Watching 'Bulworth' feels like having somebody punch you in the face and
as you turn around to recover and regain your balance, there's somebody
waiting that throws a bucket of cold water where you've just been
punched. In other words, the film is a double whammy of intended satire
but comes off more as a series of condescending failed scenes which do
nothing to advance the nature of the movie's characters and
caricatures. Caricatures are usually the least interesting thing about
a film that centres on people because they never get developed beyond
the realm of their first scene(s), hence, their given name. 'Bulworth'
has more than its share of unnecessary players and the centre piece of
the movie's main personality is a man with a pretty unattractive
personality named Jay Billington Bulworth (Warren Beatty).
I understood completely where Beatty was trying to go with this film but
rather than churn out a political satire, Beatty has instead made a film
where Bulworth rambles about our unbalanced society without telling us
anything about how he intends to improve it. That is often the true
nature of politicians and if the movie wants to do that, what exactly is
its point beyond anything we've seen before? It doesn't take a genius
to do a simple turning of the tables and make a fibbing politician, who
doesn't believe in the things he's saying and turn him into a suicidal
and supposedly conscience stricken self redeemer who becomes suicidal
and says what's really on his mind.
The film opens with a rehearsed speech Billington intends to give where
the opening line is heard over and over and over again and is the usual
*blah*blah*blah* he will use in an upcoming campaign. We soon begin to
see Bulworth's mental breakdown as he displays his suicidal tendencies
and takes out a large insurance policy on himself before hiring a
contract killer to knock himself off?! I didn't believe it for a
second. The idea is too simple to be believable and even if you accept
the premise, the movie's core issue hasn't even surfaced yet.
As Bulworth is speaking to a large audience of African-Americans in
South Central L.A., he makes some rather blunt comments that he believes
are true, putting aside the political line for an unexpected dose of
what many will accept as reality. Next his comments turn to the Jewish
community and these two outbursts cause a media carnage where Bulworth
is asked to explain exactly what he meant by these two incidents.
Somewhere in the middle of all this, he begins saying what he really
feels is the trouble with American society. His remarks make the U.S.A.
sound instead like the Corporate States of America, perhaps a good
theory and while reasonably admirable and truthful, his execution of
these ideas are awkward and sound more like the ramblings of a paranoid
During his outburst in South Central L.A., he meets Nina (Halle Berry),
a young woman from the community whom he fancies and he tries to
understand her world and express himself through it by a transformation
of image. It's a world Bulworth doesn't understand because the words he
hears and the problems he sees, he repeats them when interviewed on
television and the execution this time isn't only awkward, its phony and
self indulgent on Beatty's part.
What's even more astonishing about this film is the way that Beatty
presents not only the other characters in the film, but his own. The
other characters played by such wonderful actors as Jack Warden, Paul
Sorvino, Oliver Platt, Don Cheadle and Christine Baranski are never
given any real focus or development and when the fate of Beatty's
character is decided, you will NOT care.
Beatty is more concerned with presenting his story too quickly and as
you figure out that his film lacks depth and insight, you'll be amazed
at what little foundation is built around the the rest of the story.
Beatty directs and is the co-author of 'Bulworth' and for a man who has
been a part of classics like 'Bonnie and Clyde', 'Shampoo', ' Heaven Can
Wait' and his most ambitious film for which he won a Best Director
Oscar, 1981's 'Reds', Beatty has made an abysmal failure of a film the
has absolutely no after thought and is as stimulating as frozen silly
Copyright © 1998 Walter Frith