Think of this as a guide through each of Christopher Walken's films, starting with his first and moving forward. Each review will provide analysis, factoids and opinion on the ninety-plus films in his career.
Walken in Short: He is the bad-ass lead in this brooding, violent early ’80s war flick. Great lines and lots of screen-time. Yes, that is a hand-held gatling-gun grenade launcher in Walken’s hands, and no, he is not happy to see you.
Movie in a Sentence: Jamie Shannon (Walken) is the terse and capable leader of a group of mercenaries (including Tom Berenger and Ed O’Neill) hired by a global mining corporation to overthrow a tyrannical African dictator, but who will replace that guy, who decides that?
Director: John Irvin had just finished directing the original TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY with Alec Guinness. He would later direct RAW DEAL with Schwarzenegger, and NEXT OF KIN with Patrick Swayze, both cheezy but entertaining in that unwholesome way that only other ’80s action films are.
Writers: Gary DeVore and George Malko, based on the novel by William Forsythe.
Walken Quote – Walken rebukes his obnoxious local tour guide like this:
“In my jungle, you’d be just another a$$hole.” ~ Jamie (Walken)
Duration: 1 hour, 59 minutes. Apparently there are a number of different cuts depending on your region and whether you got the lame ‘made safe for TV version’.
My Score: I’ll give it a 7 out of 10.
Should You Watch This? Yes, if you’re looking for an explosion-tastic good time. It is grim, and a bit slow in parts, but worth the watch, even if just for the abundance of Walken playing the badass leader of a bunch of hard-core mercs.
MPAA: It has an ‘R’ rating, and rightly so. Of the two hours, it is probably more than an hour of shooting, bombing, stabbing, and torture.
Available to Own: You should have no problem finding this on DVD. Not on blu-ray yet though.**
**Update: A company called ‘Twilight Times’ has released this on Blu-ray. Unfortunately it was limited to 3000 copies. Total. So yeah, it’s rare and expensive.**
Similar Films: The Wild Geese, The Expendables, Rambo II & III, McBain* (*Also a Walken-led mercenary film)
Actors Other Than Walken: Tom (THE SENTINEL*) Berenger, Ed (WAYNE’S WORLD 2* and MARRIED WITH CHILDREN) O’Neill, JoBeth (the mother in POLTERGEIST) Williams. Also, Jim (MOULIN ROUGE and HARRY POTTER) Broadbent has a microscopic role as part of the British film crew visiting Africa. It’s just funny recognizing his googly-eyed face in a thankless blip of a part.
Walken Quote: So let me set this up: Walken and his ex-wife (Williams) have just gotten back together after a long separation. Her father was instrumental in their break-up. But now Walken wants out of the mercenary-life. He wants his wife back. They’re having a post-coital conversation. She’s quiet. He asks her: “You mad or what?” She dodges the question: “You haven’t asked about my father.” And Walken immediately responds:
“Yes, I did. I asked you to go away with me. If you said yes I would have known he was dead.” ~ Jamie Shannon (Walken)
Walken Content: 80-90% He’s the lead. And he doesn’t suffer fools kindly…
General Thoughts: This is a film that attempts to capture the gritty realities of being a mercenary. What it takes to actually acquire the weaponry, transport it and the team to the place, all those things that a soldier in an army doesn’t really have to worry about. The military provides those things for them. Obviously. But many other films gloss over these almost mundane obstacles that independent soldiers of fortune running clandestine operations have to contend with.
There is some time spent dealing with the murky morality that comes with being a soldier-for-hire. And there are also some relationship-y scenes to show the strain that the lifestyle puts on an attempt at a monogamous, long-term relationship.
Oh, and also there is a small subplot involving a friendship he begins with a quiet boy in his neighborhood, where he offers out of the blue to become his godfather. It is definitely weird, but it somehow isn’t creepy and it does a lot with very minimal dialogue.
All told, there are only a smattering of scenes like this that serve to reveal Walken’s humanity and show that he has a nurturing side that maybe balances out the carnage he creates and the apathy he exudes.
But mostly Walken struts around, getting into trouble. Sneaking into Africa, sassing generals, charming the ladies, and orchestrating a revolution.
Oh Walken, you rascal!