The Assassination of Richard Nixon

The Assassination of Richard Nixon

2.5 out of 5 2.5 out of 5 2.5 out of 5 2.5 out of 5 2.5 out of 5 2.5

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The Assassination of Richard Nixon is a bitter pill about an everyman fed up with the lies inherent in the American Dream, hoping to strike the zeitgeist in a time of political furor. If you’re from one of the blue states, it’s a disquieting (and perhaps misappropriated) release of impotent rage. If you’re from one of the red states, buckle your seatbelt—Nixon the liar stands in for another so-called swindler. When President Dick lies to the people and gets reelected for a second term, Samuel Bicke (Sean Penn) gets mad as hell—and he’s not gonna take it anymore. A failed husband and a lousy salesman, Sam attempts one small thing to make a difference: hijack a plane and crash it into the White House. But for all Assassination‘s topicality (predicting Bush’s second victory and analyzing 9/11), its subject isn’t someone that we identify with. This outsider’s grand-scale dreams become more of an idle curiosity for the viewer than a distorted reflection of who we are. One wishes Penn’s effective slow-burn performance reached the heights of kabuki histrionics he’s been known for at his most indulgent—he never cuts as close to the bone as rival De Niro’s Travis Bickle or Rupert Pumpkin. Nonetheless, Assassination occasionally taps into contemporary disappointments with welcome acidity. In his most incendiary moment, Sam Bicke loses his head and shrieks at the television set, “It’s all about money, Dick! It’s all about money!” When reacting to the world at large that indirectly crushes him, an alienated Sam becomes a shrieking voice in the darkness. Less effective are the domestic scenes where he tries to preserve the love of his wife (Naomi Watts), or his daily grind as a self-loathing, incompetent furniture salesman. Somehow, those floundering attempts at naturalism and psychological explanation feel like padding. What’s really itching at Sam Bicke is something far more disturbing: the shame of our deceit-riddled history. As the film is eager to point out, this one’s “Inspired by a True Story.”

Image/Sound

The Assassination of Richard Nixon doesn't get the red carpet treatment in the extras department but New Line Home Entertainment appears to have gone to great lengths to insure the integrity of Emmanuel Lubezki's luxurious cinematography. Black levels, especially during darker scenes, can be disappointing, but this is more or less a flawless print: skin tones are breathtakingly accurate, colors are crisp and perfectly saturated, and shadow delineation is realistically conveyed. The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track is pleasant: dialogue is crisp and there's nice separation between the surround speakers.

Extras

Trailers for Primer and Vera Drake.

Overall

The bad: no extras. The good: Rex Reed says it's one of the best films of the year.

Image 2.5 out of 5 2.5 out of 5 2.5 out of 5 2.5 out of 5 2.5 out of 5

Sound 2.5 out of 5 2.5 out of 5 2.5 out of 5 2.5 out of 5 2.5 out of 5

Extras 2.5 out of 5 2.5 out of 5 2.5 out of 5 2.5 out of 5 2.5 out of 5

Overall 2.5 out of 5 2.5 out of 5 2.5 out of 5 2.5 out of 5 2.5 out of 5

Specifications
  • DVD-Video
  • Dual-Layer Disc
  • Region 1
  • Aspect Ratio
  • 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Dolby Digital Formats
  • English 5.1 Surround
  • English 2.0 Stereo
  • DTS
  • None
  • Subtitles & Captions
  • English Closed Captions
  • English Subtitles
  • Spanish Subtitles
  • Special Features
  • Trailers
  • Buy
    DVD
    Release Date
    April 26, 2005
    Distributor
    New Line Home Entertainment
    Runtime
    95 min
    Rating
    R
    Year
    2004
    Director
    Niels Mueller
    Screenwriter
    Niels Mueller, Kevin Kennedy
    Cast
    Sean Penn, Don Cheadle, Jack Thompson, Michael Wincott, Mykelti Williamson, Naomi Watts