This is all you need. I don’t need to explain myself any further. A Hughes Brothers CLASSIC! Filmed kind with this film noire style. Sexy ass Larenz Tate (excuse my French)! Forever my favorite Keith David! Chris Tucker in a serious role that he was able to make funny while still giving us the feels. Terrance Howard getting his ass beat by Larenz over that pool game! Bokeem Woodbine being brilliant as usual! N’Bushe Wright?! I mean what else do I need?
This is one of those films that I can literally watch any time. What ever mood I’m in, I can see this on the guide and say to myself, “Settle in, girl. We watching this with a snack”. I love this film for a couple of reason…which I already list at the beginning of this post. I love a good gangster film and I LOVE a period piece.
Dead Presidents is about Anthony Curtis (remember sexy ass Larenz Tate?). Curtis is graduating high school and like most kids his age is anxious to be grown and to also have sex with a girl of his choosing. As a black man in America, however, this cannot be his trajectory in life. He’s got to have a plan. He’s got to work o go to school. Those are his options. His brother (played by Isis Washington) is going to college and is the older brother that was always good enough. Anthony needed a little more pushing, a little more work. Anthony tells his black family that he’s going to the Army…in the middle of the Vietnam War. A war almost no one agrees with. Way to go, Anthony. His family thinks he’s crazy (by the way, his momma is played by the great and powerful Jennifer Lewis. Who doesn’t love her?) but Anthony is confident in his decision. He makes the vow to his sweetheart, Juanita (Rose Jackson), that he will come back to her in one piece.
We get to the war and war is never a place where someone should be, ever! Curtis sees a lot in war but the one thing that will haunt him for the rest of the movie and his life is killing one of his own Marines. No, he didn’t accidentally or purposely shoot his fellow Marine. This Marine asked to be killed. He had been injured in a sneak attack and most of his intestines now live on the outside of his body. Anthony was responsible for granting his wish to be dead. He injects him with something and that’s the end of that Marine. Later, when Anthony returns home, we see that this plagues his life along with all the other horrors he experienced overseas. Vietnam was a strange war. I’m not a veteran or don’t really have any one around me who’s personally been in battle, but it seems as though the Vietnam War was the toughest, at the time, for veterans to bounce back from. What this film gives us a chance to see is how it was for soldiers when they returned home.
Anthony and his best friend and fellow marine, Skip (Chris Tucker), struggle to find work and a place to live. Luckily, Anthony has his family and Juanita, who has a little girl who just so happens to belong to Anthony. Skip also comes back with an unknown condition which he says the doctors believe could be a result of his heroin habit overseas. He doesn’t believe that to be true. Anthony is determined he’s going to be different. He will succeed after war, so he gets a job at a butcher shop and moves in with Juanita. All is fine…for a while. That is until we are introduced to Cutty. Now, Cutty is played Clifton Powell who is by far the best person to call when you need a villain. I have never known a person who could play someone so sinister and have you looking at the screen sideways. I love and hate this man at the same damn time. Anyway, Cutty was a man Juanita apparently dated/had sex with while Anthony was away and he decided to mess to Anthony now that he knows he’s back from the war. War strength did not help Anthony at all during the fight with Cutty. He lost. Eventually, Kirby (Keith David), Anthony and Jose (Freddy Rodriguez) come up with a plan to rob a federal vehicle. Not a bank. A friend of Kirby’s told him about the old money they take out of circulation and shred. They, seeing this as an American tragedy, wanted to make things right in the world and steal the money to save it from being shred (I’m being sarcastic but you get the point. They robbing a money truck). Plans get set in motion, plans go awry, someone snitches and all hell breaks loose. Everyone is now on the run.
My favorite scene from this movie is the last sequence of the film. Kirby and Anthony try and grab their split of the cash and split but the police catch them and Anthony ends up in court. Oh yes, the court scene! The judge told Anthony and his lawyer that he cared nothing about the fact that Anthony fought for his country. The judge had done the same and had NOT robbed a Brinks truck filled with old money. So much for that plea. Let me tell you, when that judge said, “I sentence you to life in prison” and Anthony repeated the word “life” like he didn’t know what it meant AND THEN went on that tirade about all that he had done for the country…I WAS DONE! I felt all his anger and yes, I would have thrown a chair or two too, but what got me was the finesse of the music department and how they blended Isaac Hayes’ version of “Walk on By” into this climatic scene. Then you hear the song in full as he sits with other inmates in the bus headed to prison. It gets me every time and it’s two things, the performance from Larenz Tate and the genius that is Isaac Hayes. Watch the iconic scene below and if you haven’t seen this movie, GO WATCH IT NOW!