|Index||5 reviews in total|
WALKER PAYNE, as written by director Matt Williams and Alex Paraskevas,
is a bleak study of life in the late 1950s middle America. It is a
story of dreams crushed by the tough realities of bad luck and bad
decisions. For some viewers this story may be depressing, but for
others the story as a cinematic recreation of a period of time in
America is full of fine details and boasts a cast of excellent actors
who manage to involve us in the fleeting hopes and the permanent scars
that are magnified during difficult times and circumstances.
Walker Payne (Jason Patric), a lovable man with a prison record, works in an Illinois coal mine, spends his free time womanizing, yet is strongly attached to his two young daughters who now live with his estranged wife (Drea de Matteo) - a woman angry with her plight in life, having sacrificed her dreams of being a nurse to move to the little mining town, surviving as a waitress without child support from the financially delinquent Walker. His closest companion is his Pit Bull dog Brute who accompanies him everywhere. Walker longs to have his girls live with him, but the injured wife puts a price on that wish: she will give him possession of the girls for a fee of $5000., a figure she has calculated will pay for her leaving the little town she hates and pay for tuition and boarding in nursing school.
Walker is at a loss for funds, especially when the mine shuts down and he is unemployed. Seeking help from his banker friend does not result in a loan but does acquaint him with a new woman in town - Audrey (KaDee Strickland) - a proper girl with her own reasons for 'escaping' to the solitudes of the little mining town where she has a responsible position in the bank. Walker's close friend (Bruce Dern) collects stray animals and cares for them and is the source of Walker's gaining Brute as a pet, but when the desperate Walker seeks employment there, no funds are available for his help. Walker's roving romantic eye focuses on Audrey who plays hard to get until she sees how desperate Walker is to get the money to gain custody of his daughters, a fact which positively alters her perception of Walker. About this time Walker meets Syrus (Sam Shepard), a man who gambles and makes under cover deals: one of his 'games' is to find dogs who can fight for money and as he gets loser to Walker's desperation, he convinces him to train Brute to 'be the dog he was bred to be - a fighter'. Walker hesitates until he realizes this is his only chance to make the money to gain his little girls. Brute is trained, wins a fight, and Syrus then challenges Walker to enter a championship fight that will provide all the money Walker needs. Very reluctantly Walker steps into what is a scheme that results in tragedies in which he seems to lose it all - his dog, his freedom, his new love, and his girls. The audience is left to wade through the depression of the last portion of the film and create individual versions of how the story could possibly end.
There are some unresolved issues dealing with the motivations of some of the characters, but the film is very strong in allowing the viewer to understand the extremes to which people will go in times of crisis. Many portions of the film are difficult to watch (the dog fights are graphic), but somehow the actors are able to create strong enough impressions that our attention is focused more on the desperate and fragile dreams of each of the characters. The musical score by Mason Daring enhances the visceral cinematography by James L. Carter. This is a dark film with moments of human frailty that provide small beams of hopeful light. Grady Harp
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The title character, recently unemployed but charming as hell rogue (Jason Patric) and father of two little girls, gets an ultimatum from his shrill ex-wife (Drea de Matteo): The girls for $5,000. Wasn't it illegal to sell people in the 1950's? Never mind that. Seems Patric's out of luck until a stranger (Sam Shepherd) rolls into town (small mining town on the downslide) and offers to buy his beloved pet, Brute, a really fine looking dog. Refusing to give up his faithful companion, who is constantly by his side even at the local bar, the desperate Patric does get involved in Shepherd's racket, illegal dog-fighting, to make the money he needs to get his kids away from his skank of an ex. Hmm -- selling children, OK. Fighting dogs, no... Don't mistake the dry humor, we liked it quite a lot actually. Patric carries the first half or so. It's got a real boy/man-and-his-dog feel that we found endearing. We all know he can do understated and majorly intense better than most anyone, but who knew he could do mischievous so well? And you see growth in the character as he makes tough decisions. De Matteo I could do without, which actually means she did fine. Her character isn't supposed to be likable. Shepherd's an oily bastard, like the devil in a leisure suit. Nicely done there. The rogue's not getting any from his ex, unless you're one of those who thinks being slapped and yelled at is foreplay, so naturally he has a love interest (KaDee Strickland), who besides being pretty tries to steer her man down her idea of the right path. Rounding out the names is Bruce Dern as Patric's father. Sort of a window dressing part, but he does it well. The dog scenes? My wife averted her eyes once or twice and I had to cringe, but such things should affect you. If not, something's wrong with you. I don't know much about the technical aspects, but looks like they used fast action or something so it's not overly graphic, but still real enough to tug at the ol' heartstrings. Anyway, good movie. Anything that leaves us talking afterwards and asking "What Would You Do?" is good. Since we can't give it an 8.5, have to round up to 9: Unique storyline, great job by Patric and Shepherd, gotta love the dog. Recommended for all fans of Patric, Shepherd or de Matteo, folks who like dilemma flicks, and anyone who loves dogs. That should cover just about everybody. Saw it in NYC/Tribeca, but expect to see it picked up and shared with the rest of the world and we'll see it again when it makes it down to us in Mo. A word to the producers: With the DVD, add something about the dogs, actors playing with the dogs, how you go about staging the fights or something. Of course, they weren't hurt -- probably treated like canine kings -- but it's still nice to have assurances. Besides who doesn't like cute animal footage?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I recommend "Walker Payne" as a good example of how story design can go wrong. This movie has a lot going for it: it has a better-than-average cast, with Jason Patric as the title character and the scene-stealing Sam Shepard as a slick grifter; it has high production values that create the late-1950s setting; and it has a compelling plot about a father trying to get his daughters away from his ex-wife amid the seamy world of dog-fighting. But the lesson -- an expensive one for the investors and producers here -- is that if you think your script might be in trouble, why not spend a little more for a script doctor? For one thing, there is a major problem with the motivations of one of the key characters and Walker's love interest, Audrey. Audrey at first makes such a convincingly prissy bank clerk that her transformation into a bar-hopping hussy is baffling. As the old saying goes, a person's IQ goes up 25 points when he walks into a movie theater and most viewers won't buy Audrey as a plausible character. Another old rule of thumb is that a movie that ends well will satisfy audiences even if the rest of it is a mess. This rule is demonstrated in Act Three. The major plot turn is when the chief antagonist, Walker's ex-wife, makes the big decision to leave their two young daughters behind, get on a bus and go off to nursing school. The big secret was that she was in cahoots with the Grifter to push Walker into entering his beloved canine, Brute, into one more big championship dog match -- a plot point that makes her character a co-protagonist as well as the chief antagonist. Walker's last Big Decision was at the start of the Act Three when he decided to enter that big match. Of course, that assumes that you will suspend your disbelief at the notion of a dog-fighting championship belt -- er, collar. At any rate, after Walkers' decision on that, things mostly happen to him. Indeed, he makes only two small decisions in Act Three: first, to drive his seriously injured dog home. But that fails when the dog dies and Walker, a parolee, is caught by the police and thrown in jail for a potentially long sentence. And then in jail, his young daughters come to visit him and he tells them he has given up their Great Dream to move to a house with a swimming pool and a swing set. The final action shot shows Audrey walking out of the jail hand-in-hand with Walker's daughters and his father figure (Bruce Dern). Together they face the future. But then there are shots of an old mine that had eventually been transformed by Mother Nature into a beautiful lakeside park where Walker and Audrey had enjoyed a romantic interlude back in Act Two. Then the credits role. And that leaves you asking what was the theme of this movie? Every writer and filmmaker knows that the theme must be shown on screen. A movie that leaves its audience scratching its head about the theme has committed the eighth deadly sin. Here, the protagonist has just suffered three huge downers: dead dog, jail time, and telling his kids he's a loser. Remember: a character suffering a series of devastating setbacks is a common comedy device. Here, when Audrey, Dern's character and the kids walk outside to face the future, we can only assume that Walker is back in his cell, hanging himself. In any event, this suggests the theme: "Don't be cruel to your dog because you will lose everything you hold dear." But the additional shot of the old mine that became a beautiful park suggests the theme "Time heals all wounds." A script doctor might have suggested, for instance, that the dog could die and Walker escape the police. Then he recovers his children when the ex-wife leaves town. Or the dog survives and he gets arrested, and the girls nurse the dog back to health while Walker does his time and Audrey takes them in. Either way, Walker gets his kids and learns his lesson not to be cruel to his dog. But time heals all wounds? That theme could only work if there were a framing device of one of the daughters narrating the opening and closing by looking back at the events as an adult. I think that's why the resolution of "Walker Payne" doesn't work -- and why viewers have given it such a low rating. Still and all, it's an excellent cautionary lesson in film-making: a potentially good idea went to photography with a strong cast and a good production-design budget, but sank because of a lack of hard work and imagination that should have gone into the story design. Amazing how many producers and directors make this same mistake over and over.
A dark film in search of a faint glimmer of light. A small town womanizer, Walker Payne, who's out of work, must make some tough choices to save his two daughters who adore him. He is estranged from his bitter wife and in hock up to his ears since the local coal mine has shut down. Harsh reality finally catches up with him. Busted dreams and empty pockets, wrong choices and bad luck, fragile hope and heartbreaking desperation. The theme hinges on ethics and sacrifice. This movie is not for children since it does involve a dog fighting plot and there are other intense moments, including a sex scene or two and rough language. It's rated R. A slick gambling promoter shows up ( Satan in a leisure suit ) and wants Walker's beloved pet, a sweet pit bull, to train to fight other dogs for cash across state lines. This is an Indy film so don't expect a Hollywood ending. It didn't do well with audiences and these are the movies I prefer. They push buttons and some people don't like that.
In a small Illinois town in 1957 (based on the license plate on
Walker's '48-'50 Ford pickup) the coal mine where Walker works is
shutting down, putting him out of work. The reason is one I don't think
would have existed in 1957--government regulations on coal sulfur
Walker has two daughters Sarah and Beth who are being raised by Lou Ann, a waitress. Walker loves his kids and they love him, Lou Ann doesn't care how but she expects child support or Walker won't see his girls. Walker would make a better parent except for the fact he is a loser who drinks and has supposedly dated every woman in the county. And when I say dated ...
First Walker goes to the bank where Audrey works and takes everything out. Including Audrey. They eventually move in together. But Lou Ann wants to better herself and she demands $5000 so she can go to nursing school. In 1957? Where's she going, Vassar?
At a baseball game, Walker and his dog Brute meet Syrus, a charming and persuasive man who says Brute looks like an ideal fighting dog. Walker won't let Brute fight. And Walker's friend Chester, who takes in strays, agrees. But Lou Ann ups the ante and says Walker won't see his daughters until she gets the money. So Walker has no choice. The dog is actually pretty good, but how much punishment can Brute take? And this is an industry in which the owners shoot the losers. Plus the events have to be hidden from the cops.
So what's going to happen? Will Walker get his kids? Will Brute make it?
This is an entertaining enough movie. While the violence looks graphic, we are told at the end that no dogs were harmed. Someone is very creative in making it all look real. I assume there are stunt dogs, plus editing and makeup. I assume the TV-14 rating was the result of cute kids being an encouragement for kids to watch. They shouldn't.
Jason Patric does a good job and Walker clearly loves his kids. Drea de Matteo is good too, but her character sees the kids as a burden and uses them to get what she wants. She is not a loving parent.
Sam Shepard is the standout performer here. If there was no other reason to watch, he would be enough.
Bruce Dern also does a good job, and so do the little girls.
Don't watch if you can't stand violence against dogs. But it's still reasonably entertaining.
|Ratings||External reviews||Parents Guide|
|Plot keywords||Main details||Your user reviews|
|Your vote history|