A suicidally disillusioned liberal politician puts a contract out on himself and takes the opportunity to be bluntly honest with his voters by affecting the rhythms and speech of hip-hop music and culture.
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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
The movie was nominated for a Best Screenplay Academy Award in the same year as another political satire, Mike Nichols' Primary Colors (1998) which was nominated in the Best Screenplay Adaptation category whereas Bulworth (1998) was nominated in the Best Original Screenplay category. Both political satire pictures did not win. See more »
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Bulworth was released quite a few years ago, but it is still (if not more) relevant today. It merges two "cultures," one being the rich white class culture, and the other being the urban lower class culture, and ends up with many universal ideals. The story's hero is Jay Billington Bulworth, portrayed brilliantly by Warren Beatty. I think some people have a problem with the fact that he is...well, more or less insane, but that is possibly the most important thing about the character. You could call him insane, but if you look at it more romantically, perhaps he is "posessed" by the "spirit" of social justice, a mere vessel for the truths that need to be told. He is a character unaware of the significance in what he is saying. To him, if he's not completely insane, he's simply a man who broke down and decided to tell it like it is (ala Peter Finch in Network, but with rapping and rhyming). There's something actually kind of mystical about all this.
Since it would be way too preachy if that's all there was to the story, there's some other aspects that make for an entertaining viewing. Bulworth, in his depression and anxiety, hired a hit-man to "off" him so his family could collect the life insurance. Once his speeches and raps become a success, this is obviously a big problem since he wants to live again ("You should never make life and death situations when feeling suicidal"). There is a love interest with a girl named Nina, played by the lovely Halle Berry. You don't know if you can trust her, and her intentions are unclear.
There is also a fine supporting role by Don Cheadle, who plays a "business man" who uses young children to sell drugs. His character does bring up some valid points, and we're forced to really put ourselves in his shoes. He's doing what he feels is right, but ultimately, the ends don't justify his means.
With a movie that has so much going on, it would probably be difficult for the filmmakers to figure out a way to wrap everything up, right? Unfortunately, yes. Bulworth ends pretty abruptly and leaves with the film's message being half-assedly shouted at the screen. The last act is a huge flaw in an otherwise perfect movie.
Bulworth is a hilarious comedy and it heralds something truly special and unique. It is not a film to be taken for granted or forgotten. It's a quintessential example of a 'contemporary classic' for our generation. I have no doubt that over the next decade or so, people will want to revisit it and examine the politics and the cultures; it should be studied in classrooms, it should be valued. I loved Bulworth!
My rating: 9/10
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