As I write this, Warren Beatty's Bulworth is receiving rave reviews praising its star-writer-director for his courage in telling shocking political truths to his audience. In fact, just as his hero, Senator Jay Bulworth, must first launch himself into a state of frenzy through sleeplessness and self-starvation before dating to denounce big business, so Beatty, some reviewers have suggested, displays a divine madness in making a movie so brazenly political, so unabashedly left-wing.
Well, the movie is political and it is left-wing. But what is the nature of its daring?
The film's main plot device is a not-so-golden oldie that served countless B-movies. The despondent hero, disgusted with himself for betraying his earlier idealism, takes a contract out on his own life so that his family can collect the insurance. Then he undergoes a change of heart and must duck the hired killer (the very same situation of a new Russian movie, A Friend of the Deceased) all the while hanging on to the political courage …