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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 35.21%
Average: 2.82%
Pretty Bad: 14.08%
Total Crap: 5.63%

6 reviews, 35 user ratings

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by Rob Gonsalves

"Has gotten more relevant with each passing year."
4 stars

When we first see Jay Billington Bulworth (Warren Beatty), he's grinning at us from a TV screen, promising us that we can move forward if only we shake off the deadwood (welfare chronics, etc.) holding us back. When we first meet him, though, he's sitting in his office, watching himself on TV and feeling empty and suicidal.

Bulworth, a Democratic senator once filled with idealism, has become just another political puppet -- a hollow man serving the interests of big money. The next morning, he takes out a huge life-insurance policy and arranges to have himself assassinated. His impending death frees him, allows him to tell the truth for the first time, and the people of California can't get enough of him.

Bulworth, which Warren Beatty directed and co-wrote (with Jeremy Pikser and an uncredited Aaron Sorkin), is a liberal call to action -- a satire driven by equal parts disgust and hope. Is it a classic? No; the climax hasn't been thought out, and the movie, while enjoyable and heartfelt, is a bit amorphous where it needs to be as sharp as an ice-pick. Bulworth ambles up to the line dividing smart entertainment and great satire, and stops about ten feet on this side. Still, it's always refreshing to have a movie -- any movie -- that talks about money and power (and understands that the real subject is the poor and powerless).

At a South Central church, Bulworth throws away his standard speech and shocks the congregation with his candor; in the space of about thirty seconds, the African-American audience shifts from wanting to throw things at him to wanting to lionize him. His point, which doesn't fully come through in the ads for the movie ("Put down that malt liquor and chicken wings," etc.), is that in politics, money talks -- which is not a problem for people who have money, but is a sizable problem for people of any color who don't. It's at this church that Bulworth meets Nina (Halle Berry), a young woman impressed by his bravado; she gives him a sort of informal education on the lives of disenfranchised black people, and he embraces the surface trappings of black urban culture -- he even starts rapping his speeches.

This aspect of Bulworth drew fire from both workaday film critics and African-American editorialists. Is the movie hauling out that old tired "White Negro" stuff? Not really. Take away the racial aspect and you have a despairing, exhausted politician rejuvenated by what he considers a more authentic way of living and speaking. The movie is only superficially about a white man acting black; it's really about a powerful man rediscovering his idealism among the powerless. If you take the film too literally, as some did (what are we to make of the fact that Bulworth's "blackness" appears to be a case of temporary insanity or, at the very least, sleep-deprived dementia?), you'll miss the point and the fun.

Beatty keeps things light and fast, with a performance to match -- you'd probably have to go back to Shampoo to find him this loose and raring-to-go. The undeniable silliness of a sixty-year-old white man adopting hip-hop mannerisms liberates Beatty as much as it does Bulworth. If only the movie were as liberated. Towards the end, the plot takes a turn into martyrdom, and the tone gets bleaker, more "important." The last shot is shameless editorializing out of a bad Oliver Stone or Spike Lee film. Beatty and his writers should have cooked up an ending that doesn't recall Network quite so explicitly (see, you stick up your head to tell the truth and they chop it off!).

Still, most of "Bulworth" is a knowing adult comedy raising its voice above the din of summer-movie thunder, and we hear it loud and clear.

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originally posted: 12/28/06 12:25:09
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User Comments

12/29/17 morris campbell truthful but boring 2 stars
8/17/14 Jeff WIlder Satirically hits its targets well. 4 stars
4/20/09 Phineas Take your self-loathing,White Guilt and shove it up your RICH Marxist ass,WARREN 1 stars
2/17/09 Angelique Its hilarious you gotta love it! 5 stars
6/24/07 fools♫gold The "Network" of the ninety's; one of the greatest soundtracks for THE greatest movie. 5 stars
5/16/06 Josh Standlee What does this film teach us? Hip-hop is for criminals. Fuck rap!!!!!!!!!! 1 stars
9/12/05 Total Crap Miss? Be honest and don't spare my feelings, have any more of those crispy crabcakes? 5 stars
6/10/05 Indrid Cold Hilarious and heart-wrenching, while a little heavy on the PCness. 5 stars
6/06/05 John Aster Habig Warren Beatty played up to my expectations but the script tho funny is uneven 4 stars
11/09/04 Stephanie AWESOME 5 stars
11/29/03 john wonderful 5 stars
10/09/02 Kitfo quirky, funny, and politically in-your-face. most underrated hollywood comedy ever? 5 stars
1/11/02 Andrew Carden Interesting Movie, but Very Bland and Unlikeable. 3 stars
11/16/01 John Best film of 98 5 stars
8/09/01 Mr. Hat The is a great movie. It's funny in every way possible. 5 stars
5/28/01 cinkcool Obviously too deep for alot of people. Very good movie, good message. 5 stars
6/27/00 David Duke Warren Beatty rapping made me want to pull out my eyes with a fork. 1 stars
6/06/00 Bender Uneven, but enjoyable 4 stars
5/18/00 Elvisfan God I hate the people that post at this site...this movie was great 5 stars
10/15/99 Pam Matthews Damn good! This is a wake up call for AMERICA!! Warren you're great! 5 stars
9/04/99 godsdog Maybe ONE funny moment in the entire film. How did this SUCK? Let me count the ways... 1 stars
8/04/99 Dave There is something wrong if you didn't like this movie. Part comedy, part thought provoking 5 stars
5/13/99 ridiculous, and racist, too! 2 stars
4/15/99 Jon Jackson Blah, blah, shhtank! 2 stars
4/05/99 Cool Thing Mega respect to old man Beatty. He done good. 5 stars
3/09/99 Bruce Hedge Great film --uncanny parallels with Australian politics-very funny in parts 5 stars
2/18/99 Piz wow, what a lame, boring, farce of a movie. Zzzzz! 2 stars
10/10/98 Bluntman Badboy Beatty bustin' about THE MAN. DAAAAAAAAAMN! 4 stars
9/27/98 katherine it was pretty funny, ad i luv the soundtrack. 4 stars
9/14/98 Smalltown Possibly the best film of the summer. Kill the white man. 5 stars
9/09/98 f*r*o*s*t*y It was worth the cash to see Beatty "throw up the dub." 5 stars
9/01/98 pooky the bald can't dig the white old rap thing. not funny 3 stars
8/17/98 Johny Old white guy raps, do you need more reason to watch!? :-) 4 stars
8/17/98 Hank this movie is a big fuck you to our whole political system and media. GO SEE IT!!!! 5 stars
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  15-May-1998 (R)
  DVD: 01-Feb-2005


  25-Feb-1999 (M)

Directed by
  Warren Beatty

Written by
  Warren Beatty
  Jeremy Pikser

  Warren Beatty
  Halle Berry
  Don Cheadle
  Paul Sorvino
  Jack Warden

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