Rating: R, violence, language, sex. Running time: 2:01.
TWO years ago, the Hughes brothers burst into the movie-making scene with the much talked about film "Menace II Society."
It wasn't a great movie - it over-reached and lacked focus - but it was an impressive, fresh-eyed debut. Twins Allen and Albert, then just 20, managed to create some brutally violent and believable scenes of ghetto life, and they created them cheaply - for about $3 million.
A bit of notoriety must have been good for their pocketbooks.
For their second film, "Dead Presidents," they've sprung for elaborate sets, period costumes and a more experienced cast, creating a sweeping story about the Bronx a generation ago. Unfortunately, almost the same problems remain. A bigger budget didn't buy a tighter story or a more pointed message.
"Dead Presidents," which begins in 1968, reads like an ambitious three-act play. The story picks up on its hero Anthony Curtis (played by Larenz Tate) while he is still in high school.
He's a bright kid who hangs out with his buddies and befriends a small-time hood. Young Anthony has potential, but he ultimately disappoints his mother (Jenifer Lewis) by choosing the Army over college.
From there, the movie shifts to the bloody reality of the Vietnam War.
Anthony has been assigned to a reconnaissance unit, where the fighting is horrific and gruesome and the rewards few.
He survives, bringing us to Act III, his return home to a world that doesn't appreciate what he did for it. Jobs are hard to find, and crime seems the best option for survival. …