William Walker’s Path To Hell

I am most certain that this is not the way William Walker’s life ended.

Alex Cox fuels the fires of the acid western genre with Walker, a “bio pic” that he takes full artistic liberty too. It’s an absurd (in a good way) film that would be equal to Cox painting a portrait of Walker and then taking a giant paint brush of psychedelic colors to it, smothering it in his own flair. Yeah let that simmer.

I found my way to Cox through Repo Man, the most interesting film you’ll ever see about a repo man. Well this is the most interesting film you’ll ever see about an American trying to rule over Nicaragua. That’s exactly what Walker, a 19th century adventurer, did.

Ed Harris stars as the titular Walker, who is portrayed throughout as an egotistical, foolish and power-starved jackass. He barrels down a path straight to hell, stabbing friends and family in the back and sacrificing his men in the name of power. Why he is so desperate to become president of Nicaragua I don’t know. But in 1856, that’s exactly what he became.

Walker is a real person, but you wouldn’t know or think that from simply watching this film. As I said before, Cox takes full artistic liberty here, painting a stylish and exciting portrait of Walker. He certainly lived an interesting life without the weirdness Cox brings to the table, but I must say it helps.

Cox ups the ante of strange by throwing in a severe number of anachronisms into the picture. Helicopters, lighters, rifles, cars sharing the road with horse carriages and Walker’s face appearing on the cover of Time magazine are just a few of the many ways Cox tries to throw your mind into a hellish tailspin while trying to put your finger around what exactly Walker is playing at.

By placing the items like magazine covers and so forth into the game, Cox is trying to see what the story of Walker would be like if it happened in a different time period. None of the characters find the fact that a helicopter, which wasn’t a thing yet, had landed nearby. It was like nothing was out of the ordinary. I noticed in Repo Man, when Cox had generic labels placed on food and household products, that he is a filmmaker with messages to send. Perhaps he was trying to show that Walker’s tyrannical efforts could happen at any moment and not just because the world was different. Or perhaps he was just fucking around.

Cox directs with a frenzy of dreamy sequences that have no place in realism or logic. Example: as Walker leads his men down a dirt road surrounded by houses and buildings on both sides, his men take fire. He walks through the raining bullets like a god among men. He carelessly stands around not giving a damn about his men dying or the bullets that are flying at his face. I think it’s a good point being made by Cox, about the tyrannical leader feeling no shame in sacrificing the lives of his pathetic men to further himself. Walker is painted to be a son of a bitch.

I learned quickly that an acid western, as much as I hoped, doesn’t mean that the cowboys are high on drugs. Imagine that film for a moment or to? The tripped out old west? Someone make that or point me in the director. I can’t think of something even close to that other than the many Alejandro Jodorowsky films. Anyways, I learned that an acid western differs from the typical western in the idea that these men and women are driving towards a path of destruction rather than salvation. They are often ant-heroes and often corrupt and destructive. They are on the quick path to death and it should be inevitable to the viewer.

Walker is one of the most interesting films I’ve watched all year. It exudes its 1980’s point of creation and Cox, with his best efforts, turns Walker’s tale into the most strange, wacked out “bio pic” I’ve seen lately. It’s clear that a number of liberties were taken with the story, but I don’t see Walker around to complain, so who cares?

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