Although it may at first glance not appear to be, "Walker" is a very political film. It was made at the height of the turmoil in Nicaragua, in the aftermath of the revolution led by the Sandinistan freedom army, when President Reagan supported counter-revolutionary actions; the political heat of its day is obvious to the discernible viewer. Sandinistas appear as extras in the film, as do many civilian Nicaraguans. Details in the film deliberately mirror the issue at the time, although cloaked as a biopic about the 19th century character William Walker, who single-handedly became dictator of Nicaragua in 1855-57 under the intention of bringing democracy and development to the defenseless little nation. Quote: "Born in Tennessee, he was educated as a doctor and a lawyer before moving to New Orleans to become a journalist. His filibustering adventures in Mexico and Nicaragua were closely followed by the press, and made him one of the most famous men in America. There was even a musical performed about him. Today, he is all but forgotten in his native land. But in Nicaragua, he is like Usama bin Ladin."
"Walker" is also one of the most underrated political satires ever made. It was universally panned by critics upon its release in 1987, and by the audience; it was a huge financial disaster, losing more than $5 million in revenues. It also cost the director Alex Cox any subsequent Hollywood career that he might otherwise have enjoyed. Primarily, it has never been understood. It was called "absurd," "third-rate" and "amateurish." All these things may seem true to some, but Cox is not a third-rate director. Cox is in fact a brilliant filmmaker; he does however have a rather eccentric style. He is the kind of director that encourages over-the-top acting. He is aesthetically hyperbolic and often ironic to the point of absurdity (take "Straight to Hell," for instance, also severely underrated). Cox is the director who was supposed to make "Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas," but had to leave the project over creative differences. He was even too radical for Hunter S. Thompson!
Some critics did get the film and appreciated the point Cox and Rudy Wurlitzer (screenplay) were trying to make. Quote: "Walker" has something something rare in American movies (these days); it has some nerve." The fact that Criterion, that specialize in releasing important classic and contemporary films on DVD, have undertaken to give "Walker" a luxurious package complete with commentaries, interviews, essays and a 50-minute behind-the-scenes documentary shot on location, proves that over time the film has received the respect it so gravely deserves. Alongside "Repo Man," this is one of Alex Cox's finest films, featuring a wonderful score by The Clash's Joe Strummer and Ed Harris in the performance of his career. For those viewers who are not daunted by the sound of a cinematic sub-genre known as "Acid Western" and deliberate anachronisms (such as Time Magazine, Zippo lighters and U.S. Army helicopters in the 1850s), this will prove a hilarious and fascinating insight in both historical and current American diplomacy.
("Unless a man believes that there is something great for him to do, he can do nothing great." - William Walker)