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Parents' Guide to

Dead Presidents

By Alistair Lawrence, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 17+

Crime drama has strong violence and language, drugs.

Movie R 1995 119 minutes
Dead Presidents Poster Image

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Sibling directors the Hughes brothers' ambitious follow-up to Menace II Society attempts to show the ripple effect of the damage done by the Vietnam War. In Dead Presidents, young veteran Anthony Curtis emerges from the war traumatized, desensitized, and unable to cope in the world he finds upon his return home. The movie's opening stages, where Anthony flirts with a life of crime then hankers to join the war effort, are among its strongest. Tate puts in a well-measured performance, slowly showing Anthony's innocence starting to fade, before his tours of service in Vietnam burn permanent damage onto his psyche.

However, during the latter stages the script tries to do too much. Anthony's financial troubles, domestic strife, and worsening mental health are squeezed into its final segment, alongside the deterioration of his friend and fellow marine, Skip (Chris Tucker). Movies such as Judas and the Black Messiah go narrower and deeper into the societal issues of the 1960s and 1970s, to better effect. They also don't waste the opportunity to develop their interesting female characters, which Dead Presidents never manages to fully bring to life. But like the iconic black and white face paint of its bank robbers, this movie endures, as flawed and multi-faceted as the period it tries to reflect.

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