Jason Walk (Robert Forster) is having a real bad day. First of all he’s had money deducted from the bookie running the gambling side hustle because one of his clients screwed him over, and now he’s involved in a murder manhunt after Christine (Nancy Kwan) hailed his cab so she could go on a revenge spree. At least she’s paying for her fare.
1985’s Walking the Edge, which has been given a new 4K restoration, opens with the act Christine wants vengeance for, which is the brutal murder of her husband and young son. It turns out that Mr C was actually a dealer pushing drugs to young kids, but had got into a place where he ended up double-crossing the drug gang. Unfortunately, they knew where he lived, and that was that, although Christine managed to escape.
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The bad thing is, she was so consumed with the idea of revenge that she goes to the auto repair workshop the drug gang use as a front and shoots one of them dead. So now the gang know she’s alive and that she is after them, which they’re obviously not happy about, and Jason himself is pissed because she killed a dude, and now he’s an accessory. The plot thickens, as they say.
Walking the Edge is a neat and speedy revenge thriller that at first seems fairly typical of similar exploitation films of the time, but sets itself apart through Forster and his character of Jason. A failed baseball player, Jason is down on his luck but he’s not willing to fight, even when he’s getting screwed over, something even his friends and “associates” recognised. However, Christine and her plight awaken something in him, but it’s not some big transformation into an action hero, and Forster plays it beautifully. “Nice guys finish last”, someone in the film says, but Jason here is right on the line. Walking the edge.
Nancy Kwan is excellent as Christine and she has great chemistry with Forster, with their relationship beginning in a disruptive state before evolving into a sense of reluctance and finally agreement. Of course, she’s able to break Jason down, and it’s in a remarkable scene where his masculinity is laid bare and his vulnerability surfaces.
What’s interesting is the inevitable love scene is intercut with Jason’s best friend being tortured and murdered by the gang, led by its leader Brusstar (Joe Spinell). Famous for playing slimy and sleazy guys (like the killer in the 1980s slasher Maniac), Spinell plays it to the hilt as a guy not to fuck with, constantly dressing down his henchmen. There’s an interesting undercurrent of the racial melting pot that inhabits Los Angeles, with Brusstar’s explosive right-hand man McKee (Wayne Woodson) and Jason’s encounter with a pimp who owes him money that doesn’t go the way he intended.
The streets of LA come alive with the excellent photography, and there’s a constant sense of danger and tension; curiously, this is cinematographer Ernie Polulos’ one and only film credit. There’s also a great synth score by Jay Chattaway that is used fairly judiciously, and because of that it has a lot more impact throughout the picture.
Like Cutter’s Way, Walking the Edge was produced by Fun City Editions and distributed in the UK by Radiance Films. The film has been given a new 4K restoration from the original camera negative that looks fantastic and has been supplemented with several great new bonus features. Two audio commentaries feature, an archival one with director Norbert Meisel, Kwan, and Forster, and a second with film historian Chris Poggiali and film producer Matt Verboys.
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There are also interviews with composer Chattaway and retired NYPD detective Randy Jurgensen, who was a consultant on several crime films including The French Connection. The disc finishes up with a video essay on the picture and the original theatrical trailer.
Walking the Edge is a superior thriller that takes you back to a different era of LA, with a fascinating lead male with a terrific performance by Robert Forster. The new restoration looks great, and the extras are excellent. Another great disc from Fun City and Radiance.
Walking the Edge is out on Blu-ray from on 6th March from Radiance Films.