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movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Bulworth

Starring: Warren Beatty, Halle Berry
Director: Warren Beatty
Rated: R
RunTime: 107 Minutes
Release Date: May 1998
Genre: Comedy

Review by Andrew Hicks
3½ stars out of 4

I didn't care what this movie was about; as soon as I heard it featured 61-year-old Warren Beatty rapping, I knew I had to see it. Little did I know BULWORTH would be the best political satire of the decade and a key moment in Beatty's career. Yes, it's even better than DICK TRACY (yes, that's sarcasm) and it nails on the head some of America's biggest problems, besides the fact that it can produce a 61-year-old white rapper. No one escapes Beatty's so-liberal-it's- socialist attack, not the Democrats or Republicans, not the insurance companies or the media and not the minorities for which Beatty tries to speak.

Beatty plays Jay Bulworth, a U.S. senator facing reelection. He takes payoffs and contributions from all the right people and ignores all the wrong ones, living the perfect politician's lie with his wife (Christine Baranski) and teenage daughter. Watching his latest shiny TV ads, he finally gets sick of it all and arranges to have himself killed, making sure to bargain with an insurance lobbyist to take out a $10 million policy on himself. Then he writes a 130-page mission statement and gets fired from the agency, and only Cuba Gooding Jr. will stay with him. I may have some of the plot confused at this point, but bear with me.

At the next morning's campaign stop at a black church in Los Angeles, Bulworth scraps the scripted speech to field questions from the audience. Among other things, he tells them the Democratic party isn't loyal to black voters because they have no financial clout and that politicians just tell them what they want to hear. Bulworth's top advisor (Oliver Platt) pulls the fire alarm before he can stick any more feet in his mouth, and they're off to the next stop, where Bulworth further insults a group of Jewish filmmakers. It's an interesting campaign strategy, although not one that's worked for Buchanan or David Duke.

It's in fleeing from the angry moguls that he acquires his new posse, a trio of African-American ladies spearheaded by Nina (Halle Berry). Bulworth spends that night hanging at an inner-city nightclub where he smokes blunts, dances until dawn, starts rapping casual conversations and eventually takes his turn at the twin turntables. It all prepares him for the fundraiser breakfast the next morning, where he once again scraps his scheduled speech, this time rapping out a new one that attacks politics and the power structure.

The interesting thing is, after Platt and the other campaign people freak out, the public laps it all up like a contented kitty cat. And Bulworth doesn't want to die anymore, so he has to try to get the hit called off. This subplot is more convention than innovation, and distracts from the movie's real message. Fortunately, there's not much screentime devoted to the assassination plot; instead we see Bulworth in Nina's neighborhood, dealing with her large family and the local druglord (Don Cheadle, going from BOOGIE NIGHTS porn star to drug dealing gangsta).

BULWORTH has a lot of hilarious moments, but there's a message, and it's not one a lot of people want to hear because it puts America in a pretty sad state of affairs. I saw this with about six other white people in a mid-Missouri outlet mall, and most of them didn't like it. As they were exiting and complaining, the theater manager actually apologized for the movie for making them think about more than the usual action-packed thrills and romance. Yet he shows GODZILLA with a clean conscience. More than anything, that sums up what is wrong with our country right now.

Copyright 1998 Andrew Hicks

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