Bulworth1998 | Movie

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Sixties idealist turned telegenic sound-bite spitter Jay Billington Bulworth (Warren Beatty) is the ghost of American politics present, an incumbent senator whose values and principles have long since been spun into ideological cotton candy. Bulworth has… (more)

Released: 1998

Rating: R

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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Sixties idealist turned telegenic sound-bite spitter Jay Billington Bulworth (Warren Beatty) is the ghost of American politics present, an incumbent senator whose values and principles have long since been spun into ideological cotton candy. Bulworth has

just enough integrity left to know he's sold out, and that shred of self-knowledge has driven him to a full-blown breakdown. He hasn't eaten or slept or left his office in three days. He's made a corrupt deal with an insurance lobbyist (Paul Sorvino) for a lucrative personal policy, and hired a

hit man to assassinate him. Nature abhors a vacuum, like the one left by Bulworth's departing career savvy and sense of self-preservation. But what flows in to fill it is sheer political lunacy: Bulworth adopts the street style and attitude of a ghetto gangbanger and starts saying -- no, make that

rapping -- what he really thinks, no matter how offensive. The rhyming is more Dr. Seuss than Dr. Dre, but Bulworth's scathing, vitriol-laced riffs on race relations, incestuous media/corporate monopolies, the distribution of wealth and -- of course -- Hollywood are as incendiary as they

are profane. Beatty's contribution to the ranks of recent political satire is bold, merciless and frequently very funny, and his performance is just plain fearless. How many stars of his age and caliber would risk ridicule by prancing around like a brother? Beatty's politics seem clear -- through

Bulworth, he espouses a liberal, anti-big business line -- but he stages a preemptive strike against accusations of propaganda by seeding the film with nagging questions about Bulworth's conversion on the road to Washington. How valid is an agenda appropriated from disenfranchised African

Americans by a privileged white man? Has he seen the light or simply succumbed to middle-age jungle fever, embodied in the beautiful, whip-smart Nina (Halle Berry), whom he spots at a campaign stop? Liberation via nervous breakdown is an unpredictable thing, but there's something to the notion

that there's nothing like a little disaster to sort things out.

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