‘Walking The Edge’ starts with a bang, two of them to be exact, as within the first 5 minutes Joe Spinell’s character, Brusstar, has blown away a man and a teenage boy. Problem is, they were the family of Christine Holloway (Kwan) who witnessed the whole thing and managed to escape.
We are then introduced to Jason (Forster), a baseball player turned LA taxi driver who collects gambling debts and runs a numbers racket for local mobsters…And is a bit of a push over when it comes to persuasion. One day Christine gets in his cab and Jason unwittingly ends up being her driver for her revenge laced killing spree. But when the attack on Brusstar and his buddies goes wrong, Jason ends up being added to the bad guys shitlist. And eventually he’s going to have to start to fight back.
‘Walking The Edge’ on the surface is your basic revenge tinted exploitation movie, with plenty of swearing and violence. But what knocks it up a few notches is the performances, Robert Forster in particular, who excels at the “everyday Joe” role, and you do empathize with him during his introductory scenes as he’s basically treat like shit. Joe Spinell is great as the sleazy Brusstar, Spinell is one of those guys who had that perfect look to him when it came to these types of roles…and as is usually the case with actors of this type, in real life he was apparently a real nice guy.
Nancy Kwan is good also and certainly easy on the eye, but she isn’t in the movie as much as you’d expect…once her initial trigger-happy rampage of the opening 20 minutes is over, the film basically shifts focus to Forster’s character (Whom Christine amusingly refers to at one point as a “god damn jerk off cabbie!”)…It’s quite surprising really considering that her husband was the director, you’d think he’d want to use her as much as possible. Speaking of Mr Meisel, this film was quite a leap for him, as his previous efforts were in the “adult” genre, producing a mix of soft core and hardcore porn…I guess when you’ve worked in a genre which demands a bit of sleaze, working on a violent revenge movie seems to produce good results, after all Bill Lustig started out in the smut industry and he gave us grimy cult classics like ‘Maniac’ and ‘Vigilante’.
The film does have an air of freedom about it at times when it comes to dialogue, there’s a real relaxed atmosphere to some of the long exchanges (and not so much in others) which does give the movie more of a “real” feeling compared to some of the others like it. According to Meisel there was a bit of ad-libbing and improvisation on set and it works…more film makers should work this way I think, because when you’ve got the right actors you can get some brilliant stuff (just look at the work of Shane Meadows).
Speaking of the dialogue there are quite a few memorable and quotable lines in the movie. A bunch of them come from Spinell, but the clinker to me was the moment when Forster, having just dispatched of a bad guy in a public toilet, is interrupted by a guy banging annoyingly on the door and to get him to piss off, Forster shouts…
“Shut the fuck up I’m whackin’ off!!!” – I’m going to try that line sometime.
Whilst the film is a gritty affair, the violence isn’t too harsh (at least graphically), although there are a couple of pretty squirmy moments, both of which are never really shoved in our faces, but are hinted at just enough to make the viewer a bit uncomfortable, particularly the scene in which Robert Forster takes the term “tear you a new asshole” to it’s literal extremes…Musta nipped. But whilst there is some inventive carnage to behold, there is one bit of brutality that could’ve been shocking and sudden, but just ends up looking very amateurish…the moment when Christine blows away the first guy in the garage. Obviously due to budget constraints they couldn’t rig up some realistic fake head with a squib, but surely they could’ve thought of something better than a gunshot then cutting to a guy with his face covered in blood, quivering on the ground like jelly…the way it’s edited makes it look as if something was censored, and it wasn’t…But, I’m just nit-picking now aren’t I?
One more thing, watch out for the guy playing pool that Forsters character has to collect money from. I’m sure he sets a record for the amount of time’s someone has said “motherfucker” in a movie within the space of 10 seconds. He’s superb.All in all, a pretty damn solid early 80’s revenge flick, certainly entertaining and worth watching for Spinell, and Robert Forster kicking a bit of arse (and tearing new ones). And it’s also a film people should watch if they’re thinking of shooting a movie quickly and on the cheap, as ‘Walking The Edge’ was filmed in only two weeks…And when you take that into consideration, you can certainly forgive it’s shortcomings.
Stars: Robert Forster, Nancy Kwan, Joe Spinell and A. Martinez
Directed By: Norbert Meisel
Running Time: 93 Minutes