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
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
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