Bulworth (1998) / Comedy-Drama
MPAA Rated: R for pervasive strong language and some drug content
Running Time: 108 min.
Cast: Warren Beatty, Halle Berry, Don Cheadle, Jackie Gayle, Paul Sorvino, Jack Warden
Small role: Sean Astin, Michael Clarke Duncan, Nora Dunn, Larry King, Laurie Metcalf, Chris Mulkey, Oliver Platt, Sarah Silverman, Isaiah Washington, John Witherspoon, William Baldwin, George Hamilton, Paul Mazursky
Director: Warren Beatty
Screenplay: Warren Beatty, Jeremy Pikser
Review published December 24, 1998
California Senator Jay Bulworth (Beatty, Dick Tracy) is disgusted with the empty politician he has become and in a suicidal fit of despair, he plunks down for a large insurance policy then puts a hit out for his own life. With nothing left to lose, Bulworth decides to try in his remaining days to speak what he feels is the truth about the politics of today and suddenly becomes a surprise hit among the people. Along the way he becomes infatuated with an inner city Black woman named Nina (Berry, Boomerang), who is secretly the woman hired to kill him. Bulworth becomes enamored of the African-American form of expression called hip hop and uses it as his main source of inspiration for delivering his message.
Many critics rave over this satirical comedy, but I find it to be a major disappointment. There are a few poignant moments, but not enough to lift this film out of the quicksand of its own unfocused insanity. Patently offensive, ridiculously overblown, stereotypically constructed, and unrealistically conceived, this film fails on every fundamental level. The characters are one-dimensional and unappealing, the script is scatterbrained mush, the music is redundant and ineffectively used, and the message gets lost amid idiotic supporting characters with little better to do than mouth un-pithy lines for no apparent reason.
Had this film been more realistic in creating a believable way to convey its socialist message, Beatty could have pulled it off, but in insisting on focusing on a character that becomes in reality unelectable, it loses any foothold on credibility and the farcical nature of the film loses its power. A squandered opportunity at a classic political satire, and an unfortunate waste of talent. .
©1998 Vince Leo