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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A bloody comic opera about a bizarre piece of American history,
This review is from: Criterion Collection: Walker [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)
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)
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Movie.,
By A Customer
This is the DVD edition of Walker, a historical piece and true story as directed by Alex Cox who is a legend for his punk-rock masterpiece Repo-Man. The short of it is that if you like your history by the book you probably won't like this, but if you keep an open mind you might just see past that and love this movie for it's humor and the underlying message. Although sometimes a bit slowpaced overall it's just an original and funny movie.
I must also correct the synopsis, since this movie takes place in the 19th century Walker wasn't executed in 1957 but 1857...
I would also reccomend seeing Repo Man to anyone who likes this movie, though that dosen't necessarily go the other way around.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not your everyday history lesson...,
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. 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.
4.0 out of 5 stars Surrrealistic view,
Whilst I enjoyed this film (and have previously seen it on VHS years ago) it is a very odd telling of Walkers story. He is depicted as a bit of a clown, whose achievements were down to blind faith and luck - I'm sure that he must have been a far more complex character than is portrayed here.
4.0 out of 5 stars History as told by the man in the pub?,
I have to admit, I'm not a massive fan of historic biopics, but this one is something quite different. It's a quite straight forward tale of the stupidity of a man with power, told in a very bizarre way. It becomes like a visual representation of a history lesson told in a pub by someone who's overindulged in absinthe, whilst his friends chip in with random conversations about the same subject, whilst adding details from the wrong historic time. I did enjoy this film a lot more than I would have if it had been a straight forward telling of the tale.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Before Rambo there was Walker!,
Before Rambo and Oliver North there was Walker. Walker, in which the life of a filibuster of Manifest Destiny is told, is more than an action movie. It is like a critic of US imperialism in Central America.
The director Alex Cox who is renowned for films like Repo Man and Walker has been blacklisted in America for his denial to be involved in the "American dream" or "fight for democracy". This puts a great deal of importance on the film for me. The film is shot in Nikaragua during the dirty war against Contras which are sponsored by the US against the democratically elected leftist government of Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas.
Ed Harris portrays the maybe over-educated Walker trying to come to terms with the revolutionary period he finds himself born into.(During the shooting of film, on his insistence the whole crew took a forced march of 10 miles to feel & experience the hardships of the Walker's band) The railroad and waterways tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt is portrayed by the late Peter Boyle, magnificiently. After failing to annex a part of Mexico by his mercaneries, Walker accepts the invitation to end the civil war in Nikaragua for the benefit of US & Vanderbilt's interest. He conquers the country after a series of battles only to be routed in the end.
The film is a unique example of usage of anachroisms radically but very impressively. In one instance you see Walker showing himself on the cover of a TIME magazine, in another US Marines arrive to the scene via a helicopter saving the US citizens from the shootings. I strongly recommend the final closing credits of the film as they are of great historical value.
As a strong anti-imperialist film I am not suprised it has only grossed 250k in the US. After you have watched this well sewn together film of drama, satire, shocking naked truth and history, I bet you will not be sorry.
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Criterion Collection: Walker [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] by Alex Cox (DVD - 2008)