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.

The Milagro Beanfield War (1988)

Genre: Smalltown-Rebellion Drama / Kind-of-a-Western / Magical-Realism Fable

Walken in Short: He is the outsider, the snake, the muscle, the burr. Though some fat-cat Boss Hogg-type plays the part of the rich and evil land-developer pulling strings to get his way, Walken is the real bad-guy in this, doing whatever it takes to get the job done. He is only a small part of this film, but he has some good lines.

Nothing great mind you, but good nonetheless.

Movie in a Sentence: The small rural New Mexican town of Milagro is about to be bought, sold, and taken from the people who have lived there for generations, unless one man (Chick Vennera) and his modest field of pinto beans can unite the town in opposition, defeat the bad guy (Richard Bradford) and his hired gun (Walken), and take it back for themselves.

Walken, stern

Director: Robert Redford

Writer: John Nichols & David S. Ward (screenplay)

Based on the novel by John Nichols

Duration: One Hour and 57 minutes

MPAA Rating: This film has an ‘R’ but such a harsh rating is almost completely unfounded. No sex, the violence isn’t graphic or gratuitous, and (okay, sure) I think the f-word is said twice, but an ‘R’?! Eff that noise! Eff it right in the aye. Those em effing d-bags at the em pee aye aye must find it real hard to actually see any of the screen with their heads so firmly entrenched up each each others prudish little ayes.

Where was I? Oh yeah: This film doesn’t warrant much more than a PG.

Actors Other Than Walken:

  • Chick Vennera is the lead. It’s his beanfield. He gives a good performance in this, nothing amazing, but it works. And it’s more about everyone else anyways. Also, Chick will act with Walken a few years later in MCBAIN, a good (but baaad) ’90s war-flick.
  • Reuben Blades is the local sheriff. He’s technically working for the rich guy, but he’s no jerk. In fact, I love Reuben. He was in PREDATOR 2 and Robert Rodriguez’s ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO. He’s got a great face, with some wonderful expressions, and he just seems like a really cool, laid-back kind-of-guy. And his last name is ‘Blades’ – how bad-ass is that?!
  • Melanie Griffith is the ditzy wife of the rich land-developer. I’m not a huge fan of her in general, and she doesn’t give me much reason to change my mind in this.
  • Sonia Braga is Ruby Archuleta, the vociferous local woman who sees what is happening and wants to rally the people, but she just doesn’t have what it takes to persuade everyone. So she persuades the guy who does. She is fiery and stubborn, a beautiful strong Latina woman.
  • John Heard plays ‘Charlie Bloom‘ the ex-activist from California. Now he’s a jaded local newspaperman/lawyer that has to be convinced that this isn’t a lost cause.
  • Carlos Riquelme is ‘Amarante Cordova‘ the oldest man in Milagro. He speaks to angels, has a huge pig as a companion, and generally gets the party started. He is perfect as the slightly crazy old man with wisdom and no tact. And he’s good for sporadic comedy-relief.
Stern in Milagro

Stern, not very

There are others: Richard Bradford, Daniel Stern, James Gammon. Lots more. And they do a great job, especially Stern, who is usually cast in silly goofy roles, real broad comedy stuff, but he’s surprisingly good in this. Not trying to be funny at all. He’s an anthropology student writing a paper on Amarante. His charm is subtle, and he’s likeable because he’s not trying too hard. There’s more, but if you’re curious, you should just watch the film.

Awesome Quote (Not From Walken): So two Carlos Requelme in Milagrobad-guys are up in a tractor up to nefarious deeds (as they do), when a crazy old Mexican with a revolver as big as his coke-bottle glasses stops them. They don’t really take him seriously until he says:

“You get down from there or I’ll blow a hole in your chest big enough for an owl to nest in.”

~ Amarante Cordova

Available to Own: VHS and DVD. No Blu-ray yet, but it’s a Robert Redford film so I imagine it’ll probably happen eventually.

Similar Films: HEAVEN’S GATE*; STATE AND MAIN; MYSTERY, ALASKA. And though I’ve never seen it, perhaps also CHOCOLAT, because from what I can tell it seems like a good fit.

I’m also going to add “IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE”, which (if you ignore the whole Christmas-vibe to it) is centered around a small town coming together to defeat a callous businessman’s greedy takeover, and focuses on one man who is unsure of his place in life and unconvinced of his effect on the community. Also, both films feature one man talking to (and being helped by) an angel that no one else can see.

Walken Content: 10% maybe. A handful of lines, some impromptu desert off-roading, and he tries to shoot someone whilst mountain climbing.

Walken plays ‘Kyril Montana’, the capable and cunning investigator brought in to quell the town’s uprising. He’s a cop, of sorts, though he’s not at all interested in serving, protecting, or with that little thing called ‘due-process’. And he’s certainly willing to lie and kill in order to get the job done.

Actually, his role in this is very similar to his character in HEAVEN’S GATE. As I mentioned, he is the hired gun of the rich white guy, hired to keep those pesky poor people oppressed. He’s quiet and patient, but he’s also stubborn. Oh, and he’s wearing a cowboy hat in both movies, so – y’know: praaactically the same movie.

Walken Quote: So in one scene Walken’s leading a band of rabble as they hit the trail looking for a so-called “refugee from justice”. They are noisy, slow, unfocused, and unmotivated; everything Walken is NOT. Before striking out on his own, Walken comes to the conclusion that:

“This posse couldn’t find itself.”

~ Kyril Montana (Walken)

Should You Watch This? Ehhhhhh – yes. Walken and Horace in MilagroNot necessary-watching mind you. We’ve seen similar Walken elsewhere, not to mention stronger more interesting Walken, and the film as a whole isn’t going to knock anyone’s socks off. But Walken does a fine job, and this is a fun ensemble story.

Some laughs, some tears, some excitement. And Walken rides a horse (which he HATES), so it’s got that going for it, which is nice.

3 comments on “The Milagro Beanfield War (1988)

  1. Pingback: Homeboy (1988) « walkenchronicles

  2. Pingback: McBain (1991) | walkenchronicles

  3. Pingback: These Boots Are Made for Walken: Low Hanging Fruit | Good Will Watching

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