The Distinguished Gentleman (1992)
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The plot (concerning a con man who decides theres more money to be made in politics) is for the most part hilarious, but seriously falls down into schmaltz once he starts developing a conscience.
Also, it is not as scathing about the American political system as it could be, giving out the impression that apart from a few bad apples, the majority of politicians do have the publics best interests at heart.
Anyone who enjoyed this should try and check out the English tv series "Yes, Minister". It is written by the director of this film (Jonathan Lynn) and is really much more effective in dealing with the British political system. Another british series along these lines is "House of Cards" and its follow ups, which really pulls no punches at all. And stars Ian Richardson. What more could you possibly want?
The story is good, too. A con artist decides to become a congressman and play the game, only to find out that the issues involved are not a game. He becomes a person who cares.
Granted, it's a comedy, but it continues to remind us that, as long as humans run organizations, is ANY organization pure virtue and no vice? Religion? Law enforcement? Academia? Government? Corporate society? Sports? Is any system free of corruption?
We all live in glass houses. And there are individuals out there trying at least to keep their windows clean.
Eddie Murphy does not force his humor in this movie, like he tries in almost everything else I've seen him in. For most of the movie, he seems himself. Not only that, you actually see a little drama from Eddie, which while not ranking up there with the likes of Hanks and Hackman, he certainly makes you believe he's got another side to him.
The movie, while stretching credibility, attacks the System very well, both dramatically and humorously. If one watches this movie expecting a mild satire instead of a barrel of laughs or a breathtaking plot, they will probably enjoy it, assuming they didn't hate Beverly Hills Cop.
Although it starts out with plenty of big, easy targets the first half of the film is lively and quite funny. The broad satire is never that cutting or intelligent but it does the job for an Eddie Murphy comedy. Unfortunately, around the halfway mark the obvious plot suddenly has Thomas develop a heart and the film grinds to a halt. Happily it gets its senses back in the final section and is a return to the lively first part this is not to say that it is brilliant because it isn't, but it is amusing and pretty enjoyable apart from the narrative arch having a massive hole in the middle of it.
The cast are mixed dependant on their material. Murphy himself is on good form. His con artist character suits his on screen personae and he works the dialogue really well he is all at sea when he has to convince the audience of the change in his character but he moves through that as quickly as he can. The supporting cast are all in his shadow on this but at least there are plenty of famous faces. Smith, Dutton, McBride, Baker, Ralph and McCarthy all add an ensemble feel to the film even if it is very much Murphy's vehicle. Lynn's direction is OK but he can't do much of real intelligence with the basic tools presented to him by the writers.
Overall this is not the sharpest of satires but the big simple targets are still enjoyably hit. The middle section is poor but Murphy ensures that the majority of it will be good enough to please his fans even if it could have been so much better.
Then came great films like 48 Hours,Trading Places & Beverly Hills Cop #1 & Pt.2 and Coming To America. Mis-steps like Best Defense (which he's barely in) and Golden Child. Mostly though,it was his (clean version here) "smart-aleck"/street smart persona that made him. It's also what broke him,at least for awhile.
Harlem Nights was a disaster,Another 48 Hourscould have been made on a Xerox machine. People had begun to tire of him. In 1992 it seemed he had rebounded with "Boomerang" but then came this.
The Distinguished gentleman takes Murphy,once again back to the street smart,con artist he'd played before. The smart aleck humor seemed tired for a man (then) 30 years old. It was a somewhat nice touch that his character sees the realities involved in the office he's won based on (someone else's) name recognition. Seeing a little girl whose hair has fallen out due to electrical tower radiation makes him see the light.
Most comedies have a pretty funny ending but the writers couldn't even give us that. In the last moment,I was like,"That's it?"
Four stars is a generous rating here but I feel that Murphy was at least trying to say good-bye to his 80s super-star and hello to maturity,which he finally found. After Beverly Hills Cop 3,he never looked back again. (END)
I've never seen a more thorough and realistic comedy about government and politics before or since this film. Only Bulworth comes close, yet the solutions suggested in that film were just as liberal as the institution it parodied. There are a few liberal connotations in The Distinguished Gentleman (particularly environmental), but they are immediately balanced and authenticated by the conditions presented in the story.
This film isn't an absolute probe into political science, but it gives a more lucid perspective of politics than the media would ever care to attempt. Eddie Murphy's performance is vintage, particularly his mimicking skills and his genuine comedic brilliance. A moment that defines the film is when his character gives a victory speech which consists exclusively of several cliches coined by historic politicians ("'Four score and seven years ago...' 'If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen...' 'We have nothing to fear but fear itself...' 'Ask not what your country can do for you...' and in conclusion 'Read my lips!'"). The crowd response, as with actual politicians, is full of mindless cheers of concurrence.
Political experts may find this film silly and full of inconsistencies. Yet, the fact is, most movies are silly compared to reality. This film, however, does not insult the viewer and gives political novices a good idea of political mechanics while presenting a hilarious performance. The fact presented in this film is that the most powerful people are the most corrupt, and corruption can only be defeated by more clever and deceptive corruption.
This is not a film for "Generation X"ers who rate a film on its music soundtrack and how thoroughly the females cast in it prostitute themselves. If you appreciate the comedy of Eddie Murphy and have a critical appreciation for politics, you will enjoy this film.
I'd give it a 9.5, but the IMDB won't allow decimals.
The story: Eddie Murphy plays Thomas Jefferson Johnson, a small-time crook that runs for Congress and wins. He ran with intentions of getting rich and left with intentions of helping the little people that get ran over by those corporate fat cats in the oval office. This being after he meets up a cancer-stricken girl that is a victim of the power lines over her school.
Eddie Murphy is great as the slick con man and he looks like he wants to be in this movie not like these later flicks where he phones in his performance. Lane Smith is perfect as the corrupted chairman Dick Dodge and so is Joe Don Baker as Olaf Anderson. Victoria Rowell(who plays Celia Kirby) and Charles S. Dutton(who plays Elijah Hawkins) turn in some good performances too. I like how this movie targets the don't-give-a-damn mentality of all of these politicians in the White House. It was good in its satire even when the humor misses(rarely). The Distinguished Gentleman is underrated but is definitely recommended to the crowd that can see past their nose.
In order to maximize his influence with lobbyists, Murphy gets himself appointed to the most powerful committee in Congress, which in real-life is the Ways & Means Committee and when this film was made, was run by Dan Rostenkowski, but in the film is run by the equally corrupt Dick Dodge.
In 1994, Rostenkowski was indicted on corruption charges and stepped down as Ways and Means chairman; he lost his House seat in the Congressional elections later that year. He pleaded guilty to mail fraud in 1996, and was fined and served (199697) a 17-month sentence.
One of the great things about this film is how it parallels the real-life Congress and how sleazy things were run under the Democrats when they controlled it. This film is a must for anyone interested in politics and for anyone that would like to see Murphy play a different role than his usual fare.
There are so many bad messages in here, it would make your head swim. It's also too profane, but that's no surprise with Murphy in the lead role and a total unknown - who has remained such in the last 15 years, Victoria Powell - as the female lead.
This is a poor man's "Trading Places," another movie in which a nobody, here a slimeball con man, can turn into a somebody, a man elected to congress. Except in Massachusetts or some other elitist state, I'm sure that could never happen!
One positive thing about this film: Murphy is actually low-key and much less abrasive than his normal characters. That was nice to see-and hear! He's a talented actor and doesn't always need to scream and shout to get laughs. The film gets a few stars for that alone, even though most people prefer the wise-ass Murphy.
if it weren't for the blatantly funny lines and over-the-top portrayal by murphy, i think this could be classified as a "black comedy". to me, it's almost as scary as "seven days in may". instead of a military takeover of the government, it's been taken over by people who have the money to buy congressional votes! the scary part is that it's already happened!
i think that "the distinguished gentleman" should be required viewing of every american that is of voting age! maybe it would mobilize us to become more vocal when it comes to capturing back our representatives' attention!
Can't help but agree with an earlier post -I am SHOCKED to see so many people give positive reviews to this inane drivel and felt I needed to redress the balance somewhat. What is the world coming to, eh???
Eddie Murphy starts as a Florida con 'artist' accompanied by some accomplices blackmailing people who use his private fake phone-sex service. While racketing a congressman, he finds out that running for Congress will earn him more money than he does now. His asset to get elected is his name which he shares with a just-deceased congressman called Jeff Johnson. His way to the top of course hardly meets any difficulty but, after all, this is a comedy so we don't mind as long as it's entertaining.
But then things go wrong, Johnson meets a Pro Bono lobbyist, falls in love with her pretty fast but their relationship doesn't add anything to the movie and is not developed and chemistry between both actors is obviously missing.
First, Johnson enjoys his journey at the Congress but he soon realizes he can't keep a straight face and simultaneously take part to the different frauds and corruption present.
This is where the movie takes a turn for the serious and forgets it started out as a comedy. It's now trying to make a point. Johnson accepts to help a town where children are submitted to the negative effects of power high lines causing a great deal of them to suffer from cancer. Johnson develops a plan to force Congress to do something and expose publicly the aforementioned frauds and corruption. All this is done in an unexplainable cheesy way.
Shame, as the movie contained some good ideas for a comedy but director Jonathan Lynn seems to have been distracted and forgot that his original intention was to make a good comedy with Eddie Murphy having a good time at Congress.