Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Peck takes too long to become a bad boy

Cleveland Press November 13, 1970

A man may have something important to say but when he says it in a monotone he loses you. That the way it is with "I Walk the Line." The movie says things about loneliness and desperation and being an outsider, but there are few apparent peaks and valleys in the presentation, only a flatness.

Granted that flatness is part of it but it works against the movie. Director John Frankenheimer makes masterpieces and near misses and this is one that misses.

"I Walk the Line" is long on mood and character. The story on the other hand, not only doesn't go very far but it gets there slowly and telegraphs what little is to happen well in advance.

GREGORY PECK is a sheriff in the Tennessee hills, middle-aged, upstanding and perhaps a little aloof. He is an outsider in many ways but what makes him an outsider gets only oblique references.

He has a wife, Estelle Parsons, a daughter and an aging father and he goes to church on Sunday.

He meets Tuesday Weld, daughter of a moonshiner, and his pulse quickens. This back hills Lolita has no trouble seducing him and he soon finds that this is such a grand passion that he is protecting her family and destroying himself.

WHAT WAS PROBABLY intended as grand tragedy of a heroic figure falling and failing through his own weakness becomes simply a sad story strung out too long.

Johnny Cash, singing his music on the soundtrack, drives home the feeling that this is downbeat folk ballad even when the movie doesn't. Frankenheimer has added to the downtrodden feel of things with his muted picture of the scenery, the gritty look of failure etched in the lined faces of the mountain people.

PECK IS BROODING and moody but the part serves him less that he serves it. Miss Weld is excellent as the flighty, amoral, nubile girl.

Estelle Parsons conveys the desperation of the wife who tries to convey her feeling that she understands because she read something in the Reader's Digest once. Ralph Meeker is good as the moonshiner and Charles Durning is slightly sinister as a deputy who is on to the sheriff.