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Bulworth, written, directed, and starring Warren Beatty, may be a lot of things. It may be silly, it may be foolish, it may be reckless, it may be the blustering of a self-conscious middle-aged white liberal. But it is also a wild and crazy movie; certainly it is worth viewing for the mere fact that it was even produced.

Beatty plays the title character, a senator running for re-election, and a man at the end of his rope. The begining of the movie is tragic-comic, as we see him weep while he plays his banal campain ads over and over and over again. He soon is determined to end it all, by hiring a hit man to take out his own life. He expects to be dead by Monday, or, he promises, the hitman won`t be able to collect the second half of his fee.

This knowledge of his own end liberates Bulworth -- his subsequent campaign stops become boiling pots of insults and truth-telling. He goes to a black church and tells the congregation how much the two parties really care about the black community. He goes to a gathering of film producers and tells them they make mostly crap. And later, after an all-nighter at an underground hip-hop club, he starts speaking in rhyme, and one of the most amusing and surreal moments is when he bursts out into a complex and detailed rap tune during a formal gathering the next morning.

The black cultural aspect is introduced in the film by a group of young women from South Central, who somehow become his volunteers. Bulworth is facinated by one of the women in particular, played by Halle Berry, who helps him out when he suddenly fears the hitman. She also takes him to her neighbourhood, where he sees the misery, and the corruption, symbolized by the local drug dealer, who Bulworth attempts to talk (or rap) some sense into. Some people have said that the black community itself is stereotyped, because the black characters are all involved in rap, drugs, and overall misery. While this is certainly true, the movie does certainly attempt to make the point that anyone, regardless of race, will have to actively try to change things for the better, instead of wallowing in their own misery.

It is also a geniunly surreal experience to see Warren Beatty rap, and, for a time, wear hip-hop clothing. Now, Beatty should not even consider a gangsta rap career, yet the words themselves are for the most part thoughtful, considering that you don`t hear such topics as socialized health care in every movie. The musical highlight is a tour-de-force performance during a television interview. The biting words are enough to quiet the people around the set.

While Beatty goes off in a world of his own, back here on Earth, Oliver Platt gives a very impressive performance, as the campaign manager. He is the ideal suck-up, who is not above dirty trickery to either distract everyone from wondering what is wrong with Bulworth, or, when it turns out that Bulworth is taken seriously, trying to place the blame (i.e. Platt`s own trickery) on innocent bystanders.

In a way, the movie is a lot like the great Network, as it, too, depicts a man who is out of his wits, and yet somehow in touch with the truth, with the belief that something is indeed wrong in the world. Such a characterization is as old as Shakespeare (Hamlet, most notably), but it is a good one, because in that madness lies things which are so unheard of yet so oddly frank that they must be heard. Network and Bulworth both are concerned with madness in the political/social arena, and the characters of Howard Beale and Jay Bulworth are oddly similar in that their mad ranting turn out to be the sorts of things the general populace finds refreshing to hear. However, there is a major difference in both the message and the mood of each film. Network was one of the most grim of all films - its greatness did not lie in any positive message of hope, but in the unequivocal determination to destroy that hope. The movie showed that corporations and their agendas were too big, governments were at those entities whims, and also that the public was too apathetic, self-serving, and materialistic to care. Bulworth on the other hand, has a glimmer of hope. It also gives us a choice. We can either ignore what we might see as the ranting of a crazy man, or we can choose to listen to the real purpose of his message, and prolong the exposure to these ideas. By this, the world can be changed.

David Macdonald

David Macdonald's Movie Reviews

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