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Social Criticism in "Dead Presidents"

The Hughes Brothers' recent film Dead Presidents does what many of the best recent films do--it takes a standard plot as a jumping off point both for social criticism and for a different sort of kinetic movie experience, shaping familiar material into a new form. The fact that this is a black story rather than a white is only one of the changes from what is at heart a buddy movie about a group of friends who face a bleak future and who decide to join together to commit a robbery as a way of making something of their lives. In this particular version, the protagonists happen to be black, and their bleak future is at least in part a consequence of institutional racism and societal neglect. The growing awareness on the part of these friends that their world is a dead-end is shown to be a consequence in part of their experiences in Vietnam, experiences which tested their courage while challenging their sense of survival. The Hughes Brothers have drawn on expectations of the genre in order to give a fresh twist to the heist movie, and they have done so in a way that allows them to comment on the problems of the poor and urban black community in America today.

The heist movie has long been a sub-genre with a particular fascination for filmmakers, and indeed variations on this theme have been seen several times in the past couple of years. Some of these films may be more married to the particulars of the genre and so will not produce anything really different, while others will use the framework of the genre to create a personal and unique vision. The Hughes Brothers have attempted to do the later, with varying success, in part because they have mixed the crime genre with a less controlled and less shaped coming-of-age story. The script has resonances of earlier films, from The Asphalt Jungle and other heist movies where everything is meticulously planned until the last moment when everything goes wrong, to generational movies abou...

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Social Criticism in "Dead Presidents". (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 00:08, May 31, 2020, from