Plot: What’s it about?
William Walker (Ed Harris) left behind certain success in high profile professions, in search of adventure and to pursue his faith in democracy. He was so driven to spread democracy, that he forsook his careers in medicine in law, to venture to places like Mexico and Nicaragua to promote his beliefs. His time in Mexico wasn’t fruitful however, as Walker was unable to get a revolution sparked, but he would soon have another chance. A businessman named Vanderbilt (Peter Boyle) sent Walker to Nicaragua to help overthrow the current leader, but Vanderbilt’s interest was purely financial. If Walker could succeed, Vanderbilt could secure trade lines into the nation, which would mean increased profits. But could Walker turn the locals on to his political ideas and if so, would the impact be as positive as he hoped?
As a fan of some of director Alex Cox’s other films, I looked forward to this release of Walker, as I haven’t been able to see the movie until now. Now that I have seen Walker, I can say I should’ve spent that time elsewhere, as the movie is so heavy handed and simple, it was a bore to watch. I’ve seen some excellent movies with deep political and social commentary, but few succeed when they shove the messages as hard as Walker does. Cox abandons his usual style and goes for a more basic, spoon fed approach and for me, it didn’t work at all. Yes, I can understand that Cox is skewering Ronald Reagan, America’s foreign involvements, and what not, but his method strips off the intelligence and style he is capable of. I am sure many will buy this simply because it is a Criterion disc, but to me, Walker is maybe a rental, but even that is questionable.
Video: How does it look?
Walker is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. After all these years, it has become rather repetitive when describing Criterion’s visual transfers. This one continues the tradition, as per the norm, it looks terrific. I did notice a few print issues, but they were minor and brief, while the rest of the print looked clean as a whistle. I wouldn’t call detail sharp, but the movie’s visuals don’t have a polished look, which explains that. I found colors and contrast to be accurate as well, so once again, Criterion has delivered and then some.
Audio: How does it sound?
The mono soundtrack is passable, but not memorable. I do the think the music could have used a boost at times, but other than that, the audio seemed fine. The music still sounds decent of course, while sound effects come across well, just a touch limited here and there. The main element is dialogue and vocals sound good, with no volume or harshness issues to mention. This disc also includes optional English subtitles.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Alex Cox is joined by writer Rudy Wurlitzer for an audio commentary, in which the two reflect on the production and the ideas behind their work. The two share common opinions on most issues touched on, so they have a natural banter that plays between the two as time passes. Then again, with both men on the same page on all the subjects, there is no contrast and so it tends to be rather monotonous at times. Dispatches from Nicaragua is a fifty minute reel of behind the scenes footage, including some deleted scenes as they were shot. A candid, fly on the wall look at Walker’s production, there is insight here, but there is little focus or structure, so the presentation is rough. This disc also includes Cox’s hilarious rants about the film’s critics, an audio interview with an extra, still photos, and the film’s theatrical trailer.