The Walker

2007, Movie, PG-13, 108 mins

Review

WALKER, THE
starstarstarstar
Writer-director Paul Schrader's melancholy thriller about an aging social butterfly caught up in a sordid murder is sleek, sharp-tongued and sadly cynical: Call it "American Gigolo: The Midlife Crisis."

Born into a venerable Virginia political dynasty, Washington man-about-town Carter "Car" Page III (Woody Harrelson) has parlayed true-blue breeding, education and an ear for gossip into a superficially enviable life of cultured leisure. But as he's regularly reminded, he's not the man his ancestors were: His grandfather governed of Virginia, his father distinguished himself during the Watergate hearings, and Car is a Walker: He squires wealthy Washington ladies to events their husbands can't or don't want to attend. He has a hunky boyfriend, German-Turkish photographer Emek Yoglu (Moritz Bleibtreu), whom he keeps in the shadows – which isn't to say there's anyone who doesn't know he's gay. That's why he can escort his guardian harpies -- gimlet-eyed Abigail (Lily Tomlin), wife of consummate fixer Jack Delorean (Ned Beatty); widowed grande dame Natalie Van Miter (Lauren Bacall) and Lynn Lockner (Kristin Scott Thomas), unhappily married to crusading Senator Larry Lockner (Willem Dafoe) – to parties, the theater and charity events without triggering the poisonous gossip by which political careers live and die. Car even chauffeurs Lynn to and from her trysts with a brash financier (Steven Hartley), and when one day she finds him brutally murdered he agrees to keep her out of the mess by telling the police he found the body. Unfortunately, that makes Car a suspect and opens his eyes to the extent of his ladies' loyalty.

If THE WALKER ultimately fails as a thriller, it's because Schrader's interests lie elsewhere, in the nuances of Car's carefully tended persona and the seething self hatred in conceals. Though ultimately flawed, the film's depiction of velvet-gloved cruelty and matter-of-fact betrayal is surprisingly potent, and it's pure pleasure to watch Bacall prowling the corridors of power, tossing her golden mane and tossing off world-weary observations in a voice pitched somewhere between a purr and a growl. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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