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Walker: The Criterion Collection(1987) - Blu-ray Review

Walker: The Criterion Collection

“Unless a man believes that there is something great for him to do, he can do nothing great.”

How on earth do you make a biopic set in the mid-19th century that poses as some kind of weird Western but yet somehow manages to successfully make strong political comparisons between the time period of the film’s setting to the time of its contemporary release? Director Alex Cox says: “BREAK ALL OF THE RULES!” (He didn’t actually say this, but just humor me, okay?). 

"wholly unique in defying both biopic and political commentary conventions, and is overall just good fun"


 

It is not Schindler’s List, or A Beautiful Mind, or even The Social Network. It is not like any of the thousands of other biopics that follow along the traditional path and at some point either break our hearts or make us hate the world. Is Walker one of the best biopics ever made? Perhaps it is…perhaps it’s not. But is it the most daring? Now, I think there could be a strong case made for that! And courtesy of the Criterion Collection, Walker has finally arrived on Blu-Ray, so you can decide for yourself…

If American Imperialism was a human being, it would be William Walker (Ed Harris). He is a strong believer of Manifest Destiny and when American multimillionaire Cornelius Vanderbilt (Peter Boyle) wishes to secure a shipping route located in Nicaragua, Walker and his small team of mercenaries march on down to overthrow the Nicaraguan government with Vanderbilt’s financial support. Though his quiet authority and unwavering determination make him an ideal leader for many of his troops, Walker’s decisions as Nicaraguan president become increasingly chaotic as the corruption of power settles into him.

Of course, when making political commentary in a film, the natural course of action is to show the inhumanities and/or ridiculousness of the aggressors and the corrupted. Walker does this through its title character’s self-righteousness and through its action, but it also has its own flair to it. The action sequences are visually stunning as they are horrific to witness, but overall, they encapsulate a beautifully chaotic and energetic quality that gives the movie a great level of life and ridiculousness. 

This film also succeeds in something that many other political films rarely ever attempt: taking on serious issues with a perfect degree of humor, especially in such an innovative way. Through Walker, Cox and screenwriter Rudy Wurlitzer, dare to take on the U.S-backed, right-wing Contras of the 1980’s. But how does a film set in the 1850’s make political connections to that of the 1980’s? Break the fantasy. The continual use of anachronisms can completely pull viewers out of the world of the film, but Walker does it in such a way that it gives the film charm, humanity, and hilarity.Walker: The Criterion Collection

We see Walker on the cover of Newsweek. We see modern weapons being used. And the biggest one of all comes at the climax when a military helicopter flies into the city to take the American troops home. Cox and Wurlitzer dare to break the rules of this film to blatantly point out how Walker’s invasion of Nicaragua in the 1850’s is not so different from the Contra Wars of the 1980’s. It is sad that many critics of the time failed to see the genius quality of this film through its rule-breaking.

Did director Alex Cox destroy his career making this film? Maybe a little bit, but even he will say that this is the film that he is most proud of, and he should be. Walker is wholly unique in defying both biopic and political commentary conventions, and is overall just good fun. Even for those who are not familiar with the historical context that the film commentates on, it could easily be viewed as just a great, wacky, energetic Western with wonderfully composed sequences that stick in the mind of the viewer. Harris gives a great performance as the gray-eyed, determined filibuster that is absolutely mesmerizing. And Joe Strummer’s electrifying score has a great fantastical intensity that absolutely rips through the entire film. 

Don’t listen to the critics of the past, I urge you to give Walker a fair chance!

5/5 stars

 

Walker: The Criterion Collection

Blu-ray Details

Home Video Distributor: Criterion
Available on Blu-ray
- April 12, 2022
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles
: English SDH
Audio:
English: LPCM Mono
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; single disc
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

A hallucinatory biopic that breaks all cinematic conventions, Walker, from British director Alex Cox, tells the story of nineteenth-century American adventurer William Walker (Ed Harris), who abandoned a series of careers in law, politics, journalism, and medicine to become a soldier of fortune and, for many months, the 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 ultra patriotism 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.

Video

Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and approved by the director himself, Alex Cox, the high-definition transfer was created on a Spirit DataCine from a 35 mm interpositive made from the original camera negative. Overall, the transfer is great. The clarity, color balance, and cleanliness of the print are all pretty perfect. Perhaps some will get annoyed at moments when there seems to be an overabundance of grain, but I think for a picture like this, it is more than appropriate. There is a frame or two of establishing shots that seem a bit shaky, but it is a very minor imperfection that will probably go unnoticed by most. 

Audio

The new uncompressed monoaural soundtrack remastered from a 35 mm magnetic track does well to deliver all of Walker’s speeches, all of the gun shots, and Joe Strummer’s fantastically intense score in a clear and crisp quality, just as the film deserves.

Supplements:

Commentary:

Special Features:

Blu-ray Rating

  Movie 5/5 stars
  Video  4/5 stars
  Audio 5/5 stars
  Extras 5/5 stars

Composite Blu-ray Grade

5/5 stars


Film Details

Walker: The Criterion Collection

MPAA Rating: Unrated.
Runtime:
94 mins
Director
: Alex Cox
Writer:
Rudy Wurlitzer
Cast:
Ed Harris; Richard Masur; Rene Auberjonois
Genre
: Biography | Western
Tagline:
Before Rambo... Before Oliver North...
Memorable Movie Quote: "You were very good last night. Not great, but for a gringo good enough."
Theatrical Distributor:

Official Site:
Release Date:

DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
April 12, 2022.
Synopsis: A hallucinatory biopic that breaks all cinematic conventions, Walker, from British director Alex Cox, tells the story of nineteenth-century American adventurer William Walker (Ed Harris), who abandoned a series of careers in law, politics, journalism, and medicine to become a soldier of fortune and, for many months, the dictator of Nicaragua.

Art

Walker: The Criterion Collection

 

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