Welcome to "Platoon"/"Born on the Fourth of July" meets "Superfly." This visually graphic film traces the journey of a young black man, Anthony Curtis ("Menace II Society's" Larenz Tate), and his two friends Skip (Chris Tucker) and Jose (Freddy Rodriguez) from high school to Vietnam and back to the ghettos of the South Bronx. It's a coming-of-age movie showing how racism, war and poverty turns ambitious young men into criminals prepared to kill to survive. Brutal and rife with violence, this Caravan production follows in the footsteps of Allen and Albert Hughes' filmmaking debut, "Menace II Society." The title, "Dead Presidents," is street slang for money, which becomes the central theme for each of the characters in their struggles. As Anthony, Tate creates a sympathetic character driven to the edge of desperation; Keith David ("Clockers") gives Anthony's mentor, Kirby, a cruel edge and illustrates how corruption can transform a man. Composer Danny Elfman creates a masterful soundtrack that underscores the movie's dark theme. Unfortunately, the filmmakers were overzealous in trying to cover a variety of issues, leaving the story choppy and without resolution in places. Instead, too much attention was given to the scenes eliciting shock value, as if that would somehow compensate for the weak plot. In "Dead Presidents," moviegoers will be shell-shocked rather than moved by a good storyline that got carried away in the telling. Starring Larenz Tate, Keith David, Chris Tucker, N'bushe Wright, Freddy Rodriguez and Bokeen Woodbine. Directed and produced by the Hughes Brothers. Written by Michael Henry Brown. A Buena Vista release. Drama. Rated R for strong graphic violence, language, a sex scene and some drug use. Running time: 118 min.