Combustible Celluloid
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With: Justin Chatwin, Katie Douglas, Lovie Simone, Terrence Howard, Jeremy Piven, Malcolm McDowell, Anastasiya Mitrunen, Sally Kirkland, William Mark McCullough, Jay Huguley, Jim Gleason, Thomas Francis Murphy, Maggie Wagner, Matthew Blade, Jackson Baker, Coletrane Williams
Written by: Daniel Adams, George Powell
Directed by: Daniel Adams
MPAA Rating: R for language throughout including racial slurs, and some violence
Running Time: 105
Date: 06/10/2022

The Walk (2022)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Sleep 'Walk'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Well-meaning and full of progressive, anti-racist themes, The Walk is nevertheless directed like a static after-school special, all heavy dialogue, and little emotional involvement or visual flair.

It's 1974 in Boston and the Massachusetts Supreme Court has ordered a mandatory desegregation busing plan. Several high school seniors have been forced to switch schools, with some white students attending the Black Roxbury school, and some Black students attending the white Southie school. Kate (Katie Douglas), who lives with her progressive parents, Pat (Anastasiya Mitrunen) and Billy (Justin Chatwin) — a good police officer — has begun dating local "bad boy" John (Matthew Blade), and picking up racist behaviors.

Meanwhile, widowed EMT Lamont (Terrence Howard) and his daughter Wendy (Lovie Simone) are preparing for Wendy's year at Southie with bravery and forgiveness. At work, Billy feels pressure from his old Southie cronies (Malcolm McDowell and Jeremy Piven) to to try to prevent integration, but Billy is committed to protecting all the kids, no matter their color.

The Walk — not to be confused with the 2015 movie of the same name about tightrope walker Philippe Petit — opens with several screens covered in historical data. It's a clunky way to pass on a great deal of information, essentially about the Supreme Court outlawing segregation, and the many years that passed while nothing was being done. The movie seems to agree that mandatory busing of kids to other districts was not the greatest idea, but it doesn't offer any better ones.

Possibly modeling itself after Crash, The Walk tries hard to paint its characters in shades of gray, but it also has a need to drive home its messages, resulting in most characters neatly falling on either one or the other side of the line. The most interesting character is Kate, who was raised right by her parents, but easily slips into racist behavior anyway. Katie Douglas plays her with a rounded, organic performance, but the movie still doesn't quite know what to do with the character, or how to explore her.

Some of the setups are so laughable — Pat carrying groceries through a shadowy parking lot at night, for one — that they negate the meaning of the senes. The big moment, the first day of school and a violent protest, feels artificial and clumsy. It's less a history lesson than a sleep 'walk.'

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