UNDERGROUND USA: INDIE CINEMA OF THE 80s - Walker (w/ Alex Cox in person!)

A punk film if ever there was one. After completing Repo Man, there was really only one project that Alex Cox wanted to sink his teeth into: Walker. He’d had a chance encounter with legendary screenwriter and novelist Rudy Wurlitzer (Two-Lane Blacktop, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid) in the early 1980’s, and the two began dreaming up a kind of spiritual sequel to Pat Garrett—a political western set in Nicaragua that would deal with the ongoing Contra scandal, for the decidedly un-political decade in Hollywood filmmaking at the time. It took many years and several visits to Nicaragua (one of which included a botched attempt at making a rock documentary with Joe Strummer as he toured Latin America—Strummer would go on to score and act in Walker as well as Straight to Hell), but somehow these men were eventually able to convince Universal Pictures to put up the money for this thing. And so, with the collaboration of the Sandinistas and the Catholic Church in Grenada, Walker was born—a story that would completely deconstruct cinematic and narrative conventions as it trailed 19th-century maverick William Walker (Ed Harris), who, after failing in just about every other profession, travels to Nicaragua to become a mercenary, and ultimately, dictator of a country in crisis. As with Repo Man, Cox left the narrative loose and open to improvisation—though in this case, the sharp anti-Reagan, searing political message of Walker takes hold over the more abstract, gentle qualities of his debut picture. Indeed, this is the movie that Alex Cox seemed to have prepared for his entire life to make—replete with anachronisms, absurdities, Sy Richardson, and a middle finger pointed right at manifest destiny.

Dir. Alex Cox, 1987, 35mm, 94 min.