Samuel Bicke (Sean Penn) is a frustrated man. He and his wife (Naomi
Watts) are separated. His current job -- as an office furniture salesman
-- is not going well. His relationship with his brother and former business
partner, Julius (Michael Wincott), is non-existant. His self-esteem is
gone. Samuel Bicke is a defeated man. Driven to desperation, Bicke begins
a journey of self-destruction that will pit him against the forces he
feels conspire against him.
Assassination of Richard Nixon (2004)
Starring: Sean Penn, Naomi Watts, and Don
Assassination of Richard Nixon is based on the true story of Samuel
Byck, who plotted to kill President Richard Nixon in 1974. While the name
of the character is slightly altered, the events as presented in the film
have been significantly changed to make the character much more sympathetic.
I viewed this film shortly after the 2004 Presidential Election. Samuel
Bicke, as portrayed in the film, could be anyone who feels he has no say
in what his government does or how he's treated in the world. It is interesting
to compare Bicke's frustrated 1974 point-of-view to that of so many people
in the world of today. I'm sure that's one of the points this film intends
to make. However, by making Bicke so sympathetic and then subjecting him
to the events of the film, are screenwriter Kevin Kennedy and co-writer/director
Niels Mueller saying that to feel powerless is equal to being destroyed
by the machinery of the world? Or are they trying to get people motivated
to do something about the state of the world we live in now?
Sean Penn's performance is
the best thing about The Assassination of Richard Nixon. If I had to
describe his acting in one word, it would be "intense".
His frequent frustrated outbursts feel completely justified and it's very
easy to root for Bicke. Penn is supported quite ably by Naomi Watts, Jack
Thompson (as his boss) and Don Cheadle, all of whom excel in their small
but effective roles. Essentially, though, this is Sean Penn's show as
he is on-screen in virtually every scene.
Assassination of Richard Nixon has a point to make but the message
gets lost in the trainwreck that is the film's final few minutes. If you
skip it, though, you'll be missing the performance of a possible Oscar
nominee. So, see it with the knowledge that it's not exactly a great movie
but definitely one you'll be thinking about for days after you leave the
and co-writer Niels Mueller also co-wrote Tadpole. (Source: The
Internet Movie Database)