The Assassination of Richard Nixon
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
A low-level, white-collar nobody grows progressively more disillusioned by life in America, and (spurred on by his dead-end job and impending divorce) slowly slips off the deep end while hatching a scheme to kill the president.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Some movies are worth seeing just for the work of one fantastic actor, and The Assassination of Richard Nixon certainly qualifies on that count. Taken as a milder and less horrific take on the old Taxi Driver concept, Niels Mueller's drama is certainly well-constructed and engaging enough to warrant a look -- but it's Sean Penn in the lead role that elevates the film into something more noteworthy. The story of a faceless citizen desperately unhappy with modern life is certainly nothing new, but the filmmaker was clever enough to find an obscure-yet-fact-based tale on which to base his screenplay. Although The Assassination of Richard Nixon takes place in the ancient era known as the 1970's, you'll be able to relate with the rage and anger that Penn's Sam Bicke spews forth.
Although the movie is basically Sean Penn's show all the way, he's more than capably assisted by Naomi Watts as Sam's estranged wife, Don Cheadle as his best (and seemingly only) pal, and Jack Thompson as Sam's cold hearted (yet somehow likable) boss. Also keep an eye out for Michael Wincott; he only shows up in one scene, but still makes quite an impression!
The Assassination of Richard Nixon tells a story that you may have heard once or twice before, but it's told again here in crisp and fast-paced detail. (The movie runs barely 93 minutes.) Fans of Mr. Penn will absolutely want to give the movie a shot, and everyone else will most likely get sucked right into Sam Bicke's plight, too. It might have happened way back in 1975, but Sam's story is still pretty topical today.
Zero zip zilch nada*.
If you're interested in seeing Sean Penn slowly break from reality while in full-on "Willy Loman" mode, you should definitely give "Nixon" a shot. It's a small and quiet drama, but it's also one that sucks you in quite smoothly.
* Please note that the DVD I'm working from is the Canadian release from MGM. The U.S. release (courtesy of New Line) switches out the French audio track for a commentary with writer/director Niels Mueller.