The Walker & r & & r & by LUKE BAUMGARTEN & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & "I & lt;/span & 'm not na & iuml;ve," says Woody Harrelson in an odd, smarmy Southern-ish accent. "I am superficial." The same or similar could be said of The Walker, the film in which Harrelson plays Carter Page III, for all intents and purposes a professional gay guy. He's the great-grandson of a slave owner, grandson of a tobacco baron and the son of an incredibly powerful senator. Rather than becoming a businessman or politician of principle and moral rectitude, Page has rebelled against the success and moral antipathy (they seem to go hand in hand) of his family in the most poetic way possible: by not making a damn thing of himself.

Page is content to spend his days playing canasta and gossiping with the wives of the elite -- he's a walker, a gay male companion who society wives can pal around with without fear of impropriety -- then turning the insider information into payouts from real estate agents and the like. He probably doesn't need the money. Most likely there's family cash. He dresses impeccably despite working one half-day a week.

Page seems to enjoy being plugged into the Beltway, although he doesn't want to be in the driver's seat. Hobnobbing is just fine. Rocking the boat is outside his character. When a married friend of his stumbles upon her lover -- a high-powered lobbyist -- stabbed to death, Page finds himself drawn into a web of intrigue that goes all the way to the top.

Director Paul Schrader's The Walker could have been a lovely little portrait of conscience and consciousness, a study of the legacy, struggles and ghosts of the identity politics of being gay and/or a Southern Democrat in America's halls of power. The Walker is reminiscent of that kind of film (American Gigolo, also by Schrader), but it never really digs deep enough. It remains, like Page himself, content to root around just below the surface. It breaks through the patina of power briefly, sees the seedy inner workings, feels satisfied with itself and digs no further.

Even as the plot finally resolves itself, Page doesn't really take his fate into his own hands. He's been on a roller coaster, but, like the rest of his life, he wasn't in control. (Rated R)

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