Dead Presidents

Year: 1995
Directed By: Albert and Allen Hughes
Written By: Albert and Allen Hughes

RYAN’S REVIEW

This movie screamed out to us over the weekend from one of those convenient $5.00 movie bends Wal-Mart sticks all over the store these days.  Honestly I was just happy to find a movie I wanted. We own so many movies now that something that used to be so much fun often ends in disappointment now. I used to love looking through the media section of Wal-Mart and find DVDs at a good price I could add into the collection.  These days the only movies we buy are the new ones though and we hardly ever come across an older movie we both want.  I had seen this movie after it came out when I was much younger and always liked it.  Amber had never seen it before but had always wanted to see it so the decision was made.  Having re-watched it now with much more mature eyes I am really glad we decided to add it into the collection.

I was about 12 years old when I saw this movie for the first time and admittedly, there was plenty I wasn’t old enough to understand.  In all honesty it was a movie I probably shouldn’t have been allowed to watch but it had no nudity, which seemed to be the standard for what my parents would and wouldn’t let me to watch. This movie tells a story that has been told before, but this time through the eyes of an African American veteran.  Soldiers all around have a hard adjustment coming back to the world and that seems to be the ultimate theme to the movie.  While it is through the eyes of an African American there are not any real themes of racism throughout the film and I like that about it.  Racism was a real and serious issue at the time but it is an awful reality I don’t enjoy seeing brought up in films.  We all need to understand the dangers of such feelings but there are plenty of films out there that convey those messages, they don’t all need to and I am thankful this one chose to tell a different story.

In this movie Larenz Tate plays a young African American who grows up in The Bronx and is drafted into The Vietnam War.  He spends four years there serving multiple tours and distinguishing himself well but when he returns back to the world he has trouble adjusting as so many soldiers do. He has a girlfriend that he got pregnant before leaving but she has had to survive without him while he was overseas.  To support her child she had to turn to a less than savory man to provide for her and that is specifically hard for him to deal with.  He has difficulty getting a job and the job he manages to get isn’t good enough.  When he gets laid off from that job he turns to crime in his desperation.  Tate plays a character we can relate to and understand. What he does is wrong, but he didn’t deserve to be called a disgrace by the judge who sentences him in the end played by Martin Sheen.  Sheen’s comment that he was a veteran himself who fought in “a real war” speaks volumes to the way many saw the conflict in Vietnam.  Tate’s character is given no mercy in his sentencing and is destine to spend the rest of his life in prison serving time for the country he fought for in a thankless and unappreciated effort.  Tate does a great job in the lead role and I have always liked him.  I know him better from his role on Rescue Me when he played “Black Shawn,” a great show that fell apart in its closing seasons.

I really liked the supporting cast around Tate as well.  I have always liked Chris Tucker although I don’t know what has happened to him lately.  He plays a soldier that begins using heroin while in the service and comes home to become an all out junkie, a problem shared by many vets returning from Vietnam.  I think Keith David is awesome in everything he is in from Platoon to There’s Something About Mary. In this movie he plays a Korean vet who mentors the younger guys going into Vietnam.  Bokeem Woodbine plays a soldier who is completely insane in the jungles of Vietnam but comes home to be a preacher, although he still joins his old comrades in the illegal heist.  Freddy Rodriguez plays one of Tate’s childhood friends who serves in a different unit in the war and comes home with only one hand.  The only other movie I have seen Rodriguez in was Planet Terrorbut that one is real high up on my favorites list.  N’Bushe Wright looks awesome dual wielding pistols in this movie; the only other film I have seen her in is the first Blade. She is a very beautiful woman; I’m not sure why I haven’t seen her in more films.  There is a really young Terrence Howard in this movie playing a rival of Tate’s who has stayed in The Bronx during the Vietnam War and works for the man who took care of Tate’s family.

This movie is loosely based on the real life experiences of a soldier who came back from the Vietnam War but I don’t know anything about how accurate it was.  The real story can be found in the book Bloods: An Oral History of the Vietnam War by Black Veterans written by Wallace Terry.  If you are insterested in it I would suggest you find the book and find out for yourself how much this movie correlates with real life.  The soldier the events were partly based on was named Haywood T. Kirkland.  Whether the movie is accurate at all hardly matters here though because the story it tells is true enough.  Veterans from all wars have a hard time coming back to the real world and this movie does a great job of highlighting the many difficulties some of them face.

I am really glad we decided to buy this movie over the weekend and I really enjoyed watching it again.  It tells an interesting and important story about Vietnam as well as delivering on action and drama alike.  If nothing else the robbery scene is awesome.  The way the robbers paint their faces are distinctly memorable.  This is a good movie and I would recommend it to anyone, it is worth your time if you have an opportunity to see it.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I had never seen this movie before. I know that many friends have talked about this movie and I have even seen people dress up like these guys at Halloween. I was sucked into this movie from the very beginning. I really liked the main character in Rescue Me, so I was curious to see him in a different role.

Here is the poster for Dead Presidents. This came out in 1995. I feel like the poster resembles its time. I like the photo on the front. It intrigues you in some ways to wonder what this is about, which is ultimately the point of most posters. I am not a huge fan of the font choice, which is simply the font for American money. I felt like that was a little cliché.

This movie is well worth the time.

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