Dead Presidents (1995)
Reviewed on 2011 January 8
Grim Hughes Brothers film about a young man whose life falls apart after being in-country.
Anthony (Larenz Tate) seemingly has his whole life ahead of him: it’s 1969 and he’s about to graduate, complete with a scholarship to a local college. One night Anthony takes a fateful run with Kirby (Keith David), a local pool hall owner and “entrepreneur” in other areas, based on the gun and amount of cash he carries. His brother is also a college graduate, heading for graduate school and the pride of his family. He still doesn’t have the stacks of cash like Kirby, so Anthony decides he doesn’t want to go to college right away; to the chagrin of his mother he says he wants to join the marines. He sees the horror of Vietnam and comes back to a changed society, one that doesn’t seem to have much to offer a vet, and he needs money. He decides to pull the ultimate cash heist with some of the crew from the old neighborhood.
The Vietnam stuff is plain brutal, but it’s a riveting movie, even when it’s hard to watch. The soundtrack is very good, with lots of stuff from the ’60s and early ’70s and Danny Elfman providing the rest, with a cold score that reminded me of Full Metal Jacket. It’s not a happy movie and it just skimmed an NC-17 rating, but once you start watching it it’s hard to look away. The acting is convincing too, which makes it even tougher.
Three chocolate morsels.