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The Assassination of Richard Nixon
The Assassination of Richard Nixon
Actors: Sean Penn, Naomi Watts, Don Cheadle, Jack Thompson, Brad William Henke
Director: Niels Mueller
Genres: Drama
R     2005     1hr 35min

Based on real life events, Assassination is set in 1974 and centers on a businessman (Penn) who decides to take extreme measures to achieve his American dream.DVD Features: — Audio Commentary:Director Commentary — Other:Clos...  more »

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Movie Details

Actors: Sean Penn, Naomi Watts, Don Cheadle, Jack Thompson, Brad William Henke
Director: Niels Mueller
Creators: Niels Mueller, Alexander Payne, Alfonso Cuarón, Arnaud Duteil, Avram 'Butch' Kaplan, Carlos Cuarón, Kevin Kennedy
Genres: Drama
Sub-Genres: Drama
Studio: New Line Home Video
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen - Closed-captioned,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 04/26/2005
Release Year: 2005
Run Time: 1hr 35min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 4
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: R (Restricted)
Languages: English
Subtitles: English, Spanish

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Member Movie Reviews

Michel D. (michelann) from WALNUT GROVE, MO
Reviewed on 10/15/2018...
Way above average little film starring Sean Penn, as an ordinary guy who feels life is out to get him after his wife and kids leave and his job as a salesman slams him to the ground! Based on true events, this movie shows how one man could alter history... if only! Excellent job by Sean Penn!
1 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.
Jerry C. from TEMPLE, TX
Reviewed on 10/7/2010...
What was great Sean Penn is good in this movie.
2 of 4 member(s) found this review helpful.
Anick L. from COLUMBIA, SC
Reviewed on 4/20/2009...
Sean Penn gives a strong performance. You know something bad is going to happen and the tension builds throughout the movie. Very somber movie.
3 of 5 member(s) found this review helpful.

Movie Reviews

A terribly skewed canticle for the prototypical little man.
Jana L. Perskie | New York, NY USA | 07/18/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Sean Penn gives a brilliant, compelling performance as Samuel Bicke, a desperate man whose world is falling apart around him. As his everyday life spirals out of control, we observe him lose his already slippery grasp on reality. "The Assassination of Richard Nixon" is loosely based on the true story of a Baltimore man who tried to hijack a commercial airplane and fly it into the White House in 1974.

This chilling story unfolds grimly, like a terribly skewed canticle for the prototypical little man, squashed by the system. Writer, and first-time director Niels Mueller succeeds in helping us to understand, and even sympathize with Sam and his troubled life, without manipulating us into condoning his actions. It is 1973 and Sam Bicke's life is already beginning to crumble. His demise plays out against the politically volatile backdrop of the Nixon presidency. Sam and his wife Marie, (Naomi Watts) have been separated for over a year. He obviously loves her and adores their children. She is a hard working cocktail waitress, and it is apparent that one of the reasons their marriage has failed is Bicke's inability to hold down a steady job. When it becomes obvious that she has no interest in getting back together with him, Sam begins to stalk her - although he doesn't see it that way. There is a heartbreaking scene where he pays his family a "surprise visit," and is asked to leave and call before he comes over again. The children go in for dinner, the door closes and Bicke looks longingly at what was once his home. He goes into the yard, hugs his dog, and lovingly puts his hands on a tree in the yard. His anguish and loneliness are palpable.

Sam lost his job with his brother's tire company because he believes customers are being cheated by not being told the actual amount of profit the business makes on each tire purchased. He feels a more ethical approach would be to just tell customers the true percentage of profit and offer to split the difference - cut profits in half - rather than lie about giving non-existent special deals and offers. When his best friend tries to explain to him patiently, "It's not lying, it's business," Sam doesn't buy it. He is a man of integrity, a regular guy who works hard and wants a share of the American Dream. However, he lacks the brains and competency to become a successful businessman. Now, newly employed as an office furniture salesman, he discovers that his new boss, (a controlling, gruff Jack Thompson), wants him to lie to customers also. Nervous at work, aware that as a new employee he is being observed, he literally cringes before customers, while his boss subjects him to constant criticism.

The one bright spot in Bicke's life is his dream of opening an automobile tire company, operated out of an old school bus, with his auto mechanic friend, Bonny Simmons, a black auto mechanic, (superbly played by Don Cheadle). Sam applies for a bank loan with the Small Business Administration, but cannot get the government to review his application in less than the standard eight-to-ten weeks. Nervous, fearing his application will be denied, he begins to stalk the local loan administrator, obnoxiously pushing to have his paperwork processed faster.

Closely identifying with minorities, African Americans and Native Americans, because he feels persecuted and invisible, Bicke pays a visit to the Baltimore chapter of the Black Panthers to donate money. He suggests that they might double their membership if they allowed whites to join their organization and changed their name to The Zebras. It is comical, yes.....and, given Bicke's sincerity, it is heartbreaking also.

Sam receives notification, by mail, that the divorce proceedings Marie had instigated, seemingly unbeknownst to him, have been finalized. He had deluded himself into believing they were still working on their relationship. When he tries to contact her at home, she and the children are gone. His loan application is rejected. He quits his job. He totally loses it and explodes in violent, deluded rage.

He sees dishonesty, hypocrisy, everywhere, especially in the White House. Sam's boss told him, with admiration, that President Nixon is the world's greatest salesman, because he swindled the American people into voting for him - twice. In 1968 Nixon promised to end the Vietnam War. He did not. He ran on the same premise in 1972, and won again. The president also promised aid for the small businessman, and never delivered - at least not to Sam. Richard Nixon becomes the physical embodiment of all his disappointments, failures, a world gone wrong. When Sam sees news footage of a soldier that stole an Army helicopter and landed it on the front lawn of the White House, he realizes it would not have been difficult to crash it into the President's residence.

A self-described grain of sand on the beach of America, Sam chooses composer and orchestra leader, Leonard Bernstein, a man he idolizes, to tell his story. He makes and mails the musician tapes which begin: "Mr Bernstein: I have the utmost respect for you. Your music is both pure and honest and that is why I have chosen you to present the truth about me to the world." The film's score contains piano and violin sonatas by Beethoven, and the music provides a particularly moving backdrop, especially during these sequences.

This extremely well crafted movie offers insight into the mind of a man who doesn't possess the necessary skills to make it in the world, and who blames society for his own inadequacies. The televised news images of this turbulent period in American history, projected into his living room on a daily basis, further feed his delusions. Bicke's descent into madness is painful to watch. Although this is not a suspense thriller, but a character study - a drama about one man's inability to cope with the stress and harshness of everyday life - the movie is fraught with suspense and tension. One never knows when Bicke will snap. The film's conclusion, although inevitable, is still shocking.

A formidable film!
Very disturbing--but a first rate movie
David Ash | 01/19/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The title of this movie refers to a failed attempt to hijack a plane and crash it into the White House, thereby killing Richard Nixon. Despite the obvious surface connections, the movie has, in my opinion, little or nothing substantial to do with either 9/11 or Richard Nixon. I say that at the outset so that people don't see this movie with false expectations.

What this movie is about is the complete meltdown of a human being, and is very disturbing to watch for that reason. Sean Penn plays a man whose life is falling apart. He is separated from his wife (Naomi Watts) and she is taking steps towards divorce. We aren't told the precise reasons for the marital breakdown, but Watts seems insistent on strict adherence to a court order limiting their contact, so we are left to assume that there is some history where he showed some of the psychotic behavior that later completely dominates his actions. He is working as an office furniture salesman and seems uninspired by his work. His bosses attempt to motivate him with the Dale Carnegie philosophy--this seems to work to a degree, because his sales numbers improve, but he still seems somewhat bored in his job and on tense terms with his supervisors.

At this point, his life seems to simply unravel. Mainly--in my view--this is because of an anger that he seems unable to control. He is angry at what he perceives as job discrimination that an African American friend (Don Cheadle) allegedly suffers, despite the fact that Cheadle himself seems much more at peace with the situation. He is angry that his estranged wife needs to wear miniskirts at work. He is angry at his bosses for marking up the furniture too much. He is angry at the SBA (Small Business Administration) for their slow processing, and eventual rejection, of an SBA loan that he and Cheadle have applied for. He is angry at his brother for confronting him about a theft.

In short, this man seems to have lost control of the basic personal safety mechanisms that enable most people to function effectively in society. As a result, the anger slowly poisons him, and we see his decline into the tragic plot that the title refers to. Mostly, though, this movie is just a very effective portrayal of the tragedy of the human condition taken to the nth degree. This is not a happy film--the later parts of the film are very disturbing and you will probably not be in a good mood after seeing it--but it is very realistic because people do see their lives fall apart like this when they are unable to get their anger under control.

So, this movie is highly recommended as a gritty, realistic, and searing portrayal of the human condition--but no happy endings here. One small note--although this movie is not about Nixon, a few of the lines his bosses use to try to motivate him as a salesman seem to be taken directly from a Dept of Labor black and white film that is shown to the Watergate burglars in Oliver Stone's Nixon."
Hopeless. Desperate. Tortured. Disaffected.
Jeffrey E Ellis | Naperville, IL USA | 07/19/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)

"Is there any role Sean Penn cannot perform brilliantly?

Samuel Bicke (Penn) is an underachiever, always second-rate, never good enough. Not good enough to measure up to his older brother in business, not good enough to qualify for a loan to start a business, and most importantly, not good enough to hang onto the love of his life, his wife (Naomi Watts). Bicke is a fish out of water in the world of sales. But he is unable to find his niche in the workplace, in society, or in the culture. Ultimately, this lostness, this disaffectedness, is expressed in his inability to find any meaning in life.

But there might be one way to achieve success, even notoriety. Bicke becomes fixated on President Nixon. Nixon becomes an allegorical figure representing society as a whole, and the subject of Bicke's pent up rage, his isolation, and his inadequacy.

The assassination of Richard Nixon is about an individual who loses hope in himself, his family, his faith, and in life. When there is nothing left to live for, there is nothing left to live for. Out of this sullen, self-inflicted torture emerges an explosion of rage and angst.

Sean Penn and Naomi Watts carry this movie along to its desperate, hopeless conclusion with grace, talent, and adeptness.