Bad Decisions: 8/10
Improper Product Placement For Era: 10/10
The most troubling thing about seeing so many bad movies is that often I am disappointed in actors for taking certain roles. Here is a fine example of an actor that I have no ill will toward, Ed Harris, taking a part in a movie that is obviously a train wreck. “Why Bob?”, you are no doubt asking yourself as you stare at the computer screen wondering where the hell I’m going with this. I’ll be blunt-this movie was trying to be a direct metaphor for U.S. occupation in Nicaragua during the 1980’s by telling the story of U.S. occupation in Nicaragua during the 1850’s, and used not-so-subtle product placement to try to meld the two eras together(or the director is just a completely useless sack of ignorance and stupidity…take your pick). Confused? Well, so was I…(I still am, don’t let this review fool you)…
Ed Harris stars as William Walker, a supposed bad-ass commander during the 1840’s who is immediately put on trial for letting the majority of his men die in a strategically idiotic move. He avoids hard time by doing what American politicians do best: using patriotism and idealism to side-step the arguments. When free, he returns home to his lovely deaf wife (played by the extremely sassy and kick-ass Marlee Matlin) and begins to work on his political career(which involves a lot of ass-kissing). He is offered a job to bring democracy to Nicaragua by a rich business tycoon, but turns it down because he wants to stay with his woman. She dies in the next scene, though, so he abandons his high ideals and moral codes to bring the U.S. nation’s manifest destiny to South America.
At first, he ensures that all of his men understand that they are honored guests in Nicaragua, and that the honor should not be disrespected. His intentions are to create a positive and strong image of American democracy in action, so discipline is of the utmost importance. He shoots a couple of men, reads a little scripture, and soon his (surviving) men are ready for anything…except the ambush that he leads them right in to. Though they are being gunned down left and right, Walker walks on to what he believes is victory…and somehow manages to gain it. Instead of realizing it was purely luck, Walked believes that he cannot be beaten, and makes a bloody run for the capital, seizing it instantly.
Once in control of Nicaragua, Walker makes some pretty interesting decisions, including starting a newspaper that he controls, bringing back slavery, and killing the former El Presidente. Basically, he does everything in his power to ensure that there will be a rebellion, and that he will be as vulnerable as possible when it happens. He even severs his connections with the U.S., severely limiting his men and supplies. When the rebellion finally comes, he burns the capital to the ground and is abandoned by his men(who all use their passports to board an army helicopter that is in the area), left to pay for his sins against the country. He is given a firing squad to the chest, and washes away in the ocean. As the credits roll, we get to watch President Regan do some speeches and wonder what the hell we just saw.
OK, my big beef with this movie was that it opens with this phrase in huge bold letters: “THIS IS A TRUE STORY“. Really? I’m pretty sure that scattered throughout this movie are several products that weren’t around in the 1860’s, including Coca Cola, Marlboro cigarettes, Mercedes, Time and Newsweek magazines, and the ever-so-subtle computer that was in one shot. Then, just saying “f*** it” and having your final scene be saved by a modern weapon of war slightly negates your ability to say how true the story could be. I understand what the makers were trying to do here, and it just comes across as bad film making(and slightly condescending). Not really worth a view unless you’re into bad historical war movies, which is a pretty niche market, or if you like seeing obvious product placement in a completely unacceptable way. My advice: watch First Blood instead.
Thank you goes out to Damon for this suggestion, who peaked my interest by saying that a car appeared out of nowhere in a western that is set over a hundred years ago. I said “No way…”, and I stand corrected and amazed. Until next time, keep watching bad movies until your blood turns to gold….and then I will kill you and steal your blood.
P.S. I don’t know or care what the capital of Nicaragua is, I’m just glad that I spelled it right.