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Bulworth

Threat advisory: High - High risk of entertaining activities

Movie propaganda

In the waning days of the California primary election campaign of 1996, President Bill Clinton has run unopposed in the Democratic party, and Bob Dole has already secured the Republican nomination. Incumbent United States Senator Jay Bulworth (Warren Beatty) is holding off a challenger.

He hasn't eaten or slept in three days.

In the midst of a nervous breakdown, Bulworth arranges his own suicide by hiring a hit-man to assassinate him during the final campaign weekend after making a deal with a corrupt lobbyist (Paul Sorvino as Crockett) for a lot of life insurance to benefit his daughter.

But Bulworth's self-planned assassination yields two unexpected dividends: the freedom to speak honestly and a meeting with Nina (Halle Berry), a beautiful, intelligent African-American woman who has been raised by 60s activists. With new enthusiasm to live, Bulworth must now somehow stop the hit he has put out on himself...

A tragic farce, Bulworth takes a comedic look at race and class in the USA, campaign finance, and the power of big money and media in the USA. It deals with what is labelled obscene as opposed to what is obscene.

Produced, written and directed by Warren Beatty. Also starring Oliver Platt as Murphy, Bulworth's frustrated political operative; Joshua Malina as Feldman, his beleaguered assistant; Jack Warden as Davers, Bulworth's loyal, long time aide; Christine Baranski as Constance, Bulworth's wife; Richard Sarafian as Vinnie, the assassination go-between; Don Cheadle as LD, a gang leader in south central Los Angeles; Isaiah Washington as Darnell, Nina's brother; pre-eminent revolutionary black poet/playwright Amiri Baraka as Bulworth's homeless guardian angel; Sean Astin, Laurie Metcalf and Wendell pierce play C-Span workers Gary, Mimi and Fred; and Michele Morgan and Ariyan Johnson play Cheryl and Tanya, aspiring rapper friends of Nina's.

Cinematic intelligence sources

Intelligence analyst

Special Agent Matti

Theatrical report

More of Warren's weird shit.

Don't get me wrong, Warren's films are generally very entertaining (as Bulworth is), but they're never entirely mainstream. Which is a good thing! This film mixes drama, romance, comedy, black comedy, farce, action, political and street genres in a way that somehow works. While the pace is pretty darned leisurely and there's never any overt plot, the subtlety of the story weaves a gentle cocoon around you until you really have to find out what happens in the end (there's an assassin - someone has to die).

Warren, who it seems has cast himself in more films than anyone else has cast him, is a darned good choice for the tired, crooked, jaded smooth-talking politician that features in almost every scene. He's old enough to look like a haggard old Senator, but young enough to be almost attractive. That Halle, a twenty-something African-American slum bitch, happens to fall in love with him is only a little bit unbelievable. Still, there are lots of people who find old folks attractive (I had a flatmate once who wouldn't date men who weren't twice his age) so maybe this is not as big an issue as it seems. The supporting cast is also rewarding, but that's what you get for being Warren Beatty.

There is a gritty darkness about this film that makes you feel a little bit dirty after watching it: spin doctors, politicians, politics, drug lords, murder, fraud... and that's just the first 10 minutes! Bulworth is a good, solid drama that's not too heavy but does contain several very important messages, and gets them across in an entertaining way. I recommend this film to mature audiences because they will get the most out of it.

Security censorship classification

MA 15+ (Medium level coarse language, drug use)

Surveillance time

103 minutes (1:43 hours)

Not for public release in Australia before date

VHS rental: 14 July 1999
VHS retail: 27 March 2002

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