, 108 min, 2007
Director: Paul Schrader
Writer: Paul Schrader
Stars: Woody Harrelson, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lauren Bacall
Paul Schrader’s The Walker, his latest, is a neo-noir-ish thriller, yet another of his seedy character studies about professional men who go out into the night and apply their unique qualities to a particular vocation.
Carter Page III (Woody Harrelson) is the aging, homosexual son of a Southern senator who once investigated Watergate. “Car” as he’s known to his friends is something called a “walker,” a gentleman who escorts female society types from one place to another.
His clients meet weekly for a card game – mostly to engage in gossip and witty one-liners; they include Natalie Van Miter (Lauren Bacall), Abigail Delorean (Lily Tomlin), who is married to the rich and powerful Jack Delorean (Ned Beatty), and Lynn Lockner (Kristin Scott Thomas), whose husband, Senator Larry Lockner (Willem Dafoe), trusts Carter to transport her to weekly meetings with a male prostitute (Steven Hartley).
One day, Lynn discovers her young boyfriend murdered and informs Carter, who goes back to the scene of the crime and looks around. Having been seen by a neighbor wiping his fingerprints off the door handle, Carter (I assume thinking he can explain it away as the paranoia of a germaphobe) calls 9-1-1 to report that he discovered the body, leading to him being the lead suspect of Detective Dixon (Geff Francis) and, particularly, of overzealous U.S. Attorney Mungo Tenant (William Hope).
The investigation goes on to include Carter’s lover, Turkish paparazzo and aspiring art gallery photographer Emek Yoglu (Moritz Bleibtreu from Run Lola Run). As the net tightens, and as Carter uses his status as a Southern gentleman and the charm which comes with it, the film plunges head-first into a seamy underbelly full of politics, gossip, intrigue and sleaze.
Paul Schrader is the legendary screenwriter turned director who first explored the “man in a room” theme with his 1980 hit American Gigolo, starring Richard Gere as a wealthy older woman’s male prostitute. He continued with Light Sleeper (1992), starring Willem Dafoe as the uncommonly introspective drug dealing companion of an aspiring businesswoman (Susan Sarandon). Now, he has explored political intrigue and murder through the eyes of a gay escort.
Harrelson is rather perfect in the role of a man who never gained his father’s approval, who is constantly surrounded by aging, beautiful women, and who seems to see his station in life as being a platonic companion for the lonely and powerful of the fairer sex. The plot is a mild labyrinth in which Carter must use his connections, his wits and his knowledge of the Washington, D.C. power structure to come to an understanding of who would’ve killed his charge’s lover and why.
At the end of the day, this remains an effective and sorta fascinating thriller.