An impassioned performance by Mike Colter is weighed down by a clunky script in I’m Charlie Walker, a true-story drama that has just enough sass to appeal to a small segment of audiences–but few others.
Colter (Luke Cage) plays–you guessed it–Charlie Walker, a Black man in 1971 who defies the odds and lands a lucrative contract to clean up a massive oil spill near San Francisco Bay. Colter brings to the role a charismatic ferocity that elevates the character and the movie itself; as straight-laced as I’m Charlie Walker is, he’s anything but.
Unfortunately, the movie, written and directed by Patrick Gilles, feels slight. It’s lean and occasionally mean, but after its brisk 78 minutes are up I felt like I barely knew the title character. Sure, he’s a little angry and tough as hell, but the character just powers through every obstacle that comes his way without as much as blinking. While he encounters all forms of racism, nothing seems to phase him; though not Gilles’ intention, he accidentally created a character who faces no real conflict.
He’s not particularly likable, either.
That character trait appears to be an accident, too.
Despite its faults, I’m Charlie Walker still has some charm to it. Dylan Baker serves as a satisfactory antagonist, and Colter’s scenes with his on-screen wife, played by Safiya Fredericks, are touching amidst a film that is otherwise lacking in heartfelt emotion. It operates at a fast pace and tells a story about a somewhat intriguing historical figure, even though it sounds like Gilles may have had a more compelling story to tell had he brought to life what is described in text at the end of the movie.
Sadly, as is, I’m Charlie Walker is a little too basic and rough around the edges to amount to much.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.