Paul Schrader steps back behind the camera after the rigmarole surrounding his entry in The Exorcist franchise to write and direct an equally sinister thriller set in Washington, D.C., where politics and personal lives intertwine to create an altogether different hell.
Woody Harrelson stars as Carter Page, a wealthy, gay Southern socialite who serves as friend and confidant to the wives of America's political power players. He is the eyes and ears of the gossipy Washington social scene, but not one to betray a trust. This loyalty lands him in hot water when he covers for a senator's wife (Kristin Scott Thomas) dangerously close to a murder investigation. The move deflects heat from a close friend, but it turns back on him. As the law circles, Carter is slowly ostracized from Washington's back-stabbing inner circle, forcing him to clear his name alone in an investigation that snakes through the highest ranks of government. Superficially, The Walker has a lot to offer: an all-star cast (Lauren Bacall, Lily Tomlin, Willem Dafoe and Ned Beatty round out the players), slick and stylized direction and cinematography and an overall intriguing premise. It falters nonetheless. Harrelson is adequate but not strong enough to carry the film. His performance is imbued with affectations. Restrained fey mannerisms and a thick Southern drawl that reduces dialogue to mumbles render him unbelievable and, ultimately, distracting. These distractions don't help a script already convoluted with jumbled connections and odd puzzle pieces. The combination becomes overwhelming by the final act, reducing a potentially stinging thriller into mere confusing political theatre.