Believing his career is over, Senator Jay Bulworth (Beatty) takes out an enormous insurance policy - and a contract on his own life. but his impending death fills him with an outrageous desire to break the rules and tell it like it is.
Jay Bulworth is your typical senator going through a nervous breakdown. The empty speeches, lies, money, and pressure have led him to plan his own assassination on a weekend trip home to California just before the election. However, a cord snaps in him and like Jim Carrey's rambling lawyer in Liar, Liar, Bulworth can only tell the truth. This new freedom turns Bulworth on and he spews the ugly truth about politics: he tells mass media they are as corrupt as insurance companies; lambastes a black church for not having leaders; and riles the Jewish power elite of Hollywood. He enters South Central running away from advisors (including a bemused Oliver Platt) and mixing it up with a potential new girlfriend (Halle Berry) and a local boss (Don Cheadle). He offends across the board, even developing an inherent knack to rap his speeches. And the public loves it. The weekend becomes a clarifying point for Bulworth: he finds a reason to live.
Beatty's rude and relevant comedy is a one-joke movie, but the joke is pretty good. It's a courageous film that is always sharp even though it loses narrative focus. Beatty's hilarious raps are so inspired they deserve repeated viewings. As usual, Beatty surrounds himself with a great crew, Ennio Morricone's music and Vittorio Storaro's cinematography being especially noteworthy. Beatty and Storaro even have the audacity to imitate two very famous photographs in the film's final seconds. The script by Beatty and Jeremy Pikser won the L.A. Film Critics award and was nominated for an Oscar. --Doug Thomas
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He's so distraught that he arranges first to take out a gigantic life insurance policy by (pretending) to sell out to some insurance lobbyists, then to hire a hit man to arrange for his assassination, thus making at least his death worthwhile to his daughter that will receive millions from the insurance policy. Given one weekend to live, he figures, why not just tell it like it is and speak the truth?
The film works because the idea of an honest politician is at once both fascinating and hilarious, like finding an animal previously thought to be extinct doing something funny in a YouTube video. There's also a generous amount of suspense surrounding his planned death; the film works both in regards to the fact that we are worried how things will play out, and as a running gag line about the hypocrisies of our times. It comes up a little short (just a little) in two regards: a little too much focus on just racial justice (there are lots of important issues, after all) and some downright awkward speeches by some elderly homeless guy who jives at the screen with some largely incoherent truth bombs. It's the sort of thing a good editor should catch. It was not caught.
Overall though, I'd recommend the film.
most disturbing political satire out of Hollywood since "Network".
This is Beatty's career best performance by far, making his rapidly breaking
down liberal Democrat Senator into a character simultaneously howlingly
funny, pitiable, admirable, wince-inducing, pathetic and horrifying.
Beatty has made a film that walks the razor's edge right along with its lead
character, using deliberately provoking racial and cultural stereotypes at the
same time it shreds them.
This isn't a polite "the system needs fixing" movie, it's an in-your-face scream
that the system as we know it is broken, perhaps beyond all repair. That idea
seems only more timely now.
Being a person who lived in the city, and who recalls fondly rap music and culture becoming a large part of all American youth culture, I enjoyed Bullworth both in the 90s, and now. I think only fans of quirky 90s cinema who lived in the era may appreciate it, as nearly 20 years later these topics have come to a head, and are no laughing matter, but headlines. People who don't recall the late 90s as a time when the internet and television fueled a fascinating feeding frenzy for anything urban might just find this flick a waste of time or downright offensive.