The Assassination of Richard Nixon

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Rating: R

Starring:
Sean Penn as Samuel Bicke
Naomi Watts as Marie Bicke
Don Cheadle as Bonny Simmons
Jack Thompson as Jack Jones
Brad Hanke as Martin Jones
Michael Wincott as Julius Bicke
Mykelti Williamson as Harold Mann
April Grace as Mae Simmons
Lily Knight as Receptionist
Jared Dorrance as Sammy Jr.
Jenna Milton as Ellen
Mariah Massa as Julie
Eileen Ryan as Marie’s Mother
Derek Greene as Joey Simmons
Joe Marinelli as Mel Samuels

Special Features:
None

Other Info:
Widescreen (1.85:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Stereo Surround
Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 95 Minutes

Synopsis:
This movie is based on a true story. The following is the official description of the DVD:

“In the winter of 1974, a time of great political unrest, Samuel J. Bicke (Sean Penn) is a forty-four-year-old man who wants to believe in something – anything. But at every turn, his faith – in himself and in the world around him – is undermined. He is separated from his wife, Marie (Naomi Watts), who refuses to consider the reconciliation he wants so desperately. The only bright spot in Bicke’s life is his dream of opening a door-to-door tire repair service with his auto mechanic friend, Bonny (Don Cheadle), which requires a modest bank loan. When Bicke experiences a series of ill-fated events – his loan is rejected, and his ex-wife abandons him – he decides the only way to reclaim his insignificant life is to carry out a grand, historic gesture that will make his presence felt. Bicke would like to strike out at all the offenders, however, there is one villain who looms large. For Bicke, Richard Nixon, described by Bicke’s boss (Jack Thompson) as the greatest salesman in history because he swindled the American people twice, becomes the embodiment of everything that is wrong with the world. A new Samuel Bicke, uncharacteristically resolute and resourceful, has an appointment with history.”

The Assassination of Richard Nixon rated R for language and a scene of graphic violence.

The Movie:
The Assassination of Richard Nixon is an interesting psychoanalysis of a would-be presidential assassin. This movie takes a man, mostly forgotten by history, and depicts his inner struggles and torments to the point where you understand why he would do what he did. You certainly don’t sympathize with him, but you see what led him down his descent into madness.

Sean Penn delivers an excellent performance as Samuel Bicke. He’s well into his downward spiral when the story begins, but you follow him further down into the depths of depression as the movie unfolds. You totally forget that you are watching Penn as he plays the character. (Maybe Penn’s own political leanings make it easier to buy Bicke’s anti-establishment ranting.) It quickly becomes apparent that the guy was always unstable. The events in the movie simply push him over the edge.

The rest of the cast is good, too. Don Cheadle has a bit part as Bonny Simmons, Bicke’s only friend. His combination of sympathy for Bicke and world weary attitude makes him an endearing character. Jack Thompson is also good as Jack Jones, Bicke’s domineering boss. His strong personality and drive to make a sale are contributing factors in pushing Bicke over the edge. Naomi Watts is good as Marie Bicke, but it’s hard to understand why her levelheaded character would ever marry an unstable person like Samuel. I don’t think the movie ever adequately portrayed what she saw in him.

Despite the fine performances, the interesting history lesson, and the thought provoking subject matter, this is a depressing film. If you’re looking for lighthearted entertainment, this is not it. The movie follows this man through dark depths of depression and it’s a miserable journey. I generally don’t like to be depressed by films, so I bumped the rating down on this. On the lighter side it may make you feel better to see someone more miserable than yourself, so it has that going for it. (Just kidding.)

If you’re a fan of Sean Penn, Naomi Watts, or Don Cheadle then you’ll want to check out The Assassination of Richard Nixon. Their fine performances make it worth watching. This movie also represents the directorial debut of Neils Mueller and it’s a strong one at that. It’s going to be interesting to see what he comes up with in the future.

The Extras:
There are no bonus features included on this DVD.

The Bottom Line:
The Assassination of Richard Nixon features fine performances by Sean Penn and the rest of the cast, but the overall depressing subject matter makes it a bit of a bummer to watch.

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