1995 / Director. Albert & Allen Hughes.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
The Hughes Brothers burst onto the scene with their debut film MENACE II SOCIETY in 1993. That was a confronting and violent urban drama, which announced them as important filmmakers. Their follow up film was DEAD PRESIDENTS, a different sort of movie that takes place in Brooklyn during the 1960s and 70s. It tells the story of a young black man who leaves to fight in Vietnam and returns to face hardship. A rocky relationship. A daughter he never met and gangsters interfering with his family. When he loses his job he calls upon his close friends to pull a heist on an armoured truck. The fallout is a violent and unpredicted confrontation. Upon its release DEAD PRESIDENTS was met with mixed reviews and little fanfare. It came at a time when Quentin Tarantino was the new kid in town, shaking up Hollywood... and so this film was either deemed to be an imitation or it simply collapsed under the expectations. I think that it's a solid drama, told well and made skilfully. I hadn't seen the film in over ten years and when I watched it tonight I was actually shocked at how violent and gruesome it is. The war scenes are truly abhorrent and depict a reality in a way that few films have done before. The street violence is also graphic and has a real impact. I had also forgotten what a great ensemble cast it features, including: Chris Tucker, Keith David, Freddy Rodriguez, Terrence Howard, Bokeem Woodbine and Martin Sheen. Aside from David and Sheen, all of these names were relatively unknown at the time and have since gone on to have big Hollywood careers. The imagery is striking and the 60s and 70's era is recreated wonderfully. Perhaps DEAD PRESIDENTS has appreciated with time. I certainly packs the same punch I remember it having and it was a bold and courageous follow up to MENACE II SOCIETY. Revisit this one if you're able.