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Senator Jay Bulworth is facing speculation-induced financial ruin, so he puts out a contract on his own life in order to collect a large, new insurance policy for his family. Living each moment on borrowed time, he suddenly begins spouting raw, unfiltered--and sometimes offensive in word but satirical in spirit -- thoughts to shocked audiences and handlers in the speech of hip-hop music and culture. His newfound uninhibitedness and new relationship with Nina carry him on a journey of political and spiritual renewal. Written by
One of the better films of 1998, with an unabashed comic tone. ***1/2 out of ****
BULWORTH (1998) ***1/2
Starring: Warren Beatty, Halle Berry, Don Cheadle, Oliver Platt, Isaiah Washington, and Christine Baranski Directed, produced, and written by Warren Beatty 108 minutes Rated R (for pervasive strong language, drug use, sexual references, and brief violence)
By Blake French:
I have seen a lot of movies in my time, but I have never seen anything as witty, as twisted, as entertaining, as outrageous, or as original as Warren Beatty's new political satire "Bulworth." It is, at times, funny, but at others very dark. I can't recall ever stating that a "serious comedy," is one of the years best films before. That was then, this is now--and "Bulworth" is truly one of the better film's of 1998.
As the movie opens, a US senator named Jay Billington Bulworth, hires a hit man to kill an individual of his desire. The hit man wonders exactly who this person is in which a man of such power wishes to eliminate. As it turns out, Bulworth has paid this hit man to kill his own suicidal self. "If I'm not dead by Monday, I'm canceling that check." Bulworth states firmly.
This is were the outrageous humor begins. During a campaign speech at a local African American church, Bulworth goes seemingly nuts. He begins to tell the citizens the truth about subjects in congress that most politicians would never think of revealing to the general public. His representative, Dennis Murphy, who cares only about getting Bulworth elected, almost faints in shock and disbelief. But you have to understand, these are the last days that Bulworth will be experiencing life, so why not reveal secrets, release envelop pushing information, and start up controversy with the nation with his last breaths.
"Never make life of death decisions when you're suicidal," explains Bulworth during one of the film's more invigoration sequences. He is talking to a woman named Nina, whom he met nonchalantly during one of his presentation speeches. The two of them fall in love. Too bad Bulworth has not taken his own advice typed above, for his death is near. But is Nina who she appears to be? Is his wife, Constance Bulworth, having an affair with another man? Is Bulworth's demise in the near future? All suitable questions that will all be answered when you see the movie.
Parts of the film do not work. For instance, the subplot involving Bulworth's wife who is adulterous just isn't detailed enough, nor are the characters introduced, for us to even consider this anything but a gimmick. True, the affair does symbolize chaos preoccupied in his household, and establishes another reason for him to be suicidal. Still, it's too small for a movie that offers so many good qualities.
"Bulworth" has a detailed opening that provokes empathy for our main character, Jay Bulworth. We learn of an external problem, Jay being involved in a heated presidential campaign, and an internal problem, Jay being suicidal and calling a hit on himself. The structure only goes uphill from there, and that is hard to do. Both conflicts are evolved, with Nina, Bulworth's sense of honesty, the hit man's presence, and several character & plot twists in which someone is not who they appear to be.
Along with some very dramatic and meaningful moments found in "Bulworth," also contained is dialogue that is smart, witty, and at times hilarious. The first shock value sequence is truly outrageous, and the films unabashed sense of eagerness only gets more perverse; the film is rated R for appropriate reasons, mostly coming from Bulworth's style of life he becomes involved with. The situations we're facing here are quite controversial, but Warren Beatty directs the film with a certain humorous touch. He uses effective but bizarre camera angles, and a hip cinematographer that creates aggressive chemistry between Beatty and Halle Berry during their "party animal" scenes together.
The performances in "Bulworth" entirely demonstrate that Warren Beatty is not only able to direct, write and produce well, but also that capable to lead an all star cast, including Don Cheadle, Oliver Platt, Isaiah Washington, and Christine Baranski, into an Oscar worthy overall appearance level. All of these things contribute to making "Bulworth" is of the better films of 1998, and I recommend it highly.
Brought to you by Twentieth Century Fox.
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