Review: Interview with the Assassin

Interview with the Assassin is assembled unrealistically, so much so that the pat denouement becomes inevitable.

Interview with the Assassin

After watching a series of fake documentaries, director Neil Burger observed: “They were unsatisfying because you could see better films on the various subjects that were actually real documentaries. It seemed to me that if you were going to make a fake documentary it better be about something you could never see in a real one.” In Interview with the Assassin, out-of-work TV news cameraman Ron Kobeleski (Dylan Haggerty) thinks he’s found the “grassy knoll gunman” in his next-door neighbor. Walter Ohlinger (Raymond J. Barry) claims that he shot Kennedy in the head on November 22, 1963, after Lee Harvey Oswald got his shot in. Walter divulges his secret to Ron because he apparently has nothing to lose—he claims that he’s dying of cancer and that he has six months to live. Though Burger strives to make a mockumentary on a subject you could never see in a real one, he takes curious pains to structure Walter’s tale as one you might see in a documentary released after an alleged grassy knoll gunman’s death. The overall sense of paranoia is potent and though the mockumentary itself fascinatingly becomes part of the very conspiracy theory it seeks to expose, Burger’s discourse is as obvious as the curious way in which it has been shot. Interview with the Assassin is structured less as a documentary and more as a found relic, and as such the film has a difficult time shaking its Blair Witch Project real-time roots. When Walter first confesses, Ron is both wary and noticeably shocked. Burger chooses to zoom in on Walter’s face, not only suggesting that Ron is both comfortable with Walter’s confession but that he seemingly expected the revelation. As Ron and Walter slowly delve into the details of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, both men come to believe that they’re being followed. Not only does the camera not feel as if it’s an extension of Ron but it also seems to record at entirely convenient times. When Ron and his wife observe their home’s surveillance tapes, a shadow suggests that someone was hiding in their backyard. Rather than actually show footage from the tapes, Burger shoots the footage with his camera as if Ron and his wife were expecting to find something. The performances are certainly convincing but Interview with the Assassin is assembled unrealistically, so much so that the pat denouement becomes inevitable.

 Cast: Raymond J. Barry, Dylan Haggerty, Renne Faia, Kate Williamson, Kelsey Kemper, Dennis Lau, Jared McVay  Director: Neil Burger  Screenwriter: Neil Burger  Distributor: Magnolia Pictures  Running Time: 88 min  Rating: R  Year: 2002  Buy: Video

Ed Gonzalez

Ed Gonzalez is the co-founder of Slant Magazine. His writing has also appeared in The Village Voice and The Los Angeles Times. He’s a member of the New York Film Critics Circle, the Critics Choice Association, and the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association.

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