Bulworth

Movie review by
Heather Boerner, Common Sense Media
Bulworth Movie Poster Image
Smug but fun political satire for adults only.
  • R
  • 1998
  • 108 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

A political satire, the movie attempts to show Bulworth making good on his political convictions and exposing political hypocrisy. At the same time the film includes some extreme stereotypes of urban culture.

Violence

Bulworth plans to have himself killed. Child drug dealers carry guns. Bulworth is shot.

Sex

Bulworth's wife is shown in bed with her lover in a non-explicit love scene.

Language

Extreme profanity, including almost every expletive you can think of.

Consumerism

KFC is mentioned by Bulworth and then you see him in his limo getting a bucket of chicken.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Bulworth drinks and drives and smokes pot, and his advisers snort cocaine.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this movie is all about satirizing and subverting the American political process, a complicated topic that most kids probably won't get. Also, Jay and Constance Bulworth are in a loveless marriage. Constance is having an affair that's made explicit by the fact that she's shown lying in bed naked (nothing provocative is shown) with her lover. Jay flirts with Nina and tells the audience that he can get lots of p---y because of his powerful role in the Senate. Jay swears a lot, talks about being suicidal, drinks, smokes pot, and plans to have himself killed. His staffers snort cocaine. Children are shown with guns and as drug dealers.

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What's the story?

Warren Beatty co-wrote, directs, and stars in this cracked political fairy tale about the eponymous Bulworth, an incumbent California senator running to keep his seat in Congress. An old-school 1960s liberal, Bulworth has tacked to the right on everything from affirmative action to health insurance for the poor to secure high-powered conservative campaign contributors. In this world, the Democratic Party lacks a soul. So Bulworth goes out and gets some soul -- black soul. Alternately rapping, swearing, and hitting on young Nina (Halle Berry), Bulworth lays out the facts of his political life. "I've got to raise $10,000 a day every day I'm in Washington. I ain't gettin' it in South Central," he says in strained ghetto cadence. "I'm gettin' it in Beverly Hills. So I'm votin' in the Senate the way they want me to and I'm sendin' them my bills. But we've got babies in South Central dying as young as they do in Peru. We've got public schools that are nightmares. We've got a Congress that ain't got a clue!"

Is it any good?

As political satire, BULWORTH is as subtle as a hit man and as outlandish as a drag queen. What's fun about it is Beatty's commitment to the part and the ideology. He's willing to be the clown and plays it well. And there's certainly something thrilling about seeing him babble at the prospect of kissing Berry. But for all of the film's entertainment and supposed truth-telling, there's something profoundly irritating about a satire that's so smug in its omniscience and so toothless in its bite.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about whether they agree with Bulworth's statements and whether they think the film is effective. What do you think of the film as a political satire? Did you learn anything new from watching it, or does it reaffirm what you already believe? What do you think would happen in real life if a politican behaved the way Jay Bulworth does?

Movie details

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