“Dead Presidents” (1995) dir. The Hughes Brothers

Next week, Allen Hughes, one half of the dynamic filmmaking duo The Hughes Brothers, will be releasing his solo directorial debut “Broken City.” I don’t know if it will be any good, but if any of the Hughes Brothers’ prior films provide any indication as to “Broken City”‘s potential quality, it’s going to at least be interesting, if not, pretty damn good.  At this time, I’d like to give a shout-out to their most underrated film.

“Dead Presidents” was the Hughes Brothers follow-up to their explosive debut “Menace II Society.” “Presidents” is an ambitious redux of “The Deer Hunter,” but from the African-American perspective. It was based on one of the stories from Wallace Terry’s groundbreaking oral history of the African-American experience in Vietnam, “Bloods.”

The movie did not get particularly good reviews and was only moderately successful when it was released. Even someone from the Criterion Collection, who released a terrific deluxe special edition laserdisc at the time, opined that it was a mistake to give the Criterion treatment to this film. Sorry, I have to cry “Bulls–t!” on all of that.

“Dead Presidents” is not a perfect film, but it’s pretty sensational nonetheless. It has great performances by Larenz Tate, Chris Tucker, and Keith David, has some extremely harrowing scenes that are hard to shake from one’s memory, and really conveys a strong sense of desperation and anger of the working class, post-Vietnam. The scope and depth of this film is truly magnificent. When you consider that this film was directed by 22-year-olds, you almost want to kick the a– of anyone who dismissed this back in the day.

This is an underrated masterpiece that deserves rediscovering.

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