Film Review

ALEX COX’S WALKER — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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Walker is one of the most interesting and easily the most surreal biopic I can think of, still oddly topical and relevant to this day, directed with volatile energy and a shifting style by maverick indie filmmaker Alex Cox (Sid & Nancy, Repo Man, Straight to Hell). The film was an epic flop at the box office when it hit theaters in 1987, and it caused Cox to retreat into extremely personal filmmaking for the better part of the rest of his career. Starring Ed Harris as William Walker, an American mercenary/sociopath who took Mexico by storm in the 1850’s and eventually installing himself as President of Nicaragua before he’s overthrown and eventually killed, the film is extra unique and shreds the conventional notion of what should be expected from a biopic. Harris was absolutely stunning in Walker, with the fiery material playing to his extreme passion and intensity as an actor, and towards the final act most especially, you catch these glimpses of total madness behind his eyes that only a certain group of actors are able to deliver. With a script by Rudy Wurlitzer (Two-Lane Blacktop, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid), the film takes on the style of an “acid-western,” with Cox incorporating Pekinpah-esque slow-motion during the explosive and often violent action sequences, and providing a tone that feels genuinely freewheeling and like nothing else I’ve seen for the genre. It’s also extremely funny in spots, but for reasons that aren’t typical or expected. The film was shot on location in Nicaragua while the Contra War was raging on, while the filmmakers included all sorts of details that defied period logic, including helicopters, magazines, weapons, a Zippo lighter, and even a car. Featured in the supporting cast are Peter Boyle, Richard Masur, Rene Auberjonois, Sy Richardson, Xander Berkeley, Marlee Matin, Miguel Sandoval, Blanca Guerra, filmmaker Alfonso Arau (Like Water For Chocolate), and musician Joe Strummer, who also provided the score.

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