by Rima Thompson
“Head of State” is like the family reunion you don’t want to attend, but you go out of courtesy, only to arrive and be surprised. While you might not put it on top of the list of things you want to do again, it was one way to spend an afternoon.
Co-written and directed by Chris Rock, “Head of State” features Rock as Mays Gilliam, an alderman from Washington, D.C., who is chosen by an unknown political party to run for office after the death of the presidential and vice presidential candidates in a plane crash.
Unbeknownst to Gilliam, the only reason the party wants him to run is to obtain the 2008 minority vote for their leader, played by James Rebhorn.
Gilliam seemingly has no chance to win against the Republican vice president, Nick Searcy, who has been in office for eight years and constantly reminds everyone that he is Sharon Stone’s cousin and a war hero.
Surprisingly, the competition seems to shift overnight, after Gilliam goes from being an average Joe on the street struggling to make car payments and receiving eviction notices to a high power politician touring the streets in a limo and expensive bus.
He travels from city to city, delivering similar spoon-fed speeches to every audience. Before an important speech in Chicago, Gilliam’s older brother, Mitch Gilliam (Bernie Mac), visits him.
The talk leads Gilliam to make another transformation. He ditches the Gucci suits for FUBU sweatsuits, diamond-studded chains and a tour bus that would make most rappers blush. The campaign commercials turn into advertisements for Black Entertainment Television’s “Rap City,” featuring half naked women and Gilliam showing off his “ice.”
His speeches take a turn as well, speaking out against big businesses and sticking up for lower-class individuals in a comedic yet serious fashion. Gilliam’s new platform helps him to rise in the polls, becoming a serious threat to Searcy.
Rock’s performance leaves the audience rooting for Gilliam to become the president, as the fate of the election rests solely on the people of California.
For his directorial debut, Rock did a decent job at delving into racial and class issues within society. His character shined during a presidential debate with Searcy by using blunt social commentary that had the audience applauding and yelling “Amen.”
Although Rock’s performance was good, the breakout actor of the movie was Mac, whose performance was a breath of fresh air that left the audience aching for more. Unlike Rock, whose lines seemed forced and over rehearsed, Mac delivered his effortlessly.
At times, however, the 95-minute movie seemed to drag on, with senseless scenes of his ex-girlfriend (Robin Givens) showing up at odd places. Additionally, scenes of Rock having flashes of being assassinated if he were to become the first black and minority president were also not needed.
While “Head of State” may not be an Oscar contender, it is perhaps, the first Rock movie to capture his humor and is worthy of going to see at least once.