How does one describe Bulworth? Warren Beatty is Jay Billington Bulworth, a West Coast Democrat seeking re-election. He is at a low point in his life, he is unsure of re-election and his personal life is messy. The only way he can see to get out of this is suicide. But this is the Californian incumbent and a handful of sleeping pills or large calibre handgun just isn't going to cut it.
He makes a pact with the devil, in this case Paul Sorvino representing the insurance industry; a popular whipping boy if there was one. For quashing a bill to provide compulsory health insurance to the lower classes, Bulworth gets a $10 million life insurance policy, something he wants to collect for his daughter by putting a hit on himself.
But as usual, when under pressure, Bulworth has a change of heart - however he has trouble contacting the hitman. He meets some people besides his put on wife and senior staff in the form of Halle Berry and her boisterous friends.
This is a surprising and very brave performance for Beatty. Truth be told, if Beatty stank this film would sink, but he manages to be completely unlike his former self to make this character live. Beatty also directs and part produces. I might say that for most of his political career, Bulworth is the faithful Democrat soldier. Only when he is divested of the worries of life does he begin to live. His character changes to the direct influences of his new friends, while his old friends go largely ignored. He even refuses to read his well-written speeches which sound like things templated for W.J Clinton or G.W Bush.
Unfortunately, almost all the other players cannot do much against Beatty's bravura performance. They are usually not given enough lines to shine, even Halle Berry who is flavour of the month. The only performer that stands out is Don Cheadle, who tends to make any role special. He plays a drug kingpin who makes a hackneyed character something unique.
I think the beauty of this film is that you are swept along for about 100 minutes of the 103 minute runtime. Jay Billington Bulworth is a fun character, at least until the final few minutes where all this comes to a crashing stop with a typically tragic American political ending. And that three minutes is a crash back to reality that makes the preceding 100 minutes of satire seem that much more potent.
This is not anywhere near a reference transfer, not even a reference Fox transfer. It is anamorphic 1.85:1 and is a very good modern picture with a consistently high quality. There's a good sense of colour and generally good sharpness, although it can lapse occasionally. There are some assorted flaws like film damage and some of that dreaded "EE" (edge enhance) but it's rare enough to pass by largely unnoticed. In this day and age where a top notch transfer is de rigueur, the flaws perhaps make themselves a bit more apparent.
There is but a single 384k/s Dolby Digital 5.1 track. This is a very dialogue heavy film and this particular track is exceptionally clear in all circumstances - even with Beatty going full rap. There is limited use of surrounds in enclosed settings such as general conventions, churches and nightclubs. The last environment is about the only time the subwoofer comes into action. There is strong use of rap and hip hop music to accentuate the scenes and your sub will hit low. The score is by Ennio Morricone, but there is nothing that has the 'Morricone' signature.
This movie is great, however it deserves a slightly more respectful treatment both on transfer and quality of extras. One cannot happily pay full price and expect such a dearth of extra features or a 'just OK' transfer. This almost feels like a rental disc, which is not OK given the full RRP.