© 2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.

 Set in the late 1950s in rural Illinois, WALKER PAYNE is a character
study of a man who will do whatever it takes to provide a better life for
his two daughters.

 Walker (Jason Patric) has spent time in jail, been laid off from his
job as in a quarry, and chased practically every skirt in the town. His bitter
ex-wife Lou (Drea De Matteo) barely gets by as a waitress, providing
for herself and her two daughters. She continues to blame Walker for
ruining her life. One day, she makes him a proposition: for $5000 she will
leave town and sign over custody of their daughters to him.

 Although he has no job, no savings and no prospects, Walker is
determined to get the money. A mysterious stranger (Sam Shepard)
takes note of Walker's constant companion, his pit bull named Brute.
If he were to train the dog to fight, the stranger informs him, he could
earn a lot of money. At first Walker refuses, but when he is pushed,
he considered the idea.

 Along the way, he has begun a relationship with town newcomer
Audrey (KaDee Strickland), a bank teller. He moves in with her but
keeps her at a distance with regard to his problems with his ex-wife.
Walker doesn't even really confide in his surrogate father (Bruce Dern).

 The drama, written by Alex Paraskevas and Matt Williams and
directed by Williams, is exceedingly well-acted. Williams' staging
works well (although the production design was a bit overdone).
I did find some sequences rather brutal to watch (think
AMORES PERROS). I understand that it was done through clever
editing and sound work, but it did not make it any easier to watch.

 My one caveat is that I wonder if there is a paying audience
left for this rare kind of character drama.
showcases strong acting but the downbeat story may be a hard sell.

                         Rating:                B -