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The Assassination of Richard Nixon - Printable Version

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The Assassination of Richard Nixon - RobRoy - February 14th, 2006

Apparently, this is my week for uncomfortable movies. Following the oh-so-joyous The Woodsman, I plunked in The Assassination of Richard Nixon starring Sean Penn, which follows the slow, and not quite understandable decay and self-destruction of Samuel J. Bicke (based on real-life would-be assassin Samuel Byck). As with Kevin Bacon, Sean Penn is certainly at the top of his acting career. Despite his personality and politics, there is very little that Penn has done that I haven't enjoyed on some level. Even with the ambiguity of this particular film, his characterization is such that he never falls out of character, and I was never left with a, "well, that didn't make sense" moment for Penn's portrayal.

The film starts and ends in the same place, the airport where Sam Bicke is about to make his final effort. From there, we're immediately shifted to a year previous where a nervous and slightly out-of-place Sam is attempting to fulfill his new role as a salesman, while at the same time trying to regain his wife (they're seperated) and start up a business with partner and friend Bonny (Don Cheadle - without an accent).

Sam's greatest issue seems to be his growing disillusionment with the American dream, but in reality, it seems to be his own laziness coupled with his belief that the system has somehow failed him. Since I wasn't truly around for Nixon's term of office, I can only say that the latter is probably a realistic perception for most people during this time. Sam's growing frustration even leads him, at one point, to pitch an idea to his local Black Panther office. All the while, in the background, clips of Nixon's speeches as the embattled president faces growing scandal are shown in small snipits without any real logic.

I don't believe this movie failed to present Sam or the concept of America through the eyes of the "little guy", but it certainly didn't even begin to scratch the surface of what could have been an impressive statement about the belief in the American Dream and the subsequent reality.

If you're interested in seeing Sean Penn create a truly believable character, then by all mean, catch this movie. But if you're interested in being entertained, even through a theme of disenchantment, then definately pass.