Movie Review: “Dead Presidents” (1995)

As some of you know (my fellow students), I took a film class in my grade 12 year so I had to write movie reviews as assignments. This was my first movie review of the year, and I got an A on this assignment. I only put my better efforts on my website. I got my good mark by writing in “technical” movie language as the teacher wanted. Anyways, this review is about some obscure film that came out in the mid nineties about the Vietnam War and black people in America. My teacher made me watch obscure films such as this one so this is the review that you will get. Hope you enjoy it. You’ll probably understand my review better if you’ve watched this film. For those of you who haven’t watched this movie, don’t bother trying to rent it since the movie isn’t worth the money anyways.

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Dead Presidents, made by the Hughes brothers, is a film depicting the life of a black person during the Vietnam War era. The movie stars Larenz Tate, who plays the central character who gets changed by all the events around him. Other notable cast members include Chris Tucker, Bokeem Woodbine, and Keith David. Dead Presidents is a film that tries to deliver many messages, but not all of them can be seen clearly.

The film opens in 1969, as Anthony (Larenz Tate) graduates from high school. For reasons unknown, Anthony refuses to go to college and becomes a Marine, fighting in the Vietnam War. During his two tours of duty, he sees people around him get killed or fall apart. Anthony eventually returns to his home in the Bronx, where he finds unemployment, disrespect, and problems with his girlfriend. Forced by the circumstances, Anthony and others are gradually lured into the life of crime. The title “Dead Presidents” refers to the pictures on the US currency, which is what Anthony is trying to get when he starts doing illegal things.

Dead Presidents has several stories within the film itself and each has its own message. For example, in the Vietnam sequence, Anthony experiences disillusionment of the war as people die or change around him. The scene also touches upon the issue of the role of African-American people in the Vietnam War. Back in the Bronx, there is the issue of unemployment, which leads to desperate people. There’s also a mention of the black power movement, but it was just left there dangling after one appearance. There are too many stories in this film for most viewers to recognize them all. Most people can’t take so much information at once, so points the filmmaker are trying to make may be missed.

I also think that there is too much violence and swearing in the film. The excess amount of violence and swearing bullies the viewers around. People didn’t need to see a crazy guy hacking a dead man’s head off or hear the F*** word every other minute to get the plot. The violence and swearing also draws the viewers’ attention away from the plot itself, since people are more likely to focus on something that instantly provokes the mind. So by putting so much vulgar scenes and languages in this film, people tend to miss other important things in the film. I don’t think Dead Presidents is about mindless violence or continuous swearing, so the excess amount of both takes away from the film.

Dead Presidents seems to be well-acted. The characters are believable and there’s no one in the film who performs below acceptable levels. The wardrobe also looks realistic, even though I’m not really qualified to comment on that, since I wasn’t even alive in the set time period that the film depicts.

Overall, Dead Presidents is an interesting film about how war, unemployment, and other stress factors can affect the life of an average fellow. The film tries its best to make several points about society at that time, but falls somewhat short of its goal. If you are into movies with lots of violence and swearing, or likes a film that examines the protagonist from start to end, go check this film out.

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