Everyone knows that politicians - in Hollywoodese, at least - speak with the veracity of the white man who once plagued native American-Indians. Similarly common knowledge is that in order to make satirical light of this, the simplest manoeuvre is to transform your fork-tongued baby-kisser into a paragon of truth and virtue, who thereby garners massive vote potential and shows up his still-scummy colleagues. It's refreshing therefore, to find Beatty's world-weary Senator Jay Billington Bulworth coughing up the cold facts for no more admirable reason than self-indulgent devilment.
Suffering a distinct lack of sleep and nutrition, Bulworth is teetering on the verge of a nervous breakdown. With the Californian primaries only a weekend away, he's sickened with himself, the meaningless rhetoric spouted on promo reels (which hits home in a brain-stewing opening credit sequence) and campaign funding that ensures big business holds political sway. Having secured one such deal, Bulworth decides to cash in his chips in every sense and commissions a hit on himself. Taking the lectern at what he knows are his final official engagements on this earth, Bulworth suddenly abandons carefully prepared platitudes for the God's honest, regaling an African-American audience with precisely why their underprivileged lot will never be improved. And that's just the beginning.
As Beatty directs his character's limo on a rather alternative campaign trail - heading, via all-night parties, deeper into the more central and southerly neighbourhoods of LA - his film follows public reaction and the media circus which predictably escalates. In any event, Bulworth is defined by the people around him: Berry's spiky potential love interest, Platt excellent as the Senator's despairing aide, Don Cheadle as a vicious gang leader. Beatty himself is terrific, and if his painfully stilted rap attempts irritate, this is precisely the point - here's a man burned out, beyond caring, prey to any and every persuasive external force.
Varying pace to great effect, Beatty has tapped into farce to get his message across - absurd laughs may come, but small reality checks are, as a result, made only more uncomfortable.