A depressed California politician plans to commit suicide, but starts finding a new reason to live when he starts preaching the truth during his re-election campaign.
Senator Jay Billington Bulworth is loosely based off of real life political gadfly John Jay Hooker from Tennessee. Hooker was a personal friend of Warren Beatty, who wrote, directed, produced, and starred as Bulworth in this movie.
Angry Black Woman
Are you sayin' the Democratic Party don't care about the African-American community?
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Isn't that obvious? You got half your kids are out of work and the other half are in jail. Do you see ANY Democrat doing anything about it? Certainly not me! So what are you gonna do, vote Republican? Come on! Come on, you're not gonna vote Republican! Let's call a spade a spade!
Senator Jay Billington Bulworth (played by Warren Beatty) is a leftist politician from California who has lost touch with his roots and moved towards the mushier center in order to appeal to more voters and get money from special interests. However, he is losing his re-election campaign to a fiery young opponent, and the steady string of compromises in his political career and his life has left him very depressed. One day, he devises a plan to commit suicide: First he takes out a life insurance policy on himself worth 10 million dollars and names his daughter as the beneficiary, and then he asks a friend to hire a hitman to kill him two days later so his daughter will be able to inherit the money from his death.
The next day, Bulworth shows up at a black church in California as part of his re-election campaign. However, he shows up pretty drunk and ends up deviating from his scripted answers to tell what he sees as the truth. Causing the crowd to become pissed off at the politicians but also surprised by his honesty. Later on, he goes to a fundraiser full of rich Jewish movie producers and asks them why they use all their money to make bad movies, infuriating them as well. Though his aides are pissed off by this strange twist in his behavior, Senator Bulworth suddenly finds himself infatuated with a black woman he spotted at both events: a girl named Nina (Halle Berry).
Bulworth later leads his entourage into a nightclub in the shadier part of town, trying to follow Nina and talk with her. He even ends up smoking marijuana and rapping as he dances with her in public. After a hard night of dancing, drinking, and not sleeping at all, Bulworth's aide reminds him that he still has another fundraiser to attend in the morning. So Bulworth heads there with Nina and some new girls in his posse. However, once he gets the microphone, he starts rapping about how the country is in need of change, how the rich control everything and how socialism is needed. Once again, Bulworth spots a mysterious man in sunglasses whom he suspects is the hitman his friend hired. Having found a new reason to live, Bulworth tries to get his friend to call off the hitman, but his friend accidentally has a heart attack before he can make the call.
As Bulworth later heads to debate his political opponent on TV, he continues speaking frankly, talking about how the whole thing is scripted to make people think they have a choice when they are just picking between two rich white guys. However, even there Bulworth thinks the hitman is trying to kill him as his friend wasn't able to call him off, so he ends up hiding out in the shadier part of town where Nina's family lives. At one point, he asks Nina outright why there don't seem to be any real black leaders anymore. Nina responds that the depressed manufacturing sector of the American economy has lowered the standard of living for so many minorities in the country that it's difficult for any one person to rise up and take pride in themselves and their community.
Later that night, Bulworth buys some ice cream for a group of black children and even ends up saving them from a couple of white cops. In turn, he ends up introduced to Nina's drug-dealing brother who says that the government has pretty much abandoned them, and that he is giving these children a job and a purpose in life as opposed to having them work their asses off just to get a job at a Burger King. This is a line that Bulworth quotes almost verbatim when he ends up making another appearance on TV, rapping with the host as he talks about the injustice of the system at large. There he inadvertently survives another assassination attempt as he runs from the strange man with sunglasses. However, as he runs away again, he discovers that the man with the shades is just an assertive member of the paparazzi, trying to catch Bulworth in a compromising position for his next scoop.
Bulworth heads back to Nina's house, where Nina confesses that she was paid money to help kill Bulworth, but that she never wanted to personally kill him. However, Bulworth's lack of sleep finally catches up with him, and he falls dead asleep on Nina's bed for several days.
Eventually, the primary election day passes by, and Bulworth has won his nomination in a landslide, but a newscaster also notes that a substantial percentage of members of the other party voted for him in their own primary as well. Bulworth eventually wakes up after sleeping for several days and walks out onto the street where the press, aides, and public citizens have all gathered to celebrate his victory. However, a gunshot rings out from a nearby rooftop as Bulworth falls dead to the ground. Nina's brother and his friends point in the direction of the shot, but the hitman himself is long gone.
The movie ends with a homeless vagrant (played by poet Amiri Baraka) urging the audience as he did Bulworth to "Sing, be a spirit. Don't be no ghost."