Opens at Uptown, Fri., Dec. 14. Rated R. 108 minutes.
Paul Schrader's cinema is largely defined by the pathology of his male protagonists, and with The Walker, he's added a striking new character to his gallery of loners. Carter Page III (Woody Harrelson) is the degenerate scion of a political family. Openly gay and eminently presentable, this American aristo makes himself useful as a companion to the neglected wives of the Washington elite—gabbing over canasta or escorting them to the opera. (Hence the term "walker," coined to describe Nancy Reagan's frequent squire Jerry Zipkin.) The Walker evokes a town of mighty rubes and backbiting yentas. Carter, however, has a special fondness for the vulnerable Lynn (Kristin Scott Thomas), who's unhappily married to liberal Sen. Larry Lockner (Willem Dafoe with a Gary Hart do). Once Lynn discovers her lobbyist lover stabbed to death and gallant Carter puts down his copy of Suetonius to shield her, The Walker settles into thriller mode. But in its final third, it falls apart. Emotional murk rises, stakes are lowered, and, despite a late dose of Hardy Boys derring-do, drama founders. This is a serious movie and, gliding around the center of power, a stylish one. But, like its protagonist, The Walker is unable to finish the job.