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The Assassination of Richard Nixon (15)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary by director Niels Mueller. Deleted scenes with optional audio commentary. Behind the scenes documentary. Sean Penn's Toronto Press Conference. US and UK theatrical trailers. UK TV spots. 75-image picture gallery. Cast biographies (Sean Penn, Naomi Watts, Don Cheadle, Jack Thompson and Michael Wincott). Profile of the real Sam Byck.

SEAN Penn has stated that his latest movie contains some interesting parallels to the current political climate in America that could well provide some valuable lessons for the future.

It's certainly an emotive affair, given that it is based on the true story of a salesman who became so disillusioned with US President, Richard Nixon, that he attempted to crash a plane into the White House in order to make his point.

Toss in the events of September 11, 2001, and it's clear to see that The Assassination of Richard Nixon could unleash a tidal wave of emotion.

Penn has seldom been shy in coming forward with his critical views on current president, George Bush, so who better to play Sam Bicke than him?

Needless to say, he embraces the role, plunging viewers into the tortured mind of his character in what can only be described as another tour-de-force.

Crucially, however, he never makes Bicke appear sympathetic or heroic, preferring to concentrate on the mounting paranoia and ensuing insanity that eventually clouded Bicke's judgement and actions.

As a result, his character is difficult to like, even though viewers may agree with some of his sentiments.

He is a failure in every sense of the word but especially as a husband and a businessman.

Yet his insecurity stems from an over-riding sense of decency that compels him to do the right thing and act honestly, even when the world around him consistently does the opposite.

As Bicke's disillusionment grows, however, so does his grip on reality, with Nixon eventually coming to symbolise his frustrations.

When Bicke cracks, no one can save him - not his best friend and prospective business partner (Don Cheadle), or his ex-wife (Naomi Watts) who wants nothing more to do with him.

Even his brother (played brilliantly by Michael Wincott) loses patience, disowning him after he resorts to theft.

The conclusion of the film is therefore a violent and alarming affair as Bicke makes his stand against the president.

Much like Penn's character, first-time director and co-writer Niels Mueller's movie is difficult to like, even though it makes for compelling viewing.

It's a claustrophobic, occasionally trying affair that provokes comparisons with movies such as Taxi Driver and Death of a Salesman from the 70s.

Yet as difficult as viewing it can be, Penn might just be right in underlining its relevance to contemporary politics.

Little wonder, then, that the film was able to attract such a brilliant cast, as well as producers of the movie-making calibre of Alfonso Cuaron, Alexander Payne and Leonardo Di Caprio.

 

 

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