmeshed in his powerful circle of Beltway doyennes—he “walks” them to the society events their husbands would rather skip—but strangled by the heroic legacy of his Watergate-era senator father. “I’m not naive, I’m superficial,” Carter purrs, a shrewd comment striking at the heart of his glib self-laceration.
If only Carter weren’t so stranded by his writer-director as well. Despite an admirable leap by Woody Harrelson, who achieves a fine tartness while avoiding camp, and a dynamite “unwigging” sequence that might have come straight from Schrader’s American Gigolo, The Walker limps lamely along. Tired machinations turn Carter into a murder suspect after a lobbyist is found dead by one of the escort’s wealthier friends (Thomas) in desperate need of a beard. Bryan Ferry swoons on the soundtrack and Tom of Finland posters loom in bars, but the private emotional life of our sleuthing hero remains a closeted affair, a real shortcoming given Schrader’s willing cast.
Ultimately, you expect a reckoning, in which Carter steps above the catty fray or is consumed by it. Schrader can’t seem to choose a proper outcome, and the lack of a higher morality is weird, especially from a filmmaker who managed hints of spirituality in a movie about Bob Crane. Still, if you suffered through Schrader’s Exorcist prequel Dominion, you’ll know he’s somewhat back on track.
Cast and crew
Kristin Scott Thomas
Mary Beth Hurt
Michael J Reynolds