Friday, May 4, 2012

A Monkey movie review

I've been wanting to see this film ever since it first came out but for one reason or another it never happened until just the other night when I looked to see if it was on Netflix Instant.  It's about a stone cold mercenary, played by Ed Harris, who gets driven out of Mexico by the Mexican army.  He's then hired by Cornelius Vanderbilt, played by the late Peter Boyle, to go take over Nicaragua.  Vanderbilt wants to  build a canal through the small central American country but he can't do that until he's got his puppets in power.  Walker goes to Nicaragua with a band of crazy blood thirsty men and he succeeds in taking over for a few years.  Then it all turns bad when he, Walker, gets greedy.  The locals turn on him, Vanderbilt turns on him, and his men turn on him.  Eventually he gets executed in Honduras.

But what the film is really about is the US dominance in Nicaragua in particular and the whole region of central America in general.  Since the days when the Monroe Doctrine was postulated the USA has sought and mostly succeeded in keeping central America more a less a bunch of vassal states that we use for plunder.  We regularly prop up the worlds worst dictators who think nothing of enslaving their citizens in order to keep the peace.  We think nothing of backing coups to over throw any governments in that area that might actually stand up for it's people or try to make the US backed corporations stand down.  So while this film is about a US back mercenary named Walker, he's a stand in for hundreds of years of USA backed oppression.

Over all I liked this film and for the most part I liked Ed Harris in it.  He plays Walker with a steely determination and he shows us that Walker was a vulnerable man when it came to females.  In the final scenes his portrayal falters, especially in the scene where he's eating body parts directly out of a murdered soldier.  Alex Cox, the director, sticks some modern things in the film to shake stuff up a bit and over all it detracts more from the story than it adds.  It's very jarring to see a car zoom through a scene where Walker and his men are marching and when people read Time, Newsweek, and People with Walker's face on the covers, it's kind of dumb.  And when the helicopter full of Marines land to evacuate US citizens after Walker is over thrown, it really kills the film.  All those modern additions was supposed to make the movie edgy and hip but for me they ruined it.

Don't get the wrong idea though, this film is still very much worth seeing and I recommend it.  It's very emblematic of it's time and very much a creature of the late 1980's when Reagan was arming the Contras in an effort to overthrow Ortega and the Sandinistas who had over thrown the Samoza family who ruled Nicaragua for the CIA for decades.

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