In 1998, Warren Beatty directed and starred in Bulworth, a political satire about a Senator who snaps and starts telling (or "rapping") the truth to people. A lack of sleep somehow leads him to South Central where he is taken in by Halle Berry's young activist Nina after a wild night out clubbing.
Through Senator Bulworth's out-of-control antics, Warren Beatty clearly tries to make a point about how neither Democrats or Republicans are honest to the people who elect them. As Bulworth's erratic behaviour shocks the media and the people in his inner circle, his popularity rises leaving his assistants confused and struggling to keep up with the changing tide. It's an interesting film to revisit especially after last year's US election as it brings up some interesting points still relevant today. The way in which those points are brought forward in the movie is messy, however, as we get to see Warren Beatty turn into the worst rapper in the world and embrace the African American community by basically turning into a buffoon. One can certainly see why Bulworth was somewhat controversial upon its release since the way in which it handles race relations is a bit too caricatural but it's obvious Beatty meant well and there are some genuinely sweet and funny moments.
The film feels a bit like a missed opportunity as we don't really get the full view of how a political candidate like Bulworth would impact his party or the country. At no point is his change of attire or his rapping seen as potentially mocking or stereotypical so when he eventually wins the vote, it's just not convincing. A subplot involving Bulworth hiring someone to kill him then wanting to call it off brings some welcome tension to the movie but it's a little too cartoonish to be believable. Needless to say that seeing Warren Beatty rapping all his lines is entertaining but it also gets old really fast and you wish that the character's new approach had evolved beyond just bad rapping. Oliver Platt is good in the film as one of Bulworth's assistants, Don Cheadle makes an intimidating drug dealer in the film's second half and there are fun cameos from Larry King and George Hamilton but it's Halle Berry who is most compelling as the troubled activist who catches the Senator's eye.
On paper, Bulworth sounds like it could have been another clever political satire like Wag The Dog but, as it stands, it's just a fun, if occasionally bizarre movie with Warren Beatty as his wackiest. It's unfortunately slightly underwritten but its message still comes through so it's worth a look.
Enjoyable, if flawed.