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Head Of State (2003)

The only thing white is the house

Rating: 4/10

Running Time: 95 minutes

UK Certificate: 12A


“The only thing white is the house” trumpets the tagline to ‘Head of State’, Chris Rock’s directorial debut. Such a statement can only suggest an impending barrage of Martin Lawrence-like racism but thankfully, for the most part, its only crime is false advertising.

If anything, this movie is lame rather than offensive. There’s very little on show to object to, but only because it lacks so much in substance that to get even remotely worked up about it would seem like an exercise in pure pointlessness.

Rock stars as Mays Gilliam, a small-time Washington D.C. alderman chosen out of the blue by the Democrats to be their next Presidential candidate. Unbeknownst to Gilliam (but knownst to us), party leader Bill Arnot (James Rebhorn) has selected him as part of a cunning plan to curry favour with the nation’s growing numbers of ethnic minorities, without actually winning the election. Of course, it all goes pear-shaped for Arnot when Gilliam’s straight-talkin’ style wins over a few too many people and it suddenly looks like he’s about to become the first ever black President. Not exactly the strongest of plots (in fact, it’s a bit like an American equivalent of ‘Ali G Indahouse’), but believe it or not that’s by no means the weakest element of the movie either.

Unlike Rock’s unrestrained stand-up routines, the screenplay (co-written by Rock alongside Ali LeRoi) is as if he genuinely touched upon a good idea at the conceptualisation stage, only to chicken out and fall back on the usual Tupac and “your momma’s so fat” jokes. The best parts of the film are easily the few instances where his campaign speeches are reminiscent of his own on-stage rantings, but there’s a surprising lack of satire in most of the humour, and a general aura of missed opportunity.

It's Got: The perennially over-rated Bernie Mac, who’s made a living out of repeating himself and doing it loudly.

It Needs: To make better and more memorable use of the situation it sets up for itself.

DVD Extras Deleted scenes, ‘Making of’ featurette, a stills gallery, and a Chris Rock commentary. Basically everything you’d expect, and nothing you wouldn’t. DVD Extras Rating: 4/10


A squandered chance to use biting comedy to get right under the skin of the American political system. It’s not completely unfunny, but it is a complete cop-out.