Dead Presidents


Dead Presidents

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Total Count: 32


Audience Score

User Ratings: 30,181
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Movie Info

Albert Hughes and his brother Allen Hughes followed their striking debut Menace II Society with this ambitious look at the social and political lives of the African-American community in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Anthony Curtis (Larenz Tate) is a young man coming of age in the Bronx in 1968. Working two part-time jobs -- one as a milkman's helper and another for local numbers runner Kirby (Keith David) -- Anthony is torn between doing the right thing and trying to get by in a environment that offers few opportunities to young black men. After graduating from high school, Anthony decides to join the Marines, news that is not well-received by his parents, who want him to go to college, or his girlfriend Juanita (Rose Jackson), with whom Anthony recently lost his virginity. After serving a horrific tour of duty in Viet Nam with his friends Skip (Chris Tucker) and Jose (Freddy Rodriguez), Anthony finds himself back home in 1973, where Juanita has been raising the child he fathered before he shipped out, drugs and crime have crippled his community, and honest job prospects are practically nil. Eventually, Anthony falls in with Kirby, Skip, and Jose, who have teamed with Juanita's sister Delilah (N'Bushe Wright), a Black Power activist, and Cleon (Bokeem Woodbine), in a scheme to rob an armored truck taking worn greenbacks ("dead presidents") to a mint to be destroyed. Martin Sheen and Seymour Cassel appear unbilled in small roles. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi


Larenz Tate
as Anthony Curtis
N'Bushe Wright
as Delilah Benson
Rose Jackson
as Juanita Benson
Alvaletah Guess
as Mrs. Benson
Jenifer Lewis
as Mrs. Curtis
Ryan Williams
as Young Revolutionary
Rodney Winfield
as Mr. Warren
Cheryl Freeman
as Mrs. Barton
Jaimz Woolvett
as Lt. Dugan
Quynh Phann
as Skivvie Girl No. 1
Daniel Kruse
as Corporal Rob
Robert Smith
as Helicopter Pilot
Bernard Telsey Casting
as Protester No. 1
Isaiah Washington
as Edward Curtis
Heather B.
as Peaches
Martin Sheen
as The Judge (uncredited)
Frank Albanese
as Mr. Gianetti
Monti Sharp
as Officer Brown
Tony Sirico
as Officer Spinelli
Robert LuPone
as Attorney Salvatore Rizzo
Joelle Hernandez
as Sarah, Juanita's Child
Jordan Hernandez
as Sarah, Juanita's Child
Tim Zay
as Protester No. 2
Charles E. Lesene
as Numbers Taker
Cuc Dinh
as Madame Minh
Yen Chin Grow
as Skivvie Girl No. 2
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Critic Reviews for Dead Presidents

All Critics (32) | Top Critics (13) | Fresh (14) | Rotten (18)

  • Dead Presidents may eventually box itself into a narrative dead end, but its muscular engagement of weighty themes and explosive situations makes it a powerful drama.

    Mar 26, 2009

    Todd McCarthy

    Top Critic
  • There are intriguing aspects to this yarn, and the brothers can choreograph a scene, but you get the impression that they learned all they know from other movies, the blood and guts is gratuitous...

    Jan 26, 2006 | Full Review…
    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • Like those overreaching sophomore term papers we can all laugh at now, this disappointing film may free the Hughes brothers to move on to fresher, more inspired work.

    May 20, 2003 | Rating: 2/4
  • It's an overly ambitious effort that strains to work as a coming-of-age drama, a 1960s period piece and a searing comment on the way African American GIs went largely unappreciated for their war efforts.

    Jun 18, 2002 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…
  • What emerges is an uneasy blend of didacticism and juiced-up bloodletting (the brothers don't know when to stop with the exploding squibs) that bury the film's message and its good intentions.

    May 12, 2001
  • Made with fluid skill and a passion for storytelling, its tale of how the Vietnam War and American society affect a black Marine remains accessible while confounding expectations.

    Feb 13, 2001 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Dead Presidents

  • Feb 11, 2013
    [img][/img] A now cult film that was for many years wrongfully forgotten. The Hughes Brothers hit it out the park with the clash of realism and crime thriller elements that structured Dead Presidents, which I believe is a deeper and more affectionate film than it was ever given credit for when it first came out. There are many reasons why it never deserved to be slagged off. Firstly, if we wind the clocks back two years earlier the Brothers released "Menace II Society", everyone who loved movies found themselves completely knocked out by how good it was. The general consensus was that it was well directed, powerfully acted, sharply written and discussed important themes. Personally I see no creative differences between said film and Dead Presidents. As it unfolds you learn more about the characters and emotionally invest, it therein becomes incredibly gripping and emotionally fulfilling. Which is key to why the action works as well as it does and the final scenes have a greatest impact to anything seen earlier on. The performances are very well researched and at no point do you believe that any of the characters are being portrayed by actors, it nails believeability persuasion right on the head. The period setting and atmosphere is also captured perfectly, and the sense that our hero Anthony Curtis has literally nothing and no one to live for is realistic and makes for an interesting and equally awesome lead. It intelligently depicts the lives of Vietnam war veterans who upon returning home to the Bronx receive no compensation whatsoever for their physical and emotional struggle in combat. It does so in a fashion that is both hugely entertaining and completely unbiased. But what I really loved about this film is how the Hughes Brothers decide to play everything that happened completely straight while changing very little of the truth in it's story for dramatic purposes. I think the fact it was brutally realistic and changed little to work as a piece of cinema was the reason behind it's poor first impressions that ended up appalling the critics. But as a true story put on screen, whether it's structurally tight or not, it tells it in a way which is tense, funny and entertaining. It does have it's fair share of flaws, but there's no way of hiding that it deals with a touchy subject brilliantly.
    Directors C Super Reviewer
  • Nov 10, 2012
    Consistently engaging, well acted, and ambitious in its themes, Dead Presidents is a strong and interesting look at the Vietnam War, race in the 60s-70s, and class differences. It features strong performances from its leads, with excellent efforts by Larenz Tate, Keith David, and Chris Tucker (who provides a lot of needed comic relief). What is most impressive about Dead Presidents is the films world building. The Bronx we see is undeniably authentic, with the film seamlessly transitioning to Vietnam, without missing a beat. When the film transports back, we see the passage of time (a few years), in a very real way. In that sense, the direction is quite strong, with a good build up for most of the film, and an emphasis on the characters. The script is good from the standpoint that it has sharp dialogue, and doesn't opt for film cliches or really easy stereotypes. Instead, we're treated to an intelligent examination of a lot of themes. This, however, came back to hinder the film in the final act, with an overly rushed heist set-up, with the heist itself seeming tonally inconsistent and implausible. The last third of the film just doesn't seem to be very cohesive, we never fully understand the character motivations, it all seems to happen quickly, in an otherwise patient narrative. It was as if the filmmakers tried to tackle too much ground, and spent too much time focusing on themes and story lines that don't fully pay off, and weren't directly related to the climax. Despite its weak ending, however, Dead Presidents does more than enough right to make it well worth watching, if not for the strong performances and unique take on Vietnam. 4/5 Stars
    Jeffrey M Super Reviewer
  • Jan 06, 2010
    It was a good movie and had some good drama and action. We can see some young actors here like Chris Tucker, Larenz Tate and Terrence Howard showing there work and bringing there usual style to the movies. This action drama was the second film by the movie-making twins, Albert and Allen Hughes. The two started their careers with the urban drama, Menace II Society, and this effort has a 70s urban setting. The style and skill of these talented filmmakers is immediately apparent and the script which they co-wrote with Michael Henry Brown has well-developed characters and great tension along with explosive action scenes framed with an engrossing small scale story. The acting is excellent, but the real star here is the Hughes direction which is cool and inspired. Larenz Tate is Anthony Curtis, a good-natured high school kid in 60s New York who is enjoying life with his girlfriend, Delilah and good friends, Skip (Chris Tucker in an early role) and Jose (Freddy Rodriguez) and running numbers for a local tough guy, Kirby (Keith David). Those days are not to last, however, as all three of the young friends end up in Vietnam. Following a fairly lengthy and well-done segment in the Nam, all three end up back in the old neighbourhood, where Anthony finds adjusting to civilian life difficult. Soon (and rather suddenly), the whole bunch of them are planning an armoured car heist, and ohhhh boy, what a heist it turns out to be.
    Manu G Super Reviewer
  • Mar 03, 2009
    Wow! How did I miss seeing this movie for so long? This is one of the most riveting, intense, and disturbing films I've seen in a long time. Albeit the writing was a bit uneven at times, and I wasn't sure what the audience is supposed to take away from it, except for more of a predisposition for nightmares, but this is one amazing film!
    Richard F Super Reviewer

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