FF140 - Dead Presidents

Intro by Adam Pranica

"Look at all these slave masters posin' on yo' dollar!" This is the chorus to Run The Jewels - JU$T, a song which asks us to recognize the truth about the portraits that have been in our wallets and purses this whole time. And it is also what I thought of first when I saw we had rolled the magic 120-sided die and it gave us the film we are discussing today: Dead Presidents. But while the song is an emphatic rejection of the injustices our country collectively ignores, and in some cases even canonizes, today's film takes place within three periods of this injustice: Moments and places which act as inflection points in our main character's lives.

There is a Bronx yet to be touched by the scourge of drugs while our characters here are young and hopeful, even if a Keith David character is omnipresent, there is the Vietnam conflict where innocence is lost, even though Keith David isn't even around, and then finally a post-Vietnam Bronx, a home transformed, opportunities few, and a return to their pre-war lives impossible where not even Keith David's character can fix this.

At this point our main characters become desperate and radicalized, and when your Keith David character can't fix your problems it is time to blow shit up. And so for the purposes of our war movie podcast in this war film war is the inciting incident, a turning point that pivots the story into a genre-bending descent-into / heist film, and you don't have to watch the film to know that when your heist plan turns into a descent-into situation, you should probably take your heist plan back to the drawing board, you guys!

It is supposed to be a victimless crime. The money they are stealing was going to be destroyed anyway. Look at it! It is all wrinkly and gross! It is too old! And they weren't supposed to kill anyone either, but when you have included head-in-a-backpack-guy from Vietnam in your heist crew, chances are pretty good there is more than just cash that is going to end up in that bag. It is no surprise that the heist plan fails and then the escape plan fails and then there is this courtroom chair-throwing at the end.

In a lot of other films this might be felt as a cathartic moment: One last revolutionary act before Anthony's story ends, but Hughes Brothers films don't have happy endings. When Anthony's prison bus pulls up outside the yard, the film ends there where he could be seen as reflecting on what could have been, and as viewers many of us may wonder the same. "That is Uncle Sam for you. Money to burn!" On today's Friendly Fire: Dead Presidents.

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