A movie about a burned-out white liberal regaining his soul by acting the 100 percent black man could have been an embarrassment, but Warren Beatty pulls it off with this audacious, nervy, bracingly entertaining polemic. Beatty produced, directed, co-wrote (with Jeremy Pikser), and stars as Sen. Jay Billington Bulworth, a once-idealistic California Democrat now in the pocket of corporate interests. In the throes of a nervous breakdown, he takes out a contract on his own life and, with nothing to lose, starts to publicly speak his mind—about race, class, and sold-out politicians like himself. At the same time he becomes smitten with Nina (Halle Berry) and the hip-hop culture in which she lives; before long he’s rhyming, donning gangsta togs, and trying desperately to call off the hit. The movie is gut-laugh funny—not just because of the fish-out-of-water incongruity of its premise, but because of the script’s freewheeling, loose-limbed verve and the relish with which Beatty throws himself into Bulworth’s transformation; it’s the most giddily open performance of his career. But Bulworth (1998) is as fierce as it is farcical, tinged with sadness and laced with genuine anger over what’s happened to American politics.