Bulworth

| July 22, 2011

Bulworth is a very peculiar film. Being the most remembered movie poster of my childhood, I’ve always had a soft spot for the film. Revisiting the movie twelve years after its initial release in 1998, there are moments in the film where I question the boldness of the racial and political satire.
Bulworth tells the story of Senator Jay Bulworth’s opportunity to speak bluntly with voters after putting a hit out for his own life. Identifying with urban culture, Bulworth takes on a hip-hop persona to lead his campaign in a completely new direction. After a wild night at a club, the senator meets Nina (Halle Berry) and decides to cancel his assassination. Unluckily, the mobster he paid off falls into a coma after a heart attack before he can call off the hit. Bulworth, now with political enemies as well, fears for his life at every turn.
I refrained from mentioning Warren Beatty because it is not a Warren Beatty film. Though written, directed and produced by Beatty, Bulworth lacks the leading man’s former finesse. This doesn’t mean it’s a bad film. On the contrary, the film must be one of the most daring political satires ever made.
With a script that occasionally could be labeled as offensive, Bulworth pushes boundaries that are still taboo a decade later, a considerable achievement for current cinematic political satire. Led by a still seductive Halle Berry and a neurotic Oliver Platt, the film’s foundation lies in its strong performances in small roles. With appearances from Don Cheadle, Sean Astin, Paul Sorvino, and Jack Warren, the lack of Beatty is bearable.
But there is definitely something more than just Warren Beatty missing in Bulworth. With an almost absurd conflict, the fact that the senator cannot cancel his assassination is almost non-apparent. A third of the way through, the film drops the cutaways to the mobster’s hospital room. Though Paul Sorvino’s portrayal of a Southern Republican is notable, Don Cheadle’s Tupac-esque character now seems overly stereotypical.
Despite the odd moments and loose narrative, Bulworth is entertaining. By clearing your expectations of classical leading man movies, the film becomes more pleasing. The satire’s commentary and comedy are never better when they actually manage to hit the target.
Bulworth is classic American political comedy at its almost best.

About the Author:

Daniel currently resides in New York City working as a freelance writer and director. He is a graduate of the Film and Video department of Columbia College, specializing in Italian Neo-realism and French & British New Wave cinema.
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