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Cass' review of
Head of State


Head of State (2003)
Rated R; running time 95 minutes
Written by:Chris Rock and Ali LeRoi
Directed by:Chris Rock
Cast:Chris Rock, Bernie Mac, Lynn Whitfield, Dylan Baker, James Rebhorn, Nick Searcy, Tamala Jones, Keith David, Tracy Morgan, Stephanie March, Robin Givens, Gammy Singer, Nat Dogg

Review Copyright Cassandra Henry, 2003

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"George Bush, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Hillary Clinton...ain't in this movie."

CASS' CLIP (WARNING: **spoilers below**)
Like most politicians, Washington, D.C. Alderman, Mays Gilliam (Chris Rock), believes that his hard work will bring about change in his district. He campaigns to reduce crime, transform blighted property into affordable housing, as well as improve the educational system in his district. We first meet Mays rescuing Miss Pearl (Gammy Singer) and her cat from a housing unit marked for demolition. Mays' heroic efforts may look good on the 6:00 o'clock news but his opportunist girlfriend, Kim (Robin Givens), only sees him as another broke brotha. Kim leaves him because, as she puts it, "Mays ain't gonna amount to shyt." [Well, bad things or bad news happens in threes]. Mays is then evicted from his apartment and his car is repossessed. [That's three!] Not to worry though because fate has a way of showing up on cue.

Two months prior to the 2004 presidential election, the leading presidential candidates die in a plane crash. The powers that be now have the task of finding a replacement candidate to run against the incumbent Vice President, Brian Lewis (Nick Stearcy). Lewis is confident that his campaign slogan, "God bless America and no place else," along with the eight-year term he's served, and the fact that he's Sharon Stone's cousin, will keep him in the White House another four-years, but this time as president. Senator Bill Arnot (James Rebhorn) and his team of advisors, Debra Lassister (Lynn Whitfield) and Martin Geller (Dylan Baker) set their sights on Alderman Gilliam because he is the most unlikely candidate to win the presidency. Why? First, Mays is a black man; and second, because Mays is a Black Man; and third, cuz Mays is a BLACK MAN! [I think you get the point.]

[I almost forgot, insert the proverbial romantic subplot here -- When Mays ex-gurlfriend, Kim, hears this 'good' news, she stalks him along the campaign trail. But it's too late for her because Mays has eyes for Lisa Clark, a gas station attendant/caterer. Also, Nate Dogg and two fly gurl-types provide a delightful rapper's plot narration.]

Once campaign experts, Lassister and Baker, transform Mays into their puppet, [I mean] presidential candidate, they hit the road on a cross-country campaign. From Texas to Wisconsin, Mays delivers the same tired speech. Slacking in the polls, things heat up when Mays' big brother, Detroit bail bondsman, Mitch Gillliam (Bernie Mac) becomes his running mate. Mitch loves his job and says, "Business is good. Thank God for crime." Mitch tells his little brother to stop being a pawn and to run the campaign HIS way. Slogans such as, "How many of you work two jobs, just to have enough money to be broke? Now, that ain't right!" or, "How many schools have old books but they have brand new metal detectors? Now, that ain't right!" shifts Mays grass-roots campaign into a legitimate race.

Senator Arnot has a more sinister reason for putting Mays in this position. His plans backfire because Mays is a more formidable candidate than he thought. Soooo, as the race heats up, folks on both sides of the electoral process will stop at nothing to undermine Mays' chance of winning the highest office in the land, and keeping the big house lily White!

DA 411
Head of State marks Chris Rock's directorial debut. Here's the way I see it. If you look at Head of State as another race-based movie, you'll miss Rock's intended message -- a satirical and cynical jab at our electoral process. The truth is, and as much as I'd like to ignore this fact, race matters in everything we do. Therefore, humor may be the only way to get your message across to some people. Humor may be the only way some people will have an "Aha Moment!"

Head of State is a combination of Redford's Candidate, Murphy's The Distinguished Gentlemen and Beatty's Bulworth. However, Rock's HBO brand of comedic timing, makes this movie laugh out loud funny. Now, don't get me wrong, there were things that certainly didn't work in this movie. For example, Robin Givens' overacting worked on my last nerve. [I'm not blaming her necessarily, just the way her character was written.] Also, Tamala Jones was cute and sassy, but her role was wasted.

In terms of originality, well, there's Bernie Mac. I know weeks from now, I'll still be laughing when I think of Bernie Mac delivering his line that he didn't know NATO. I thoroughly enjoyed Rock's debate scene with Brian Lewis. [Every potential candidate should see this scene before they run for any office.] It's always good to see Lynn Whitfield in anything. I loved the way she made the transition from being an uppity follower to an independent thinker. All the other actors James Rebhorn, Nick Stearcy and Dylan Baker give decent performances. [Even though Keith David has basically a cameo appearance, I acknowledge his presence on behalf of my sister, who is a HUGE Keith David fan].

Rock gets my vote in Head of State!

HEAD OF STATE:   green

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Copyright Cassandra Henry, 2003

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More 3BlackChicks™ review(s) for this week:
(movies reviewed week of 3/28/03):
Cass' reviews:
Head of State

The Diva's reviews:
Basic | The Core

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