A hallucinatory biopic that breaks all cinematic conventions, Walker, from British director Alex Cox (Repo Man, Sid & Nancy), tells the story of nineteenth-century American adventurer William Walker (Ed Harris), who abando... more »ned a series of careers in law, politics, journalism, and medicine to become a soldier of fortune, and for several years dictator of Nicaragua. Made with mad abandon and political acuity and the support of the Sandinista army and government during the Contra war the film uses this true tale as a satirical attack on American ultrapatriotism and a freewheeling condemnation of manifest destiny. Featuring a powerful score by Joe Strummer and a performance of intense, repressed rage by Harris, Walker remains one of Cox s most daring works.
* - New, restored high-definition digital transfer, approved by director Alex Cox
* - Audio commentary by Cox and screenwriter Rudy Wurlitzer
* - Dispatches from Nicaragua, an original documentary about the filming of Walker
* - On Moviemaking and the Revolution, reminiscences twenty years later from an extra on the film
* - The Immortals: behind-the-scenes photos
* - PLUS: A booklet featuring writings by film critic Graham Fuller, Wurlitzer, and Linda Sandoval« less
"This movie is definitely a hidden gem. Ed Harris is brilliant as is the supporting cast of knock-offs who join his rag tag army on their quest for glory in central america. the blurring of the timeline reminds us that our meddling in C.A. is fundamentally not much different today than it was during the period this movie depicts. The entire flow of the movie is further augmented by a completely stunning score from x-Clash man Joe Strummer, one of the finest movie scores i have ever heard. A classic!"
"WALKER (1987) is a cult movie in search of an audience. A critical and financial disaster upon its initial release, the film is hard to find on video and rarely televised--but to fans of Psychotronic Cinema, it is worth the effort to find! The film is a schizo, intentionally anachronistic bio of William Walker (1824-1860), the Nashville-born doctor/lawyer/journalist who led his own private army into Nicaragua, ultimately installing himself as president of that nation. Obvious similiarities between Walker's filibustering activities and the US's often ham-handed diplomatic policies towards Central America during the 1980s led the filmmakers to turn WALKER into a political satire, but it is by turns funny, tragic, exciting, informational, and thought provoking. Ed Harris plays Walker, and as something of an expert on the filibuster, I can assure you Harris' interpretation is perfect. Lotsa familiar faces--Rene Auberjonis, Richard Masur, Marlee Matlin, and the hilarious Peter Boyle among them--make this one a character actor watcher's dream film. This picture is only for those who can appreciate weird movies! This film deserves to find a cult audience, and I hope this review helps to establish one!"
Applying the punk aesthetic to the biopic
Cubist | United States | 02/11/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Walker is an unconventional biopic that effectively burned any remaining bridges Alex Cox had with Hollywood. He took a modest amount of studio money and made a film about William Walker, an opportunistic American who invaded Nicaragua and became its president from 1855 to 1857, instituting slavery which didn't go over too well with the locals, and he was eventually executed in 1860. Cox wasn't interested in making a traditional biopic and, with screenwriter Rudy Wurlitzer, decided to include the occasional modern anachronism (Walker appears on the covers of Newsweek and Time; a Mercedes drives past a horse-drawn carriage) to give the film a satirical howl of protest against the Reagan administration's support of the contra war against the democratically elected Sandinista government. This did not endear Cox to his studio backers.
Cox sets an absurdist tone and never looks back. This is evident in Walker's first battle in Nicaragua. As his men are gunned down in the street, he brazenly walks through seemingly oblivious to the carnage going on around him. He takes refuge in a building and plays the piano as bullets whiz around him. It's a crazy scene but works because of Ed Harris' conviction. He portrays Walker as a self-important, power-hungry madman with characteristic charismatic intensity.
Cox actually had the chutzpah to make Walker in Nicaragua with the approval of the Sandinista government which demonstrates just how far he was willing to put his money (or rather the studio's) where his mouth was. The filmmaker adopts a very playful attitude as he gleefully deconstructs the biopic (much as he shredded the spaghetti western and gangster film genres in Straight to Hell) in such an off-kilter way that had never been done before and rarely attempted since (perhaps Kevin Spacey's take on Bobby Darin in Beyond the Sea or Tony Scott's gonzo take on Domino Harvey in Domino (Widescreen New Line Platinum Series)). However, Walker remains a cinematic oddity as he applies the punk aesthetic to the biopic, making a political statement about the abuse of power that is eerily relevant today as it was in 1987.
There is an audio commentary by director Alex Cox and screenwriter Rudy Wurlitzer. The two men talk about how they took a traditional historical narrative and proceeded to break all of its rules. They praise Joe Strummer's emotional score and touch upon the mood it creates. Cox is funny and full of energy with Wurlitzer providing his own laconic take on the film.
"On Moviemaking and the Revolution" is an audio excerpt from an extra on the film who recounts their experiences and providing a snapshot of the crazy atmosphere of filming on location.
"Dispatches from Nicaragua" is a 50-minute retrospective look at the making of Walker. It provides the historical context in which Cox made his film. There are all kinds of great behind-the-scenes footage of the filmmaker and his cast and crew hard at work. We see what a logistical nightmare this film was and the challenges of shooting in Nicaragua.
There is another extra where Cox quotes from and responds to the scathing reviews of his film from back when it first came out.
"The Immortals" features two still galleries, one of behind-the-scenes photographs taken on the set and Polaroids of various cast members in costume.
Finally, there is a theatrical trailer."
A brilliant and strange film, full of anachronisms and awkwa
Nathan Andersen | Florida | 01/03/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Alex Cox's Walker is certainly an odd period film. It is ostensively set in the middle of the 19th Century, but with dialogue that alters between period realism and modern slang, characters speaking English to Spanish speakers and Spanish to speakers who claim to know only English, a contemporary music sound track by Joe Strummer, anachronistic modern technologies (like computer screens, a luxury sedan, and even a helicopter) showing up at odd moments without any explanation and barely registering surprise in the characters. The action scenes are almost hallucinatory, with freeze frames and tight closeups cut at a kinetic pace. William Walker, as played here by Ed Harris, has little of the cold but amused and calculating cunning that the same historical figure inspired in Gillo Pontecorvo's brilliant film Burn!, there played by Marlon Brando. Here, Ed Harris's William Walker is not so much ruthless in his mastery of situations as overly confident and fearless (or desperately naive), incapable of being moved from a position he has once decided.
The anachronisms, and especially those that appear in the ending of the film, make clear that Cox is not really aiming to recreate a historical period here so much as put on display the ruthless and unabashed idealism (indistinguishable from arrogance) that Americans have and continue to display as announced in the doctrine of manifest destiny, that we have the God-given right to rule all of the Americas and to spread American style democracy (which in the terms of this film is clearly taken to mean governmentally sanctioned corporate control of all foreign markets and resources) throughout the world. The explicit parallel the film draws is between Walker's invasion of Nicaragua and the United States military intervention in Central America during the Reagan era (but more contemporary parallels could easily be found). As the film suggests, we liberate in order to put in place governments that are willing to sell their national goods to foreign companies, and we support those governments until they begin to exercise the autocratic authority we give them in their own interests (whether as tyrants or as servants of the people is irrelevant) and against foreign corporations. (It is interesting to note that in Burn! William Walker was the agent of this strategy, and in this film he becomes a disposable element of this strategy.) What may mar the film is that it is a bit heavy-handed about this message, but its boldness also makes it exciting -- it is rare these days that films are willing to take such an explicit stand against contemporary policies.
It remains an important film, and as always, Criterion has packed the single disc with cool extras, including a feature length documentary on the making of the film, reminiscences by extras, behind-the-scenes photos, an a booklet of essays on the film."
Not your everyday history lesson...
Trevor Willsmer | London, England | 01/04/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Best remembered (if at all) as the film that comprehensively destroyed Alex Cox's mainstream career, it's hard to see what caused such vitriolic offense at the time. Cox and screenwriter Rudy Wurlitzer's take on the unbalanced self-deceiving `idealist' mercenary William Walker's intervention in Nicaragua to protect Cornelius Vanderbilt's financial interests there, setting off a century of disastrous American interference, is not particularly subtle, but then William Walker wasn't exactly a subtle man ("Clearly this is no ordinary ***hole," judges one of the more astute locals). With a visual style clearly inspired by spaghetti westerns and Sam Peckinpah, a contradictory narration - what you hear isn't what you see, with Walker's own third person narration frequently completely at odds with the farcical reality - and a slew of critic infuriating anachronisms, it was received with a mixture of outrage and contempt that makes the critical reception of Domino look like a triumph of Schindler's List proportions.
It's not a great movie, but it's certainly not the disaster its been painted, and even the at first jarring anachronisms are fun - Walker gets the cover of both Time and Newsweek, interviewers use tape recorders while Vanderbilt has a computer displaying stock market prices in his office - but perhaps should have been introduced earlier: however, there's no doubting the pertinence of the final arrival of trigger-happy helicopter gunships to evacuate the US citizens. Harris is on fine self-righteous form as the `short idealist,' short on ideals but big on a sense of divine purpose even though he has no idea what that purpose actually is from one moment to the next. With a concise running time and a great Joe Strummer score, it's an ambitious and often entertaining oddity. Just don't go in expecting a history lesson or a straight biography.
Whle this has been available for some time on Region 2 in a version with no extras, Criterion have certainly put together an impressive package of new extras for a film that was for so long held in such unwarranted disdain - though be warned that the theatrical trailer and the featurette of Cox ruefully going through the film's savage reviews are both well hidden (if you want to know where to find them, click the comments link on this review). It's not perfect by any means, but there's too much that's interesting about the film to dismiss it entirely out of hand."