2Hugely ambitious, extremely tough and gritty, and telling a story of massive scope that might’ve benefited from at least 30 more minutes of screen time, the 1995 war/crime hybrid Dead Presidents was the extra-stylish and hot-blooded follow-up for sibling filmmakers Allen and Albert Hughes, who had conquered cinema a few years previous with the crimes-in-Compton classic Menace II Society. Larenz Tate was absolutely sensational in the lead role of a lifetime, playing a young high school student on the cusp of graduation who ships off to Vietnam as a new Marine, sees some absolutely horrendous stuff on the battlefield, and comes home a changed and scarred individual, leading to a life of petty crime before taking on something much larger, something he probably knows he can’t fully control. The superb supporting cast, including Chris Tucker, Keith David, Terrence Howard, and Bokeem Woodbine (to name just a few) all delivered fierce performances, while the film itself was greatly bolstered by Lisa Rinzler’s muscular and brooding cinematography, and through one of Danny Elfman’s most atypical musical scores. Reviews were mixed and box office returns were only decent, but the film looks five times as large as its reported $10 million budget, and the balance of action, violence, romance and social/family commentary was all extremely well-calibrated. Available as a $5 DVD or as a streaming option via Amazon.


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