Dead Presidents (1995) Dead Presidents POSTER Movie (27 x 40 Inches - 69cm x ...
Director: Albert Hughes, Allen Hughes
Runtime: 119 Minutes
Certification: 18
Starring: Larenz Tate, Keith David, Chris Tucker, Bokeem Woodbine, Freddy Rodríguez, Rose Jackson, N'Bushe Wright, Alvaleta Guess, Michael Imperioli, Clifton Powell, Terrence Howard, Jenifer Lewis, James Pickens, Jr.

Adjusting to life after serving in the Vietnam war, Anthony Curtis (Larenz Tate) is trying to find ways to support his family. He sees an opportunity upon hearing about old bills, retired from circulation that will be burnt, and concocts a heist.

From the opening scenes, we see Anthony spending time with his friends, Jose and Skip, as they've almost finished school, and make plans for their futures. It's easy to buy into the innocence of youth and naivety we see here, brought alive by Larenz Tate, Freddy Rodríguez, and Chris Tucker, to feel utterly believable. It's also heartbreaking to watch, as the plans made are a precursor to how war would drastically change each of them. Signing up to fight in somebody else's war would alter their lives, leading each of them to cope with their PTSD through a different vice, and feel discarded by the country they went out to protect.

It's a fact that Tom Savini, celebrated prosthetic make-up artist, served as a combat photographer during the Vietnam War. He used those horrifying images and experiences to influence his style of gory effects, which are best exemplified through one character being explicitly torn apart in 1985's Day of the Dead. Why am I mentioning this? Because what Albert and Allen Hughes have done here, within the scenes of war, is vividly depict the brutality of it all, in ways that wouldn't feel out of place in a George A. Romero's horrific picture. Even when it threatens to become cartoonish, such as when Cleon takes a souvenir from a corpse, the prosthetic work and the grounded performance keep it feeling real, as though we're taking a look into the dark heart of humanity, which crawls out under excuses of patriotism.

As the focus shifts back home, what follows is a horrific look at the struggles faced by war veterans of colour, and how it leads to them turning to robbery. As Skip memorably points out, it's a real injustice how the U.S. Government are able to burn an excessive amount of bills, while Black men struggle to find work. What follows is a gripping crime thriller which resembles war, even mirroring the brutality, unforgiving as it was for the characters overseas.

No matter how many awful acts these characters enact, I can't deny that I felt sorry for how awful a hand they were dealt. We followed their journeys from early on, and thanks to combination of Michael Henry Brown's terrific screenplay and the exemplary performances, we've seen them change so much, and come out of it with their struggles minimised, even down to what war our lead fought in. What the Hughes Brothers crafted us an engrossing crime thriller which deserves to be recognised as a tremendous entry into the genre, hopefully to be discovered by larger audiences.

Dead Presidents is available to rent on VOD