Rated R. At the Landmark Kendall Square.
If you can stand the cacophony of Boston accents and the dubious wisdom of making a white Irish-American Boston policeman the hero of this story about race, you may be interested in seeing “The Walk,” a film revisiting Boston’s 1974 busing crisis.
The film, which was shot in New Orleans and is based on “true events,” tells the interwoven stories of Southie resident and Boston policeman Bill Coughlin (Justin Chatwin) and newly released convict and gang member Johnny Bunkley (Jeremy Piven, also executive producer). Close friends in their youth, they have gone their separate ways a la Dennis Lehane’s “Mystic River.” Bill is married to Eastern European immigrant Pat (Anistasiya Mitrunen). They have a teenage daughter named Kate (Canadian Katie Douglas) , who has an eye for bad boys and is secretly dating Johnny’s violent son John (Matthew Blade). Yes, Kate is a bit of a twit. We also meet Johnny’s surrogate father McLaughlin (Malcolm McDowell), a Boston gangster resembling a certain Whitey Bulger. Representing Boston’s Black population is college-bound Wendy Robbins (an appealing Lovie Simone), a Roxbury native whose devoted, widower father Lamont Robbins (Terrence Howard) is an EMT. McLaughlin is dead set against integrating Boston schools, especially South Boston High School.
The action occurs for the most part on the eve of the first day of forced busing. Most of the white citizens of Southie object to busing and are depicted as racists. McDowell’s McLaughlin even makes an impassioned case for keeping the neighborhood white (and Irish).The judges and politicians calling for change do not live in the neighborhoods with which they are interfering. The Boston police we see in “The Walk” have long locks and impressive facial hair. Bill, who is described by his wife as “a good Catholic,” is this film’s white savior figure. In one scene, he pays for baby formula to get a Black shoplifter off the look, a bit that feels phony. Someone else observes that “liberal Massachusetts ain’t no better than Confederate Alabama.” Johnny, who served time for murder, is suspected of killing his wife, who has gone missing after being caught with a Black man. Piven sports a 1970s-era Fu Manchu ‘stash and overacts. The racist epithets flow. Kate and the toxic John are like the Romeo and Juliet of some white supremacist organization. He rails on about the Black man who ran off with his beloved “ma” and how women are sexually untrustworthy. Angel-faced Kate, who repeatedly mewls something about her beloved “senior year,” starts sounding just like her boyfriend. John’s newly-released father, meanwhile, sits on his front porch, lining up anachronistic empty cans of Sam Adams. Interiors are decorated with Erin Go Bragh flags and portraits of JFK.
Director Daniel Adams (“The Lightkeepers”) grew up in Boston, cast Sandra Bullock in her first starring role and co-wrote the screenplay with first-timer George Powell. Adams has assembled an impressive cast for “The Walk.” While the drama can be weak and the performances shaky, the subject at the heart of “The Walk” gives it a certain power and resonance, especially in this town.
P.S.: There will be an in-person interview with the writer-director and co-writer moderated by Lisa Simmons of the Roxbury International Film Festival after the Saturday 6:30 pm show.
(“The Walk” contains racial slurs, profanity and violence)
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