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Review: Bulworth

Old 04-07-99, 11:22 AM
Posts: n/a
20th Century Fox
1.85:1(NON ANAMORPHIC)/Dolby Digital 5.1
Also:English Dolby Digital 2.0
108 Minutes
Dual Layer:Yes
Subtitles:English, Spanish

The Film:
The mythical Warren Beatty project that suddenly came back to life a few years ago. Apparently, according to a story in the recent book by Variety editor Peter Bart, the film was greenlighted during a previous reign by a different group of executives at Fox than the ones that were left with the project, but when pressed to find out just who gave Beatty not only the greenlight, but "final cut" approval, no one would admit they had signed off on the picture. What came forth was definitely one of the more "original" studio pictures I've ever seen in the past few years.

Warren Beatty plays Jay Bulworth, a senator who is completely depressed at saying the exact same thing over and over again to satisfy not only the taxpayers but the rest of the government as well as businessmen. He's had enough and he hates what he has become during his term in the California senate. As he sits in his office he decides to call out a contract on his life and then stumbles home to California, prepared to expect his life's end in a matter of days. There are quite a few very funny scenes as Bulworth confuses his watchers as loud noises startle him into a run. Soon enough, though, he finds that the fact that he's got only a few days to live gives him the freedom to say exactly whatever he pleases. This revelation of freedom makes for an incredibly funny and sharp scene in an African American church that's only topped by the next scene; a terrifically hilarious line of insults to a group of entertainment industry executives, who stare dumbfounded at the verbal punches flying their way.

There's also a great cast of supporting players. A group of young black women, including Halle Berry, provide his constant back-up; there's also a great performance by Oliver Platt as the consistently terrified assistant, horrified at losing control of the sudden freedom of the mouth his boss has suddenly gained.

The picture takes a shift midway as Bulworth joins Nina(Berry) on a trip to her neighborhood in the tougher part of town where Bulworth sees first hand the damage that drugs and violence have done to this area. This area of the film blends sincere drama well with comedy; I don't think I've seen a funnier image in quite some time than Warren Beatty dressed up as a homeboy.

There's certainly a lot to like about "Bulworth": most of the screenplay works very well and contains a lot of very well-thought out ideas. It's unfortunate that the plot just plays as a structure for the screenplay to fire off as many ideas and jokes as it can fit in the frame, without thought to tightening its focus. Some of the jokes work well(such as the previously mentioned sight of Beatty dressed as a homeboy) and some simply are thrown out and fall down with a thud. The ending absolutely didn't work for me, either. There's also the fact that the audience's disbelief has to be suspended; this is a "political fantasy", in my opinion. Some of the other scenes, like Buworth walking around dressed like a homeboy in some of Los Angeles's not-so-nice areas at night is a little hard to believe.

Even so, there are more than enough scenes that work and spark in "Bulworth", a frequently funny and dramatic picture that contains a great performance by Beatty and you can tell that this was an important project to him.

The DVD:
IMAGE: The 1.85:1 image is non-anamorphic and spread across two layers. This was a disc I was looking forward to due to the outstanding cinematography by Vittorio Storaro and the absolutely impressive color palette he used. There is a constant use of rich and varied tones during different scenes; rich reds, deep yellows, cold blues, warm purples. Watching the image in the theater was remarkable; the look of the cold greys of Bulworth's office in the opening is really nicely done. Does this disc come through in bringing this incredible work to DVD? Well, not as well as I would have liked. The image generally does not quite have the level of sharpness that I would have liked to have seen on this disc. Images are clean and the source of this transfer is clear, but the colors used in the film that I mentioned(during the club scene towards the begining, for instance), are generally not quite as vibrant as they could have been with an anamorphically enhanced presentation. It's not quite easy to discribe this disc; it's definitely acceptable. It certainly displays colors well, although, not with the kind of definition I'd expected. There are no visible compression artifacts on this disc, no shimmering is apparent either. This is one of those disc that I've viewed that generally is acceptable and occasionally pleasing in the way it presents the material; flesh tones are actually rendered nicely. It's just slightly dissapointing because a movie like this has some wonderful cinematography and visuals and I would have liked to have seen it presented a bit richer, detailed and a bit more vibrant during portions of this disc, which could have benefited greatly from the magic of anamorphic enhancement. Overall, it's slightly better than average.

SOUND: Generally pleasing performance by the sound mix. It's mainly a dialogue based film, but the songs presented in the Ennio Morricone(who also did the cool "U-Turn" score) score sound generally pleasing. The rap songs come across fully with a lot of bass. Dialogue sounds clear, but it lacks the kind of "same-room" quality that I've heard on a number of discs lately where it sounds as if the lines are being read right in front of you. Here, dialogue tended to sound a tad soft to me. There isn't too much else to the sound, since the film is very much dialogue based. No distortion or anything like that in the sound. Pleasing, but doubtfully a disc that will work out your sound system, aside from the rap songs.

EXTRAS: For $34.98(retail price, most stores should be a little less), there's only the theatrical trailer. And it's full frame. Fox may be putting together an excellent presentation for the upcoming "Alien" series, but hopefully they will extend this to future releases because paying this much for a featureless disc with a not perfect mix of audio and video is getting very tiresome. It's incredibly strange what Fox has done. Die Hard 3, the latest in the series looked terrible. Die Hard 2 looked a little better and the first in the series, Die Hard 1, looked very good. Speed 2 looked excellent. But no matter how much I looked at this disc, I was still fairly dissapointed. There are also *very* short cast biographies/filmographies.

MENUS: Not much to them. No animation and mainly just images from the film as backgrounds.

OVERALL: It's a good film with some excellent performances, but there really isn't much in the way of value in this disc when the retail cost is $34.95. For that price, Universal Studios, for example, provides their Collector's Editions of their films. Those are given a wonderful anamorphic transfer, tons of extras, and maybe even a nice little book to read about the movie. All we get here for that price is the trailer. Not even a letterboxed trailer at that. Worth a look as a possible rental if you weren't a fan of the film, but in my opinion, for what we're given here, this is overpriced.

The Grades:

Movie: 80/B- = (400/500 possible points)
Video Quality: 87/B = (348/400 possible points)
Audio Quality: 86/B = (344/400 possible points)
Extras: 60/D = (180/300 possible points)
Value: 60/D = (180/300 possible points)
Menus: 60/D = (120/200 possible points)
Overall Presentation: 73.5/C = (73.5/100 possible points)
(Presentation is the average of the audio,video,extras&menu grades)

TOTAL POINTS:1645.5/2200 possible points
Overall Grade:74.7%/C
Final Thought: A fairly entertaining film, but Fox is offering very close to nothing for a $34.99 retail price. Worth a rental consideration.

My Site:A Guide To Current DVD
Old 04-08-99, 05:37 AM
Posts: n/a
I don't know if anyone will see this all the way down here, but here's my personal opinion of the movie:

Bulworth Review

Blake Kunisch | [email protected]
An Outermost Experience! | DVD Tracker List

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