Dead Presidents (US, 1995)

Vietnam and gang movie

The Hughes brothers have only made two features since this sophomore effort 15 years ago. Their first two films offered a political dimension to conventional narratives – maybe that’s why they’ve made so few films – and this film has an interesting visual style. This first half is a sensitively portrayed ‘coming of age’ film and takes in the Vietnam war; the second half shows the protagonist’s decline and fall into gangsterism. It’s a fairly cliched narrative but it’s difficult to present a snapshot of a decade in any other way. Apocalypse Now (1979), in particular, has colonised images of Vietnam, but the Hughes brothers have enough savvy to not pale in comparison. The film is particularly gory but it does serve the narrative rather attempt merely to shock the audience.

A strong cast who, to my eyes, stray too far into African-American stereotypes; but as these types are being utilised by black filmmakers, I shouldn’t complain. Excellent film; well worth seeing.

Bechdel test: Fail (8/4)
Protagonist: Male (2/7)

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