Picks and Pans Review: Bulworth
In the autumn of his career and coming off a big fat turkey called Love Affair (1994), Warren Beatty has made a movie that is fast, funny, furiously original and just plain furious. The 61-year-old Beatty co-wrote (with Jeremy Pikser), directed and stars in Bulworth, a raucous political comedy that makes Primary Colors seem beige by comparison.
Beatty plays Jay Billington Bulworth, a Democratic senator from California who, in the throes of an emotional and financial meltdown, puts out a contract on his own life. Suddenly freed to speak the truth in his final days on this earth, the senator gets down and dirty about race, money and political fund-raising. On a campaign swing through his home state, during which he anticipates being killed at any moment, he joyfully insults black and Jewish supporters, smokes marijuana, dances the night away at an inner-city nightclub, delivers F-word-filled raps instead of speeches and appears on television dressed like Snoop Doggy Dogg's older brother. (Think Sullivan's Travels crossed with Black Like Me.) Bulworth's popularity soars. He also falls for a young African-American woman (Berry), and this infatuation persuades the suicidal Bulworth to turn pro-life once again. Much of the movie's second, slightly deflated half is devoted to his efforts to elude his assassin.
At Bulworth's center is a great gonzo turn by a revved-up Beatty, who perfectly conveys the desperate joie de vivre of a man beyond caring. Berry has too little to do but does it well, including her pip of a last line. And Oliver Piatt, a human sheepdog, is amusing as Beatty's panicky aide. (R)
Bottom Line: This one gets our enthusiastic vote