A 1984 trip to Nicaragua fatefully introduced Repo Man auteur Alex Cox to the story of the 19th-century American mercenary William Walker (per Hoberman, “a crypto-Oliver North”), who served as the country’s president from 1856-57 and serves as the subject of one of Cox’s most gleefully incendiary films (scripted by Rudy Wurlitzer and scored by Joe Strummer). Walker, portrayed here by Ed Harris in a signature performance, has just fled Mexico following a failed coup attempt. Bankrolled by Cornelius Vanderbilt (Peter Boyle), Walker makes for Nicaragua with a private army of sixty men, sacks Managua, and proceeds to enact an increasingly deranged and dictatorial presidency, with the promise of his own self-destruction looming always. Harris, Hoberman writes, “brought the full weight of blue-eyed craziness to Manifest Destiny […] Harris plays Walker as a performer who, like Reagan or North, is hypnotized (and convinced) by his own rhetoric.”
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