Walking the Edge (1983)
AKA The Hard Way

Starring Robert Forster, Nancy Kwan, Joe Spinell, A Martinez, James McIntire, Wayne Woodson, Luis Contreras, Russ Courtney

Directed by Norbert Meisel

Expectations: Moderate. It could have gone both ways, but I love a good revenge film.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:

I watched this movie for a couple of reasons. First, when I pulled the filmography of Empire International this was at the top of the list. From what I understand they distributed the film at some level, but seem to have played no part in the actual production. Charles Band is listed as an uncredited executive producer on IMDB as well. I’m not posting this in my Tuesday series, though, as it’s not a true Charles Band picture and it will appeal to a completely different set of viewers. The other reason I watched it was Robert Forster. I must admit that I didn’t know who he was until Tarantino’s Jackie Brown came out, but I was immediately a fan. His subtle nature in that film was so charming and real that I’ve wanted to check out some of his older films ever since. Well, it took 13 years but I’ve finally come around and done just that. My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.

Walking the Edge is the type of movie that you’d see in the video store and would always walk past. It might catch your eye for a moment, but you never took it home despite thinking about it several times. There’s nothing terribly special about it upon first glance, but it reveals itself to be a very competent and enjoyable revenge film. The setup is incredibly simple. The film opens in a house where a group of thugs, led by the great Joe Spinell, hold a woman (Nancy Kwan) and her son hostage. The thugs tell her that her husband is actually a drug dealer and that they’re gonna kill him. When he arrives home, they do just that, but they also end up killing the son. Kwan runs out an open door in the confusion and escapes to take revenge on these insidious motherfuckers later on in the film.

Robert Forster plays a cabbie who works for a bookie on the side. On one fateful day, Nancy Kwan hires his taxi and from then on they are intertwined in her revenge scheme. Forster plays the innocent, streetwise man with ease. The character is a bit of a loser and everyone around him knows it. Forster’s portrayal elevates the film above its simple B-movie structure and makes you care about this guy. His character isn’t exactly innocent though, as a man of the street he has the skills to get down to business when the shit hits the fan. As a side note, Forster in his youth here looks a bit like Charles Bronson, so with all the Bronson revenge films I can understand why Forster would end up making these types of films.

The film is much more well shot than I expected it to be. Filmed completely on location in Los Angeles, it was great fun for me to see the city I know so well, circa the early ’80s. Every time I watch a film from this era I am reminded how much I love the cinematography in them. The cityscapes always looks so much more real than films nowadays, something I attribute to every modern film being digitally graded. In the days before computers reigned supreme, cinematographers had to get it right on set via lighting and technical know-how and it always seems like a cheat to me to be able to fix it later in a computer. I realize the benefits (just look at the Lord of the Rings series) but I would love to see a return to actual computer-free filmmaking.

All tangents aside, Walking the Edge is a fun film. The main characters are compelling enough to care about and the villains are evil enough that you want to see them pay. What more can you ask of a revenge film? The score is also fantastic, if you enjoy the ’80s sax/synth-driven music thing. It’s not as action-packed as some other films, but it has an emotional weight that most B-pictures don’t generally contain. When it does get going towards the end of the picture, the people who deserve to get theirs, get it good and it ends up being quite satisfying. If you’re a Forster fan, or just a revenge fan, check out this relatively unknown gem.