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Steel Toes – David Gow and Mark Adam

Steel Toes (David Gow and Mark Adam)

Adapted from the play of the same name, screenwriter/playwright David Gow takes “Steel Toes” to the screen, plucking stunning and impacting performances from Oscar nominee David Strathairn (“Good Night and Good Luck”), playing the Jewish lawyer, Daniel Dunkleman, who has been appointed to represent a Neo-Nazi racist, Michael Downey, played Andrew Walker (“The Score,” “Wicked Minds”).


A native of Montreal, Quebec where the movie was filmed, Walker reflects the many facets of this complex character: a young man who in a fit of over-the-top anger and rage, attacks an East Indian immigrant repeatedly after the fry cook mistakenly tosses water on Downey, who happens to be standing in a dark alley with his fiancé. The immigrant eventually dies in intensive care, but not before he leaves his last words on paper, affecting Downey in ways he never thought possible.

It is a twist of fate that Dunkleman, a predictable enemy of a skinhead like Downey, decides to take on this case of defending what again should be a devil in the eyes of his race and heritage. In the way that these two are in opposition of each other, it is these differences that cause them both to take a deep and sometimes painful look at who they really are.

There is no way that Downey can avoid his time behind bars, but Dunkleman believes that there is a way, albeit unorthodox, to potentially lower the sentence. Turning the tables, Dunkleman gives Downey the task of creating the case. This requires that Downey get down to the core of why the murder took place. This is the heart of “Steel Toes,” which is charged with emotional turmoil that reaches into so many facets of the human condition, lifting and feeling the complex fabric that life weaves.

For Dunkleman, he has to deal with the pressures this case has brought into his personal life, but turns to the memory of his father and the guidance he provided his son. And within the dark, cold walls of prison, Downey has no choice but to look at his life up to now and how he ended up where he did. His only strength lies within himself, and instead of turning to the heritage of his upbringing as Dunkleman does, he in turn has to reverse the conditioning he’s experienced in the many meetings of the Arian brotherhood.

In the end, the shoes seem to be on the other foot, as Downey has a great sense of his true being and capabilities that stretch far beyond that which he was before that fateful night, while Dunkleman is finding it hard to cope with integrating back to what his life was before the trail. This is an affecting film, which takes a unique look at the seemingly unending racial hatred that has existed for hundreds of years, but a film that gives hope that within everyone there lies a soul that is free from hatred. It just needs a chance to come to the surface.

I can’t say enough about how Walker transformed himself in so many ways for this character. I haven’t seen any of his other films, but if his performance in Steel Toes is any indication of his depth of skill and talent, he’s definitely an actor to watch for in the future.


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