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.
Genre: Psychological/Erotic Noir Thriller
Walken in Short: He plays a rich, slightly crazy businessman named Bruno Cunningham. This is necessary Walken.
Movie in a Sentence: Money, sex, and betrayal all swirl together when a savvy banker-turned-prostitute (Anne Heche) meets an eccentric money launderer (Christopher Walken), his beautiful wife (Joan Chen), and his scumbag sycophant chauffeur (Steven Bauer) who may actually be a federal agent but is definitely still a scumbag.
Director: Donald Cammell — If you’re not familiar with his name it’s because he literally killed himself when he saw how the studio execs had re-edited his film. This film right here that I’m talking about. Killed himself. Keep that in mind when you’re deciding whether or not to track down the harder-to-find-but-totally-worth-it director’s cut.
Writers: China Kong and Donald Cammell (married writing partners)
Duration & Rating: The Director’s Cut is 111 minutes long and as of 5/28/2016 has only had a UK release onto DVD. That means Region 2. The rated ‘R’ release is 96 minutes long. Whichever cut you watch, you should know up front that there is a graphic and really uncomfortable rape scene that goes on for a fair bit of time. It’s not fun. Just a head’s up. Some drug use, a whole mess of swearing, murder, sex, and nudity. But mostly that rape scene. Ugh.
Actors Other Than Walken: Joan Chen, Anne Heche, Steven Bauer
Similar Films: Bound (1996), Wild Things (1998), The Last Seduction, The Grifters (1990)
Walken Content: 70% – He is on screen throughout the film. And yes, Walken is a madman in this, strutting around, yelling at whomever, waving huge cigars around, growling, foaming at the mouth, dressed in lavish bathrobes most of the time, paranoid, flipping out one minute, cracking jokes the next, having onscreen sex with Anne Heche, and presumably off-screen nookie with his hot young Asian wife (the exquisite Joan Chen). Not to mention the complex relationship he has with his chauffeur. So crazy!
Walken Quote: Because I can’t choose just one, here’s a bunch, with no context or analysis. Enjoy:
“Women. With ’em, without ’em, who can live?”
“Take the tide or forever wish you had.”
“I decide. Me, who witnesses executions. I decide. Tony, I have to do this. To disgust myself, to be completely selfless in the name of… okay: love. There I said it.”
“You wanna take a bullet for me? … Take three.” *BANG!*
Available to Own: Only on DVD so far, and the theatrical release is pretty common and shouldn’t cost more than $5 bucks. The director’s cut, however, and incidentally the one you need to see if you want to say you’ve seen this film, is much rarer, is Region 2, and will probably cost you several times that much if you can even find it.
Should You Watch This? Absolutely. But don’t watch the crappy cut and expect greatness. The director’s cut is where it’s at, and it’s worth it. This is just the kind of role that Walken flourishes in. And this is just the kind of film that I wanted to discover through The Walken Chronicles. Lesser-known gems buried and just waiting to be dug up and admired.
Next Time on The Walken Chronicles: Coming up next is one of Walken’s most obscure films. How obscure? I haven’t even seen it yet, and not only that, but up until literally a few moments ago, I thought it was only available on VHS and only in Italy. Well, I just ordered a French-made DVD of the Italian film ‘Celluloide’. We’ll see how that goes…
There is an “all region” DVD available for the 111 minute director’s cut of Wild Side. It might already be out of print, but I bought it used from an Amazon seller. The DVD has an interview with Donald Cammell that was done while they were filming. I got the impression from his interview that Cammell had very high expectations for this film, perhaps because his sensitive and realistic portrayal of a lesbian relationship was kind of groundbreaking for the mid-nineties. Regarding Walken, Cammell said that “he was giving the performance of a lifetime.” It is truly horrifying that Cammell killed himself because of this film, but that’s the story that is told.
I wish I had seen this before buying the DVD. The 111 minute director’s cut is on YouTube, at least for the time being.