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Bulworth

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All-Reviews.com Movie Review: Bulworth

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




Review by Greg King
3 stars out of 4

Bulworth is a daring film from Warren Beatty, a film maker whose politics have always been left of centre and whose long career has been driven by his very personal choice of projects. In this cynical and scathing political satire Beatty tackles many of the more obvious problems of the American democratic process, and the social and economic divisions caused by race and class. Beatty, who is credited as writer, producer and director, takes aim at a number of targets and hits a few raw nerves along the way. Beatty could also be accused of biting the hand that feeds him, as he attacks the major motion picture studios, the corporations that buy political favours, and the whole political process itself.

In the week before the Senate elections, Democrat Jay Bulington Bulworth (Beatty) has become disillusioned by the hypocrisy, the lies and the machinations of American politics and wants out. He takes out a $10 million life insurance policy and then hires a hit man to assassinate him. Freed of any sense of obligation, Bulworth then feels able to speak his mind during the campaign. Rather than deliver the same tired old speeches, he begins to tell the truth, informing the voters of how little they actually mean to the politicians. Suddenly, Bulworth becomes popular and reinvents himself as that rarity - an honest, straight talking politician.

In the wave of euphoria following his sensational admissions, Bulworth has second thoughts about his earlier decision, but finds himself unable to call off the hit. Bulworth also finds romance with the fiery, beautiful and intelligent Nina (Halle Berry, from Executive Decision, etc), who hails from LA's black ghettos and the opposite end of the political spectrum. However, her ideas and opinions open his eyes to a lot that is wrong with his country and the government. Another unexpected source of inspiration is found in L D (Don Cheadle, from Devil In A Blue Dress, etc), a drug lord.

Bulworth follows on from those other sharp political satires from last year, the timely Wag The Dog and Primary Colors. However, Bulworth is nowhere near as clever, biting or as credible as those two films, and at times is something of an undisciplined mess. As co-writers, Beatty and long time collaborator Jeremy Pikser (Reds, etc) seem to have bitten off more than they can chew in this ambitious script. There are a couple of good ideas here, but they seem to get lost in some unnecessary over plotting. The film ultimately lacks a strong central focus. And those scenes where Bulworth, an angry old man, proceeds to rail against corruption and apathy through rap songs don't quite convince. For once, Beatty is playing closer to his age, a haggard, weary and tired 60 something, and he seems to be enjoying the experience. Oliver Platt gives a wonderfully manic performance as Murphy, Bulworth's increasingly frustrated aide who attempts damage control as he tries to keep his charge on the straight and narrow. A number of celebrity cameos, from the ubiquitous Larry King through to George Hamilton, add to the flavour of the film.

Despite its structural flaws though, Bulworth looks great, thanks to Vittorio Storaro's superb cinematography and Dean Tavoularis' production design.

Copyright 1998 Greg King

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