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The Assassination of Richard Nixon (L'Assassinat de Richard Nixon) (Bilingual)

Sean Penn , Naomi Watts , Niels Mueller    NR (Not Rated)   DVD
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Sean Penn (looking rather Rupert Pupkin-like) is Samuel Bicke, whose life, circa 1974, has become unbearable. His wife (Naomi Watts) has left him, his dead-end sales job is killing him--even his best friend (Don Cheadle) has had enough. Bicke's a loser, but at least he's an honest one. Nixon, the epitome of dishonesty, becomes the locus of his rage, so Bicke devises a plan to eliminate him. Paul Schrader claims he finished writing Taxi Driver before the real-life Byck attempted to assassinate the president. Maybe so, but the similarities are hard to ignore (and "Bickle" sounds a lot like "Byck"). Niels Mueller (Tadpole) doesn't disguise the fact that his debut was inspired by the guy. If The Assassination of Richard Nixon doesn't hit Taxi Driver's (admittedly lofty) heights, it's still a discomfiting look at a man determined to leave his mark on the world, only to become a footnote. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars July 16 2014
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Good, hope it wasn't a true one
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4.0 out of 5 stars The loss of a human being Jan. 1 2012
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
This story is a soulful look at what happens when a person has no support base in their adult lives. That said, this is not a feel-good movie. It ends with the death of at least three lives and is probably a very good demonstration of the short-sighted power that is given to a person who finds himself wielding a loaded weapon.

I was very impressed with the depth the film makers gave Penn's character; though I understand that events leading up to the ending of a true event were fictionalized, they came very close to making the whole story real. And, Penn gave us the person in what might be his best performance.

The entertainment value of this motion picture is debatable. The film did cause me to react in much the same way as I would upon seeing a terrible traffic accident and, if that was what they were aiming to elicit in their audience, they succeeded with me. I was saddened and dumb-struck. I have yet to come to a satisfying answer other than that this is why we have social programs and religious institutions in our societies: we all have the potential of misfiring without them.
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4.0 out of 5 stars 8/10 April 29 2005
Format:DVD
The film was outstanding, had a "Taxi Driver" feel to it, as the conflict is similar in some ways. Sean Penn acted beautifully, as always. Naomi Watts, having done 21 Grams with Penn before, was able to bring something to the table. Don Cheadle adds a great supporting role, for what it's worth. I also give all the credit in the world to first time director Niels Mueller for putting together a great piece of work.
A few problems I had with the film is, I thought they tried to use the whole 9/11 happening to their fullest advantage and attract audiences. I also thought that Penn's character, Samuel Bicke, became somewhat annoying as the film went on.
Anyway, I definetly recommend it. This movie isn't for the average watcher, as you have to actually think every now and then. Though, if your idea of good movies is Ben Stiller and Will Smith, perhaps you should check out the latest action flick. :]
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  67 reviews
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A terribly skewed canticle for the prototypical little man. July 18 2005
By Jana L. Perskie - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
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!
JANA
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hopeless. Desperate. Tortured. Disaffected. July 18 2005
By Jeffrey E Ellis - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
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.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The air is very cold in this movie.. Aug. 13 2005
By Stuart Winer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
This is a wretchedly sad, depressing film - but since that's it's exact intention I would count it as success on it's own terms. Watching the lovely Naomi Watts and the rest of the cast beat Samuel Bicke into a pulp - not even to submission, but beyond that - we watch as they actively abandon him again and again...it was hurtful to watch - but I did care about Sam and I could not look away.

Penn made Sam's violent plan understandable. A person under such severe, constant assault will strike out, rather than die quietly. I surely feel Sam was an honorable man - crazy, but noble, in a twisted sense. I wonder what the larger story was with him. He may have been on the downward spiral of paranoid schizophenia, or he might have hit his head in a car accident and lost his mental faculties. But nobody even cared.

The acting, dialogue and period design were also just superb. Even the film's colortones felt felt authentic to the early 70's. It just looked perfect. This film was still a total downer and I doubt that the Academy will notice such a niche film, but Sean Penn surely deserves a nomination for this performance.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great movie with a brilliant Sean Penn July 8 2006
By Julio Lopez - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
The portrayal of this pathetic, common, frustrated man moved me deeply. It's true that he's mentally disturbed, but not so much as the society he lives in (a "cancerous society" as he himself puts it). The period 1973-74 was a difficult time in the history of the USA, a time when americans had to face corruption in the high places, a time of madness and astonishment, with a reality difficult to accept. The violent act that Sam Bicke performs at the end of the movie corresponds to the natural response of a "little man" who feels cast out from society and his family. He tries to give some sense to this world but his efforts find no destiny. Obviously enough, this does not justify his acts, but we understand them if we consider his own personal perception of the reality surrounding him. The movie captures Sam's inner world in the details, in the subleties of his behavior, in the confusing relation with his wife, and the condescending relation with his boss. These minor circumstances are wonderfully portrayed in a most impressive acting by Sean Penn. The movie reminded me of Joe Schumacher's "Falling Down" (1983), Scorsese's "Taxi Driver", and the excellent peruvian movie "Dias de Santiago", which, coincidentally enough, I had seen just the day before I saw this one. There you also have a loser, mentally stressed, who tries (to no avail) to give some sense to his personal universe and the one of his family. I loved the use that the director gave to the Adagio from Beethoven's Piano Concerto Nª 5 ("The Emperor"): it works as a counterpoint and a suggestive lei motiv to the violence inherent in the soul of the main character. It's a great movie, no doubt about it.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Assassination of Richard Nixon is an Overlooked Gem July 2 2006
By David Thomson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Sean Penn is fantastic as the self pitying loser Samuel Bicke who is his own worst enemy. There is little stopping him from being modestly successful. The odds are actually in his favor. His brother is the owner of a tire store and seems willing to let him work his way up the ladder. Unfortunately, a utopian self righteousness dooms his employment opportunities and marriage. Bicke's wife is raising their two children and her patience is not limitless. A friend who runs an auto repair shop (Don Cheadle) is also at his wit's end. We watch as Bicke's life is unraveling. It is not a pleasant experience. In many respects, he reminds one of a man getting behind a wheel of a car to deliberately crash it off the side of a mountain.

Samuel Bicke is a narcissistically selfish individual. He really doesn't give a damn about anybody but himself. At the end, we truly realize the depths of his vileness. No, Bicke is not a victim. He is evil. Other human beings are merely perceived to be props in Bicke's warped morality play. Their suffering is deemed inconsequential. Why does Bicke target Richard Nixon for assassination? Heck, why did Lee Harvey Oswald pick John F. Kennedy? In both instances, murdering a famous American president will guarantee getting your name in the history books. Bicke wants to be a somebody. The hell with those who get in the way of this goal. Sean Penn may leave much to be desired as a political thinker. Still, he one of America's finest actors. Penn gives one of his finest performances in The Assassination of Richard Nixon. You should make a point of seeing this virtually unknown masterpiece.

David Thomson

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