A bleak and compelling drama based on a true story, The Assassination Of Richard Nixon stars Sean Penn as Sam Bicke, a frustrated little man whose life is falling apart. His wife (Naomi Watts) has left him, his kids don't care, and his job as a salesman is depressing as hell. As America fights in Vietnam and President Richard Nixon lies from every TV screen he sees, Bicke begins to unravel, hatching a plan to fly a plane into the White House...
Penn is outstanding here. The outspoken Oscar winner has made no secret of his opposition to the American invasion of Iraq and his doubts over the 'War on Terror', and this film is particularly bold in the current political climate. Examining what drives a man to become a 'terrorist', The Assassination Of Richard Nixon offers reasons instead of excuses - and Penn embodies a sad, disillusioned man without begging for our uncritical pity. Where some actors are desperate to be liked, Penn is happy to just be, and his Bicke is both loveable and detestable; understandable and pathetic.
"POWERFUL AND PROVOCATIVE"
Director/co-writer Niels Mueller starts with the suggestion of imminent violence and then flashes back to show how Bicke reached this point. It's a smart move, giving the action a certain tension despite a slightly slow pace.
As Bicke falls apart, his homemade tapes explaining his actions form a poignant voiceover ("Is that the American dream?"), while his rage at the political/corporate machine is just as resonant today ("It's about money, Dick!"). A powerful, provocative picture.