Walking the Edge – Blu-Ray Review

Walking the Edge was directed by actress Nancy Kwan’s husband, Norbert Meisel, as a vehicle for his wife. Meisel’s past before this film included directing a couple of pornos as well as directing and acting in other films, mainly in the crime, war and sexploitation vein. This one is a good, low-budget ‘80s crime thriller that’s not dissimilar to Collateral, and elevated by the presence of Robert Forster in the lead.

Probably the best reason to see the film is Forster (Max Cherry in Jackie Brown, among many other roles). Forster plays Jason, a down-on-his-luck taxi driver, similar to other characters he’s portrayed over the years—he’s a guy who can play a sad-sack good guy very well, and is in sweatpants with messy hair not quite covering a burgeoning bald spot for most of the movie. Jason is also a debt-collector for a bookie, a former AAA baseball player, and a guy who just likes to cruise around listening to smooth jazz.

Jason ends up getting in over his head when he helps out Christine (Kwan) a distraught woman whose husband and son have just been killed. She’s on the run from Brusstar (Joe Spinell) and his gang of mobsters, having just found out after the murders that her husband was secretly a drug dealer. Kwan was an early Asian actress whose career started in the 1960s, and gained initial fame for her role in The World of Suzie Wong. Here she gets sidelined somewhat, eating McDonald’s in Jason’s apartment while he goes out to exact revenge on her behalf.

It’s a fairly decent little revenge movie, with Kwan and Forster teaming up to get back at the gangsters. You definitely can tell that this is one that Tarantino likes (and speaking of Tarantino, there’s a scene involving an ear that he might have been thinking of when he wrote Reservoir Dogs—a film for which Forster also auditioned for…) There are some interesting attempts to create unique characters, especially Forster’s Jason—it’s nice to see him in something from his “wilderness years,” when he was stuck doing some very low-budget movies. He was always very committed, and happy to have the work he could get. Spinell also turns in a pretty wild performance.

It’s competently made, and there’s some great, grimy early-80s Los Angeles cinematography. They keep going into this punk club for no reason (you can spot 80’s skate-punk outfit Falling Idols here), and it’s a real snapshot of L.A. at that time—all the driving scenes are fantastic. It’s reminiscent of New York exploitation movies from the same period in terms of evoking a sense of place. You can tell that there was a delayed release, however, because the movie billboards are from a few years before its actual 1985 release date.

The new Blu-Ray release from Fun City Editions includes interviews with composer Jay Chattaway, and with cop Randy Jurgensen who was a technical advisor (the book and film Cruising was loosely inspired by a case where Jurgensen went undercover to investigate the murders of homosexuals in the early ’60s). There’s also a video essay by filmmaker Chris O’Neill, a newer commentary track with film historian Chris Poggiali and film producer Matt Verboys and an archival commentary with Meisel, Forster and Kwan. The accompanying booklet contains an essay from filmmaker and writer Jim Hemphill.


Ian Schultz

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