A cab driver finds himself the hostage of an engaging contract killer as he makes his rounds from hit to hit during one night in Los Angeles. He must find a way to save both himself and one last victim.
This action film, directed by the Hughes brothers, depicts a heist of old bills, retired from circulation and destined by the government to be "money to burn." However, more broadly, it addresses the issues of Black Americans' involvement in the Vietnam War and their subsequent disillusionment with progress in social issues and civil rights back home in the United States, during the 1960's. Written by
Tad Dibbern <DIBBERN_D@a1.mscf.upenn.edu>
The word "fuck" and its variants are spoken 247 times. See more »
When Cuddy stands over Anthony and puts a gun to his head, the hammer isn't cocked even though he cocked the gun while walking down the stairs. See more »
[at the table, dividing up a huge stack of bills after the big score]
Man, one thing I can't figure out. People be out of work everywhere and the government just be throwing money away!
That's Uncle Sam for you, son. Money to burn.
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"Dead Presidents," the Hughes Brothers' ambitious 1995 follow-up to their equally ambitious debut, the gritty and ultraviolent 1993 drama "Menace II Society," is about as ambitious as most films can get, and in some ways it's better than their previous film, and in some ways it's not.
Many have taken note of co-directing team Allen and Albert Hughes' referencing to their cinema heroes like Martin Scorsese and the bloody gangster classic "Scarface." Indeed, observant viewers will note the explicit bloodshed that's prevalent in "Dead Presidents" as being homage to the graphic gangster pictures of yesteryear, and that doesn't make it bad.
"Presidents" takes a look at the role that the color green played in the lives young black men before and after Vietnam. In fact, on the killing fields of good old 'Nam, mankind is seen at its absolute lowest, where soldiers on both sides of the conflict commit horrific atrocities, including a scene where a black soldier decapitates a (dead) Viet Cong and keeps the head for good luck, or when an American soldier is gutted and castrated.
Obviously, the Hughes Brothers have some real big qualms about black mens' involvement in that conflict, and the film's central character, Anthony Curtis (Larenz Tate), finds little prospects awaiting him in the Bronx after doing two tours in Vietnam.
Before he left, however, he'd impregnated his girlfriend Juanita (Rose Jackson) and while in country, he doesn't permit himself to think of what he's left behind in America. So when Anthony's forced to leave his low-paying job as a meat cutter, it's not a surprise that he's already begun plans to knock off an armored truck to get some "dead presidents," which is street slang for dollar bills.
So, together with his two involuntarily enlisted Vietnam buddies Skip (Chris Tucker) and Jose (Freddy Rodriguez), Anthony's Uncle Kirby (Keith David), Juanita's radicalized sister Delilah (N'Bushe Wright) and Cleon (Bokeem Woodbine), they proceed to knock over the truck and make way with its valuable assets.
The film is most definitely a gritty look at the "black experience" during the Civil Rights era and the Hughes Brothers certainly pay a lot more attention to the details of the picture. It's not better than "Menace," but is certainly better-made, now that they have been given a more reasonable budget.
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